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Fresh Art Festival at Southmead Hospital

Date uploaded: November 3, 2014

To celebrate the opening of the new Southmead Hospital in Bristol, 'Fresh Arts Festival' hosted a full three day programme of activites including poetic first aid, a knitting installation, model car racing, promenade theatre and music on the wards. The Festival was part of a wider public art programme featuring the work of nationally and internationally recognised artists to animate spaces and create special places within the hospital building and grounds.

During the Fresh Arts Festival, patients, staff, visitors, families and local residents were able to experience and learn about how art is helping to create a better patient environment. Performances, workshops and activities celebrated the role that the arts are playing in bringing the building to life and connecting to the communities who use it.

Promenade style theatre performances by Show of Strength Theatre Company drew on stories and memories of hospital life, collected from staff and local people during a series of writing workshops.

The Emergency Poet provided poetry on prescription. Poet and writer Deborah Alma offered consultations and prescribed poems – a mix of the serious, the therapeutic and the theatrical.

Writer in residence Sue Mayfield explored the things that people need, love and care about most. Working individually with patients and visitors, together they shaped a ‘lifeline’ of poetry. Spike Printmakers set up printing presses in the hospital atrium where these poems were turned into limited edition take-home prints.

Knitiffi knitter Ali Brown worked with community groups, staff and patients in advance of the festival to create a special installation. A giant jumper – like a warm hug – greeted patients, staff and visitors at the hospital entrance. The aim of Knitiffi – or knit graffiti – is to enhance everyday objects in the environment and to bring together community groups. During the festival, Ali demonstrated the therapeutic nature of knitting by bringing together groups of people to knit and chat.

Live musical performances by Superact and by local choirs took place on wards and in waiting areas.

The final day of the Festival was marked by staging a Speed Derby in the hospital atrium – the culmination of a series of workshops to help staff teams come together to identify with and take ownership of their new working environment. During the workshops leading up to the festival, artists Assemble and Join worked with staff and community groups to design and create their own model cars to race on a specially created track built around the building. The track has been donated to Stoke Park Schools for the schools and local community to enjoy.

The festival was the culmination of a public art programme which involves patients, staff and the wider community. It features the permanent work of six artists in the building and surrounding grounds. Pieces of art provide moments of reflection or distraction. They lift the mood, or provoke emotional responses, encouraging empathy and understanding.

Underpinning the project is a close collaboration between North Bristol NHS Trust and its arts programme, Fresh Arts, architects Building Design Partnership (BDP), the commissioned artists, Carillion and Willis Newson.

For more information click here.