Brighton-based arts collective Nimbus have created a new website and forthcoming permanent artwork to story-tell the rich tapestry of histories of the past staff and patients of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, from its origins as a sea-bathing hospital to its life-saving research work in the 21st century.
Crucible, was commissioned for Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust (BSUH) as part of Connect, the 3Ts Hospital Redevelopment Public Art Programme, in partnership with arts and health consultants Willis Newson.
A new website (thecrucible.org.uk) will be live from 15 February 2021 for visitors to access online from wherever they are in the world, to learn more about the heritage of the hospital, or to reminisce and reflect on the past experiences of those working or being cared for there. Stories range from memories of the Great Storm in 1987 and the Brighton Bombing in 1984 to advances in medical techniques, such as improvements in treatment of HIV, cancer and eye surgery. Oral histories come from midwives, doctors, patients and those working in other varied roles at the hospital from the 1950s to present. Images, meanwhile, span those from as far back as the early 19th century when the hospital was being built, via new developments in the 1940s and 1960s, and including images of the wards, patients and staff across the hospital’s history.
A period of research for the Crucible across 2018 and 2019 included: workshops with the public led by artist Daniel Locke, collecting oral histories with past staff and patients (delivered by Strike A Light – Arts and Heritage), and the gathering of objects and documents. Reflecting these activities, the new website now contains over 30 oral histories and 30 images of the old hospital for viewers to look at and listen to.
The website, which is fully accessible, also includes a new art work by Daniel Locke. Daniel created this work in response to the stories the public shared with him during the workshops. The artwork (below), illustrated with speech bubbles and portraits of the people the artist spoke to, can be used to read more about the experiences of those featured, A permanent artwork telling these stories in a mural created by Daniel will be sited in the new 3Ts Hospital Redevelopment when it opens on the Royal Sussex County site. Further details about the launch of this work will be announced soon.
Jamie Wyld, Project Director, said,
“We are thrilled to launch Crucible website, bringing together over four years of research, conversation and creative activity. We rely on our hospitals now more than ever in the times we are currently living through and we hope that this project brings some of the stories of those working and visiting The Royal Sussex County Hospital to a wide audience. We are also really excited about installing the work in the hospital next year, for future staff, visitors and patients to enjoy and to reflect on the rich history of the hospital from years gone past."
Gary Beacham, Interim Director for the 3Ts Redevelopment said,
“The 3Ts Redevelopment will bring the benefits of the best in hospital design to the patients and staff of more than 40 wards and departments. This is only possible though, thanks to the shared foundations of care and compassion that underlie the hospital’s history of almost 200 years. In striving to provide the best for current and future patients, we must not forget the value of what has come before. This piece of work is a prime example of how art and heritage will play a fully integrated role in the 3Ts Redevelopment”
Anna Barnes, Associate Director of Governance, 3Ts Hospital Development Team said,
“I am very excited to see the history of our hospital captured in a way that is both inclusive and carefully curated. The history of healthcare in Brighton, from its very beginnings as a sea-bathing resort in Brighton's Georgian hey-day, through two World Wars, the formation of the NHS and now the heroic efforts of our staff to treat patients with COVID-19 is absolutely fascinating. I feel proud to be part of a team who have made this history accessible to the patients, staff and visitors who will be using the new hospital; securing its contribution to Brighton's future.”