Artist Caroline Gregson has completed a residency at Alder Hey Hospital creating a lasting legacy of the project for patients and visitors to the hospital to admire.
The residency took place in Ward 3A, a general surgical ward including communal play area and patient bedrooms. Some children were there for long term treatment, some were only in for a couple of days. Play Specialists supported the children with the activities. The Arts for Health Lead Vicky Charnock wanted the sessions to be integrated into the patient’s treatment and care programmes.
Patients ranged in age from babies to 14 years olds. This gave Bluecoat Display Centre the opportunity to work closely with a younger audience and to introduce children to the arts.
Caroline Gregson has a background in traditional basket making and sculpting using willow. Her specialisms before this project included making sculptures for public spaces and private gallery collections as well as running workshops for different age groups.
Children were encouraged to try weaving with willow rods by hand to create their own art works which they could take home to keep.
The sessions would also allow patients, family members and hospital staff to work collaboratively on building up a fox made from layers of willow over the 8 weeks. The fox will be installed on the ward as a tangible reminder of the residency.
Material used was willow, prepared by lead artist Caroline, who also provided some coloured willow allowing patients to make decisions about their own designs. This proved very popular and encouraged the children to experiment. Caroline provided a range of shapes and as starting points which the children could make, so they could see what the final product would look like. Ideas included a star, heart, fish, giraffe, butterfly, snake and boat. This allowed for variety of forms for children to develop different ideas from.
Patients enjoyed selecting which shape or form to make. Caroline started the form off for them, demonstrating how to create outlines and build up layers of willow. To create the forms patients pulled the willow through the form from one side to the other in a weaving action. This allowed for uniqueness of each object and also meant patients were able to experiment with their creativity.
Sessions were held in the play area of the ward. This allowed for many children to engage with the making process at once, allowing for social time and also an uplifting atmosphere of fun and busy activity. They also enjoyed having a break from their rooms. In some cases Caroline went to the patients room and introduced the process of willow to them and their family. Family members often also tried their hand at creating too. Staff too were delighted that Caroline was able to do bedside activities. Willow proved to be a good material to use in this instance as it wasn’t messy or wet so was an ideal activity. If siblings were present they also joined in and assisted their brother or sister. This made for great social interaction, allowing for a positive situation for some families who were going through a difficult time. It also created distraction from the hospital environment and gave a new focus to their day.
The project as a whole allowed for development of new skills for Caroline and BDC staff, working with children in the hospital environment for the first time. Caroline was able to adapt the process to each individual depending on their own personal condition.
In total Caroline worked with 176 patients. She also worked with staff on 20 occasions.
Caroline has made a sculpture of a beekeeper adult and child with bees, which has been placed in the courtyard. Alder Hey Children's Hospital now intend to install a genuine beehive in the their Radiology Courtyard, leaving a lasting legacy of the project for patients and visitors to the hospital to admire.
‘The idea for the artwork came from the fun we had on the ward, weaving willow into all sorts of crazy animal shapes, and an over-heard conversation about the possibility of keeping bees in the grounds of the hospital. I keep bees myself and have a fascination for these incredible little creatures.
Honey bees work together to build their colony. They have nurse bees to look after their young, they have cleaner bees who keep the hive tidy, guard bees who watch the entrance to make sure the colony is safe, and of course forager bees who collect nectar and pollen from flowers to make honey for food. They all need each other to survive.
The art of beekeeping has been passed from mentor to pupil throughout history. These beekeepers are carrying out their weekly inspection to check the health of the colony, looking for signs of disease or hunger so they can help if needed. The child is holding one of the frames from the hive where the young bees are hatched'. Caroline Gregson, Artist, March 2018