At Your Service #3
The best thing that happened in the last couple of months was that I was lucky to get a temporary space to work within Yorkshire Artspace - right on the top floor, overlooking the city. I love it. Unfortunately, the artist I was subletting from has been given notice to quit and sadly I will need to find another space to work. It is a little bit disruptive, moving about, despite the fact that I don't have that much stuff to move.
So far I have interviewed 9 European employees at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and I have two more interviews lined up. I'm still hoping to interview and paint a total of 20 people. I am really enjoying meeting people and listening to their stories and all I can hope for is that they will like what I am doing with their stories. My first batch of new work has been completed, my second is about to start. I have had the usual numerous crises in confidence but I have been reassured that this is normal (is it?). I have also begun to think what the exhibition is trying to address and how it can do this so I'm planning a few events
I have met with Sheffield Hospitals' Charity to see if we could collaborate and organise 'A day in the life of Arts in Health' to be staged at some point during the exhibition of the work. They seem keen. If I sell any work then I aim to donate a % of sales to the Charity - without them there wouldn't be an Arts in Health programme at the Hospitals. To make it happen, I have been able to get some musicians from Music in Hospitals . We work with this Charity at the Hospitals to bring music to patients who tend to be in hospital for longer than the average time - patients who have had strokes, bad accidents or patients who are elderly and frail. I have also been promised musicians from Lost Chord who are a music organisation who provide musicians for people who have dementia. At STH we have dementia patients in almost all of the wards - it's prevalent amongst older patients and there are lots of elderly patients in hospitals. There are also a couple of wards that specialise in caring for patients with the illness and the musicians we bring to these wards do amazing work. I'm also hopeful that we can showcase and deliver some 'drop in' arts & crafts workshops on the day for anyone who attends and wants to participate.
I have also met with two women researchers at the University of Sheffield who are involved with the Migration Research Group. As I understand it, it is a collaboration of different university departments who are working on a project that looks at the impact of Brexit on the lived experience of EU citizens who live and work in the UK. One of the questions I ask all the people I interview is how they think the referendum on Brexit has affected them. The answers have sometimes surprised me with varied reactions, often completely different from my own response to it. Dr. Majella Killkey, Reader in Social Policy Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield and Professor Louise Ryan, Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield were very kind to meet with me to see if we could organise a discussion event during the exhibition in conjunction with the University's Festival of the Mind which takes place in September. We have written a brief proposal and we have to wait to see if this will be of interest to the Festival's organisers.
And then finally, I have met with the the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals' History Group. They possess an archive of objects and photographs that tell the story of the hospitals and work houses in Sheffield from late 19th Century onwards. As this year is also the 70th anniversary year of the launch of the NHS (5th July 1948) it will be interesting to see how far this very British institution has come and what it's future might be. We have been talking about a possible event during the exhibition. I have recently been watching the BBC documentary 'A Difficult Beginning' - about the start of the NHS and the huge opposition from doctors and the Tory party because they felt that a Welfare State and the National Health Service in particular would rob them of independence and freedom. Very interesting and good to understand why Nye Bevan, the Health Secretary of the Labour Party at that time, felt so strongly about free healthcare regardless of ability to pay.
The NHS has been in the news a lot again during January with the usual stories of an institution in crisis and no new ideas or joined up thinking on how we can deal with shortage of cash and staff, longer life expectancy with increase of elderly patients with complex needs, development of expensive individually tailored medicines and an eagerly awaiting private healthcare sector who cannot wait to swallow up potential profitable sections of the NHS. I have no idea why politicians can't bury their differences and allow for an open-minded discussion on how this precious institution could survive the next 70 years. There are plenty of examples in the world of how unequal healthcare provision with lead to a further divide between those that are poor and those that are rich. I'm hoping that the STH History Group will be able to help me and my audience to understand why the lives of many of the poor and sick were truly miserable when healthcare relied heavily on donations from (rich) philanthropists. So many people were persuaded to vote for a Brexit because it would enable the UK to invest more money in this institution. This tells us that the NHS is held dear to people, especially those who need it most and wouldn't be able to afford a costly healthcare alternative.