The Arts in Primary Care Project ran at Stennack Surgery in St Ives from November 2006 for 18 months. As Lead Artist, I developed a number of projects, using a range of approaches to reach across the surgery community. Located in the surgery building, one off open events, such as the ‘ArtsClinic”, with Tony Minnion and Colin Curbishley, and closed groups for referred patients, gave options to people thinking about trying their hand at creative activity.
I also tried to also develop and strengthen the links between the surgery and other local service providers, such as ST Ives Library, where for example I engaged writer Victoria Field to lead a 6 week creative words course for referred patients, one of whom said later, ”The group has given me a direction in which to go in, giving me an extra belief in myself.”
In partnership with St Ives Children's centre, I set up a cross-generational knitting project where older ladies volunteered to share their skills with young parents referred to the group by health workers. Lots of knitted articles were produced, including a blue sea which was took part in St Ives May Day parade and woolly breasts which were designed to help with demonstrations at breast feeding clinics at the children's centre.
"It has been a fantastic experience. I have benefited on many levels. Not only have I finally understood knitting, which is really exciting, it has been great to have a new project and something to focus on and take my mind off other issues in my life. Knitting is very therapeutic and meditative and is something I want to carry on with for the rest of my life."
(Quote from a member of the first knitting group, who went on to co-found an open weekly knitting café based in the Children’s Centre, which is still going strong, more than a year later.)
The St Ives Trust and Archive Study Centre generously provided resources and support for a project which celebrated the history of the surgery building. Previously a school, the granite building is a fine example of Victorian architecture, which from saved from demolition by great protest from the local community in the 1980s. A slide show of old pictures of St Ives launched an appeal for old school photos, which were gathered, copied and placed in albums in the surgery waiting area. People were invited to fill in names for the folk in the photograph albums, which stimulated much reminiscing and storytelling in the waiting room, before they were returned to the archive. The study centre also gave slide shows during the annual ‘Flu Clinics’.
“ How fair is the garden amidst the toils and passions of existence.” Benjamin Disraeli.
Inspired by the St Ives Green Gym, and thanks to the generosity of a local resident who loaned his (slightly neglected!) garden for this project, several patients, referred by their GP, worked alongside me over a growing season: planting, nurturing and harvesting a variety of vegetables and flowers.
A selection of cut flowers were regularly dropped off at the surgery to enhance the public and staff areas.
On the Move
In 2008 the three separate GP practices which were housed in the Stennack Surgery building made the decision to amalgamate, and staff were invited to contribute to a small installation, located in the staff area, which offered a platform to air feelings about this major change.
A weekly art session for referred patients managing a range of conditions, evolved over the project into a bi-weekly patient run textile group, gently supported by Health Visitor Barbara Regan.
All these projects relied on the enthusiasm and support of a great number of people. Many thanks to Celia McIntosh, Frank Davey, Rachel Koerner, Sarah Shaw and staff at Stennack Surgery, Barbara Regan and the St Ives Health Visitor Team, Christine Carson and staff at St Ives Library, Janet Axten and volunteer team at St Ives Study Centre, July Nicholas, Geoff Collinge, Mary Dobbin, Johanna Evans, and Richard Ryan.
To read an evaluation of the Arts in Primary Care project, by Cornwall Health Reseach Unit click here
In 2006 Arts for Health Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly secured funding to explore and evaluate strategies to interface the arts and creative activity in Primary Health Care settings.
AFH exists to promote the role of Creativity in improving health and wellbeing. Creative activity has been proven to have tangible effects on physical health, increase self-esteem, provide a sense of purpose, develop social skills, help community integration and improve quality of life. Creative application of the arts can also dramatically improve the environments within which health and social care are delivered, bringing wide ranging benefits to those using them.
I was engaged as Lead Artist for an Arts in Primary Care Project, based at the Stennack Surgery, St Ives over a period of 18 months.
'Reasons' : 2mtrs X 3mtrs textile quilt/panel, inspired by singer songwriter the late Ian Dury and contemporary artist Tracy Emin.
Completed in 2008, he quilt was made with contributions from all the members of a textile group which emerged from the Artlab sessions, but due to refurbishments etc has been on display in the surgery waiting area only since Jan 2012.