Working together – By Alison Stirling from Artlink

Many of you may have noticed the current redevelopment work at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.   It entails many physical changes to the REH grounds and buildings as the hospital slowly morphs from crumbly Victorian buildings to a sparkly new fit for purpose building.

Within this upheaval, Artlink have been working very closely with patients to explore change, its impacts and the potential for patients to alter and make comment on their physical caring environments.  This involves workshops where patients drawings are turned into designs for their wards and courtyards, choirs where patients write their own songs, gardening and reworking of dead green spaces into colourful places to sit and enjoy.  Not surprisingly, in working this way we discovered that the desire for ‘freedom’ featured strongly within feedback, with a need to have spaces within the hospital that were separate to the ‘institution’,  which offered freedom in the form of peace and quiet or freedom to immerse yourself in an activity or in nature.

Artlink and its partners, have been working hard to create and maintain these ‘freedom’ spaces, working with patients and staff to change ward courtyards into beautiful places to sit; making artworks and planting flowers to enhance environments; and working with community volunteers to change the Glasshouses grounds into a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy the flowers and quiet.  Come along and see for yourself.  All are welcome.

Whilst doing all this work we have been talking to the Patients Council taking advice from them, practically realising the suggestions they make.  This isn’t a new thing.  We have worked with many representatives from the Council over the years, from developing a  lecture series for the hospital and Edinburgh university, to making work for exhibitions.  Their creative insight is inspiring and we greatly value the partnerships we have with them.

More recently we asked the Patients Council if they would like to work with us on the next Morningside Mirror.  A reworking of a newspaper which was started in the hospital in the late 1800’s.  We,asked them what we should look at in its next publication?  Their answer was an interesting one.  They suggested that it would be a good thing, to lift morale and to gain an interesting insight into the hospital, that patients and ex patients could talk about what they found interesting or positive about the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

As we left the meeting and made out way back to the glasshouses, we met a patient just finishing choir practice in the glasshouses gardens.  All he said to us was ‘ this is worth getting out of bed for’. A simple statement which meant a lot.

Coming into hospital is stressful, can be overwhelming and scary.  We found in talking to patients and ex patients that there are things that happened, even in desperate times, that had lifted the spirit.  Actions as simple as someone bringing you a cup of tea, or watching a robin from the window of the ward. Many people talk about the tea parties on Meadows as a very positive experience.  So, if you would like to be interviewed for the newspaper, if there is a place within the hospital, a person, an experience which you felt was positive, then come and talk to us.

We will start interviews for the Morningside Mirror at the beginning of August and hope to go to print by the first week in September.

Get in touch with Trevor 0131 537 6127, or if you are in the hospital 6127.  Drop in to the glasshouses, or email or let Maggie at the Patients Council know and we will get in touch with you.

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