Weston Arts + Health Week enjoyed by thousands

Thousands of people in Weston and throughout the area joined in the second Weston Arts + Health Week as over 45 live and online activities were hosted by the town in a packed programme of events that took place throughout Weston, in health and care settings and in green, open spaces. 

Presented in partnership between Culture Weston and the Arts & Culture Programme at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) from 18 to 26 September, at the heart of the pioneering collaboration, was Luke Jerram’s stunning artwork ‘In Memoriam’.

Situated on the beach, the poignant installation of over 100 flags created from hospital bedsheets provided a temporary memorial for the public to visit and remember all that we have lost from the Covid-19 pandemic and pay tribute to the NHS. 

During the nine-day event, In Memoriam and its stunning coastal backdrop was the setting for a series of immersive performances, including a fire-lit NHS procession and the soothing sounds of Costanzi Consort chamber choir on the opening weekend to a festival finale filled with dance, poetry and song.

The premiere of a new dance commission, created and performed amongst the flags by the internationally renowned ‘Studio Wayne McGregor’, alongside dance students from Weston College took place on Friday 24 September in front of a mesmerised audience and to the haunting soundtrack ‘A Moment in Time’, composed by Dan Jones and featuring amongst the talent, Massive Attack and Portishead. An inspiring light installation ‘Recovery Poems’ by Emergency Exit Arts gave pause for thought as people stopped to reflect upon the emotive words. 

The event ended on a high note on Sunday as members of the newly formed UHBW NHS Choir performed the first public sharing of ‘A Song for In Memoriam’, specially commissioned from local composer David Ogden for Weston Arts + Health Week. Members of the public were invited to join in this uplifting moment held within the flags of In Memoriam and a fitting finale to the Weston Arts + Health Week.  

Fiona Matthews, Creative Director at Culture Weston said: “We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the people of Weston for being part of Arts + Health week, from children playing in the sand and raising a smile amongst the flags of In Memoriam, to those who came to remember and reflect.  Not forgetting those who participated in the vast array of activities, conversations and live arts opportunities and who fed back with such positive comments and warmth. It has been a privilege to partner with UHBW and NHS staff, and to work in close partnership with North Somerset Council and Weston Town Council.  Thanks too to Arts Council England, Quartet Community Foundation and Without Walls for their financial support which has seeded so many collaborations with artists, communities and health bodies that will continue into the future.”

Anna Farthing, Arts Programme Director at UHBW said: “Everyone at the Trust is   delighted with the success of this Arts + Health Week supporting the health and wellbeing of people of all ages, as well as patients and staff. 

Events specifically for healthcare staff and volunteers, both at ‘In Memoriam’ and in the grounds of Weston General Hospital were warmly received. We were delighted to welcome participants from care homes, hospice care, the ambulance service, primary and community care as well as hospital colleagues, all of whom have worked so hard throughout the pandemic. 

Ongoing projects as part of arts and health include our new NHS choir, artist designed seating in the hospital gardens, visual arts on wards and in the hospital’s chapel and design projects to enhance the look and feel of the hospital both indoors and outside. As there is ever greater understanding of the value of creative and outdoor activity, we are proud to have provided so many opportunities this week. We are looking forward to our next partnership project with Culture Weston.”

The programme of free activities also included a series of in person creative taster sessions with craft, poetry, drama and dance; outdoor activities such as Tai-Chi at parks, and flavours of allotment life, plus a host of online events from artist chats to health panel discussions, including the launch of the Silva Lining’s Careplan podcast, informed by the personal experience of home carers of people with dementia, written by Elspeth Penny and longlisted for the Woman’s Prize of Playwriting 2020. https://elspeth4.podbean.com/

Recordings of the digital events will be available for all to enjoy at cultureweston.org.uk and a Weston Arts + Health Week highlights film is being produced by local film maker Sally Low.

The partnership between the Arts & Culture Programme at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and Culture Weston is on-going. It will continue to build on current successes including two Weston Arts + Health Weeks and two editions of the uplifting Boredom Buster newspaper distributed to over 80,000 patients across the country and look to a  future where many more  people in Weston and beyond are supported through imaginative arts and health collaborations.