Last week an intrepid Superact Project Manager joined Chief Exec Ali Smith on a jaunt across the water all the way to the Isle of Wight. This is what they found…
St. Mary’s Hospital, Newport, houses an impressive arts programme which serves the NHS Trust healthcare provision across the Isle of Wight. The programme, Healing Arts, is headed up by Director Guy Eades who greets us and treats us to lunch in the enchanting Quay Arts centre where we have a view over the water of both living and wrought iron sculptural swans and leaping fish – before taking us back to his base at the hospital to explore the incredible range of artworks on display and discuss plans for the future.
Superact, supported by the Baring Foundation, is partnering with Healing Arts to deliver a groundbreaking project in arts, wellbeing and dementia care. Day by Day, With Each Passing Moment will feature the art and poetry of two older artists. The visual images and lines of verse will be used to create digital panels that will be installed in healthcare settings to help orientate those living with confusion or dementia. The panels will provide a reference point to the time of day and season, helping people to maintain links with their normal, everyday lives outside of the care setting. They will also provide an element of beauty within a typically clinical, impersonal environment.
Visual artist Eric Geddes has enjoyed a career spanning over 30 years and is himself now living with dementia. His sculpture and photographic art was predominantly inspired by the Isle’s shoreline, using natural materials and flotsam such as seaweed, stones, clay, driftwood and metal. In this project his images will represent a specific hour of the day or night, portraying associated activities such as dawn, breakfast, sleep, home or garden occupations. The image will also link to the appropriate season, relating to current weather, landscape, festivals, celebrations or seasonal events.
Eric says: “I have recently celebrated my 86th birthday and have reached a stage in my life when I am no longer able to work on the beach or in the studio as I have done for over 50 years. Though the structures have long disappeared beneath the sand and waves, the photographs and drawings remain as permanent reminders of my life as an artist.
They bring back memories and give me satisfaction, joy and peace – feelings which I hope to convey to others…The viewers might be encouraged to look at their surroundings in a different way, and even make their own marks with materials they find to hand. I have had several spells in hospital and visited clinics where I have seen my work and that of other artists on the walls. They have brought back memories of time and place, of the beauty and grandeur of nature and the landscape.”
Alongside these images two poems will also be displayed, at a rate of 2 lines per hour, and also relating to the season. Combining poems with images will stimulate memory, promote orientation and encourage communication between patients and healthcare staff. The poet Robin Ford is 72 years old and a volunteer for Age UK’s Good Neighbour scheme, involving home visiting for housebound elderly individuals. He is excited about the project because:
“coming from someone who is himself elderly [I believe the project will] evoke empathy and an understanding between those who are old, and older than I, and those who are younger or care for those who are older.
The proposed displays will offer a far more stimulating environment for those who experience dementia and who have to, out of necessity, live in an institutional world no longer within their control. By providing words and images that recall the stages of life I hope this will give some pleasure in the daily life of those who live with dementia.”
Day by Day… is currently in phase 1 of its life, with works being created and put together, photographs taken and installation built. Superact and Healing Arts are extremely excited to roll out this pioneering project at the end of the year, with the possibilities of an accompanying film and tour of the installation. Until then, patients and staff at St. Mary’s can enjoy textiles, sculpture and visual arts as part of the hospital’s Artwalk; explore the Four Seasons garden, designed especially for those encountering dementia; or read up on Healing Arts research in to the benefits of creativity for the health of children, those with mental health issues, and stroke sufferers.
Sooo… time for a strong cup of tea and a sigh of satisfaction as we watch the island retreat and look towards the water where Southampton’s shores will soon appear – full of excitement for the prospects ahead and looking forward to our next trip to the island.