The Art at Ashgate was an Arts Council funded project developed in partnership by Ashgate Hospicecare and Junction Arts. It comprised of two artists residencies and had a number of aims, including:
- Making high quality arts accessible to people at a time when seeking out such opportunities is difficult
- Supporting professional artists to acquire the skills and experience to work successfully in the palliative care setting.
- Finding new ways to integrate the arts into our care.
Artists Fi Burke and Miriam Robinson were appointed and the first residency in early 2020 went pretty much to plan. The second residency however was entirely different. Lockdown resulted in long delays followed by the need to develop new ways of working because there could be no face- to- face activity. This was a steep learning curve for everyone involved, staff, clients and patients.
Both residencies began with a day of workshops for staff and volunteers. It was important for us to receive feedback on the appropriateness of the activities and for those taking part to experience what was on offer so they could advocate and promote the opportunity to their patients and clients. Taking part was also an opportunity for people to learn new skills and pick up ideas they could use with their clients in the future.
The sessions were well attended and well received and everyone agreed the activities were suitable, accessible and stimulating.
Residency 1- Fi Burke
Fi developed activities that would be accessible to all ages and abilities and felt that the names of the sessions should be familiar and not daunting. For example, learning mark making skills became Doodle Dance and developing drawing techniques, Capture a Cuppa. The activities were something very different for many and not what they’d come to expect from the support group meetings for example, but there was never any pressure to take part. Sometimes participation was gradual and built up, on other occasions people were keen to get involved from the start.
Doodle Dance Stick drawing
Fi worked in the Day Hospice and In Patient Unit and delivered workshops in the community hubs. She also worked with a young people’s bereavement support group in Clay Cross.
Working with a professional artist was a new experience for the majority and something they definitely wouldn’t have sought out for themselves. Bringing the opportunity to them, in a place they felt safe, meant people were more confident to ‘have a go’. Here are a few comments from participants:
“I don’t consider myself to be artistic, I never do art work but taking part has been really enjoyable and taken my mind off my bereavement.” Jill
“Motivation to do THIS is my return journey to a stable life.”
Residency 2 – Miriam Robinson.
Due to start in April 2020 Miriam’s residency was put on hold until clients became more familiar with the concept of remote engagement. Not only did Miriam have a delayed start, she had to learn new technical skills, develop new activities and put together art kits, consider what materials and tools people might have at home and take into account postage and packing. Working remotely incurred a lot more planning, expense and time.
Miriam’s workshops included The Energy of Colour, Winter Solstice Art – A Celebration of Light and Nourish, a 4-week course of gentle relaxation, movement, line drawing and the creation of a collage diary.
Nourish The Energy of Colour
The remote activities worked well and were surprisingly social, some with small groups, others one to one but working remotely impacted considerably on numbers participating. The knock -on effect of this resulted in a reduction in the number of sessions delivered and participant engagements. The quality of the work remained consistently high though; here are some comments from people taking part in Miriam’s workshops:
“ With regard to the Creativity workshops, one word comes to mind ....AMAZING. It was so lovely to have that dedicated time to spend on me and my creative side. An added bonus was meeting all those new people at a time when seeing new faces is rare. The workshop facilitator Miriam was absolutely wonderful, friendly with a calming voice perfect for meditation and relaxation. Overall 10/10...cannot recommend this highly enough.”
Conclusion and outcomes
All in all, despite some very challenging times the project has been a success. It has given Ashgate Hospicecare an invigorated sense of what is possible for people at end- of-life when considering the arts. A wide range of the staff and volunteer team have been able to take part and are now able to make the connection between providing excellent care and offering people opportunities to reconnect with forms of self- expression or enjoying and spending quality moments immersed in the beauty that art can bring.
Bringing external professional artists into the specialist palliative care world has been a reciprocal experience. There has been significant mutual growth and understanding of meaning and purpose and a true connection and ability to understand how the arts are as important and meaningful to a person at every life stage. This is also true of those grieving and the project has enabled the use of music, poetry and art to help people engage with high quality art experiences whilst being immersed in a private world of pain. This will impact on our offer of services to incorporate greater use of the arts in all areas of the service.
In her own words this was what Fi thought of her experience,
“In terms of CPD, I feel I have learnt an enormous amount about delivering creative experiences in hospice settings. I have gained a better understanding of why people might be accessing the hospice services, what their experience of that might be and what they might hope to get out of being part of creative experiences. These new perspectives will be invaluable in informing future work in similar settings.”
For more information about this project and to see images from the workshops click here.