’An excellent introductory text, both to this specific project, and the value of art in healthcare spaces.’
Title: Our Storeys: Art and Poetry in Healthcare
Authors: S Ridge and J Davies
Publisher: Pighog Publishing
Reviewer: Barbara O’Donnell, Chief ODP, Guy’s Hospital
What was it like?
This book is the story of a major Art in Healthcare project, located at the North Middlesex University Hospital in London, by the artist Sue Ridge and poet John Davies. It includes contributions from other poets such as Andrew Motion and Michael Rosen (previous UK Poet Laureates) and Carol Ann Duffy (the current UK Poet Laureate), as well as poems from other notable poets such as Maurice Riordan (the current editor of Poetry Review), Ciaran O’Driscoll and Eva Salzman. It also includes poems from writers who work in other spheres, such as environmental psychology, like Veronica Simpson. The book is also the story of Ridge and Davies’ work in Art in Healthcare.
Art in Healthcare is an emerging area in the arts world, and healthcare commissioners worldwide increasingly recognise the importance of incorporating art of differing forms into healthcare spaces. Art in healthcare spaces contributes to the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors, thereby contributing to healing, helps involve local communities in healthcare spaces and can contribute positively to the identity of governing healthcare bodies. Art also helps to take people outside of themselves at what can be a very difficult time, and therefore may be said to be all the more important within healthcare, helping to foster a truly holistic approach to care.
The aim of this project was to help the local community “make the hospital their own”. Much work has been done on the impact of the built environment on how people feel and so a project such as this is very valuable in those terms. The book is printed in full colour, interspersing colour photos with poems and narrative from Ridge and Davies, telling the story of the project as well as their own involvement with Art in Healthcare as a movement. The title paints the idea that the art is the stories of the artists, patients, staff and visitors, but also the storeys of the building itself, thereby integrating them.
The Our Storeys project has two main components: a Poetry wall, located on lift lobby walls, using printed “social wallpaper” and photo text images for waiting areas, complemented by poems from the range of poets mentioned above and other photographic images. I suspect that the book doesn’t quite do justice to these images, being limited by page size and the need for editing. The images that are included however, are sympathetic and great fun too.
What were the highlights?
The poems from differing authors, many of whom are not directly associated with healthcare per se. The beautiful poem “These Are the Hands” by Michael Rosen, is included.
Strengths & weaknesses:
An excellent introductory text, both to this specific project, and the value of art in healthcare spaces. The only weakness of this edition is that it might have benefited being coffee-table size, so as to properly display the photographic work. It is nicely laid out.
Who should read it?
Anyone interested in art, or specifically art in healthcare spaces; patients, visitors or staff. Healthcare workers who are also artists. Hospital commissioners who are planning new spaces or redesigning existing ones.