Our Christmas message this year was written by Sue Mayfield, a novelist with a particular interest in emotional landscapes and the healing power of language. We wanted to celebrate not only the ideas in the poem, but also the idea of creative writing and the act of reading itself as a means of promoting wellbeing.
We have been involved in a number of projects involving writing, including Real as Yesterday with Sue Mayfield and two musicians, harpist Marie-France Riboulet and accordionist Jaye Woodfield. During a 6-month residency at Delancey Hospital, Cheltenham, Sue worked as a ‘kind of word-gatherer, following in the musicians’ wake […] collecting memories and capturing them, both for the present moment and for posterity.’ The wonderful collaborative prose and poems telling the stories of the older adult patients of the Hospital which emerged from this, were recorded in a book Real as Yesterday. This project features in our case study about Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s arts service, Arts in Trust, which you can download here.
A similar recent project (not one of ours) - Try to Remember – has been the subject of a qualitative analysis by Helen Gregory of the University of Gloucestershire, with findings published in Arts and Health in September 2011. The research findings suggest that this kind of reminiscence-based poetry activity may improve “the quality of life and care for people with dementia, helping to restore their “personhood” in the eyes of those who care for them."
Writing, storytelling and bibliotherapy are all regularly used in healthcare settings to improve the lives of people with a range of needs, including cancer patients and those challenged by mental illnesses, addictions and bereavement. Lapidus, the UK organisation for writing and reading for health and wellbeing, is the place to start if you want to find out about some of the many inspirational projects currently taking place around the UK.
In 2012, Willis Newson will be hosting a series of creative writing for professional development workshops. More information about these will be available in the New Year.
Until then, we wish you all a happy, healthy and creative Christmas.