International Health Humanities Network Impact Reports and Narrative
One Step at a Time, by Emily Allchurch and rb&hArts; - a visual art commission for Royal Brompton Hospital
One Step at a Time was inspired and funded by the family and friends of Andrew James, a long term adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) patient to whose memory the work is dedicated. After Andrew’s death in 2007, his family chose to put money from his memorial fund towards commissioned works of art for the ward on which he spent so much time. The project took place in 2011-12.
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Full Impact Narrative
To create new site-specific works of art for the ACHD unit in Paul Wood ward through a participatory process that allowed individuals spending time in the area to work alongside a professional artist.
Paul Wood Ward, located on the fifth Floor of Royal Brompton Hospital’s Sydney Wing, is a mixed cardiology and cardiac surgery unit, dedicated to the care of patients with adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) and for patients undergoing investigations and treatments for other cardiac-related diseases. The ACHD unit offers all types of treatment, including catheter lab treatment, specialised drug therapies and heart operations (including transplantation). The area consists of both single-bed rooms and a larger bay with multiple beds.
1. Concept development
Following the James family’s decision to donate the proceeds of Andrew’s memorial fund to commissioned works of art, rb&hArts staff met with the family, and members of ward staff, to discuss initial ideas and create a project brief.
2. Artist appointed
On this occasion the artist, Emily Allchurch, was appointed after being approached directly by rb&hArts. Emily had previously worked with rb&hArts on another project, A Place in Mind, commissioned for Harefield Hospital’s Transplant unit. We felt both her working method and the resulting aesthetic were well-suited to the ACHD project, and used her existing work to show ACHD staff and the James family for their approval and to simulate discussion.
Workshops (led by Emily) were held over two weekends in July 2011, and were open to ACHD patients, their families and ward staff. Most patients and families were recruited for the workshops by ACHD clinical nurse specialist, Lesley Jones. Around 20 people attended the two workshops, which were themed around nature and resulted in many pictures and collages. Photographer Sue Snell (also a long-term patient of the Trust) was also present and documented the workshops through a series of photographs.
4. Development process
Emily took participants’ contributions away from the workshops. They were then scanned and combined with a selection of Emily and Sue’s own photographs, to create a series of digital collages. Throughout the development process, rbh&hArts consulted with the artist, the James family and the ward staff, to ensure all parties contributed to the final designs. Lesley Jones explained that Emily played an important role in balancing participants’ input with the strong ideas put forward by the James family, and that finding this ‘middle ground’ was a key part of the creative process.
5. Manufacture and installation The completed designs were enlarged and digitally printed onto nine shaped Dibond panels, for permanent display in the ACHD corridor and patient rooms.
6. Exhibition and open evening
To celebrate the new installation, rb&hArts curated a temporary exhibition in Royal Brompton’s reception and foyer area from late May to late July 2012. The exhibition featured original artworks from Emily’s workshops, Sue’s photographs of the workshops, and reproductions of the final collages. rbh&hArts also conducted an interview with Sue Snell and Andrew Roberts, an ACHD patient and artist, about the relationship between art and adult congenital heart disease, which was transcribed and included in the exhibition booklet.
On 29th May 2012, rb&hArts hosted an open evening in the Royal Brompton exhibition space, particularly encouraging those who had been involved in the workshop stages of the project to attend. Guests were taken on tours of the ACHD ward installation, and the James family spoke publicly about their involvement in the project.
Formal participant feedback was gathered at the workshop stage of the project. Nine participants completed a feedback form. None had ever been involved in a hospital arts project before, and the results were almost unanimously positive:
- All respondents found the workshop enjoyable.
- No respondents selected negative words to describe the workshops (‘intrusive’, ‘boring’ or ‘annoying’).
- Eight out of nine found the experience beneficial.
- Seven out of nine said they would like to be involved in more arts activities.
Participants’ comments included:
- “The activity made me feel happy and feel useful”
- “Made me feel important and had a lot to learn about art and its usage”
- “[The experience was beneficial] because I had no visitors and was very bored”
- “I'm pleased that money is being used to enhance patients’ experience of being in hospital + will hopefully make them feel at home”
- “Although I am not artistic I really enjoy seeing the pictures and art pieces around the hospital when I come and think of all the efforts put into this project are well worth while”
Two people commented that they would have liked a larger space to work in, or larger paper.
Artist and staff feedback
Asked about the highs and lows of working on the project, Emily commented that the low turnout for the second workshop was disappointing, as the first one had been so well attended:
“I think maybe the key member of staff from ACHD was not on duty that day to drum up the enthusiasm of the week before. Also the weather was bad that day, perhaps putting off outpatients… It would be good to identify what factors made one of the sessions so much better attended then the other, so that the conditions could be replicated.”
Lesley Jones suggested that putting the workshops on Saturdays may have affected turnout, as well as making it harder for staff to be involved, but she acknowledged that for in-patients, it was a welcome distraction:
“the patients on the ward were very excited to be having something to do at the weekend, which is actually quite a boring time.”
Emily also described how she made the best of the low turnout on the second day:
“I attempted some one to one work with patients on the ward, with some success. There was one particularly rewarding encounter with an older lady, who seemed to enjoy the time to work on an artwork with my assistance, whilst reminiscing about her artistic abilities as a young girl.”
Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
0207 352 8121 ext 4087
Health Care Areas
- Health care professional
- Health charities
- Health facilities
- Healthcare providers
- Healthy environment
- Physical health
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