Red Earth Arts

 ‘The Ledbury Book of Delights‘ was inspired by the re-publication of J B Priestley’s book ‘Delight’ originally published in 1949. This project was funded by The National Lottery and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and enabled us to reach out to people living in care home settings during lockdown and asking them to write a memory of a personal ‘delight’ and producing an illustration to display in the book. Thanks to residents at Stanley House, Leadon Bank, The Forbury, The Evergreens and members of Art For Pleasure for contributing to this beautiful book.

‘Things With Wings’ was kindly funded by Community Catalysts. This project was in 2 halves, illustrations of birds were painted by The Ledbury Evergreen Club using materials provided and each member of Art For Pleasure were given an A4 canvas and invited to create a painting of a winged ‘thing’. The books and painting were displayed in the Barrett Browning Institute ‘House of Poetry’ during August 2021.

Art at St Michael’s Oct 2019 – Dec 2021


Art at St. Michaels began in October 2019 when I received the funding which I was very grateful for. I was able to have planning meetings with the Julia Flather- Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Day Services and Anthony Hall – Head of Supportive Care to discuss practicalities and protocol and I attended a mandatory Data Protection and Privacy training workshop .The art workshops were for patients attending the Day Services on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

I constructed criteria that I deemed necessary for each art session accordingly:

  • A short introduction suitable to individuals/ group, not overtly complicated
  • Give each participant immediate materials to join in straightaway
  • Devise activities that could be started and finished in each session (with no continuum the following week)
  • Use quality craft materials to support sound ideas
  • Sensitivity to subject matter (ie around Valentine’s Day or Christmas)
  • Plan for activities that could be conducted seated in an armchair, or in a bed, or at the table
  •  An awareness of physical and cognitive impairment where a patient might feel unable to participate, who I could assist
  • Use art/craft materials that would not cause irritation, are non-toxic or pungent (to cause a respiratory reaction) or allergic reaction
  • Follow the seasonal changes and offer variety of activities to reach as many people as possible, suitable for adults
  • Offer activities that appeal to those with no previous access to art or to those who were already proficient in art

For 15 years I have offered art to people who are unwell in various ways, often working in care homes with people with neurodegenerative diseases, for short periods of time or working on a specific project. I would say that from all these experiences the project I have just completed, Art at St Michael’s Hospice, is probably the one which resonated with me the most. While I was there, I worked with people who are facing the end of their life, this is profound, and moving. Day Services provide an environment at St Michael’s that is about life, living well with quality. I found this the most open, positive, enriching, and honest (possibly a clumsy adjective), of places where the environment allowed a freedom to express fears and anxieties and gratitude and new friendships were forged. Many other places where I have worked illness and death are left unspoken between staff and patients, and I have often felt that these people may have been suffering quietly with immense grief and fear. This project endorsed what I believe, that the value of creative artistic expression and the opportunity is immeasurable and  to learn new skills encourages confidence and that a group art activity promotes communal support.

Art at St Michael’s Hospice 2021                                                                                              

It was 17 months before the doors opened at St. Michael’s Hospice, Hereford, for Day Services to resume again. Although Covid-19 is still very much at large, policies allowed visors and patients to have access to the many therapists and other healthcare professionals once again.

From late summer to Christmas 2021 my twice weekly art session continued, funded by Awards for All, and as before lockdown when my art project began, each week there was a high take-up of patients wishing to participate.

An art session must be carefully planned, with meticulous preparation, with minimal explanation or introduction, so everyone can begin immediately. Staff and volunteers, and family as well as patients are invited to join in.

The art and craft sessions I provide are of a high quality, in as much the ideas and materials we use and good. I show examples of the finished item for each activity, and within this there is variety to encourage individuality and self-expression. Patients either attended and sit together as a group in their lounge, or in an armchair in the lounge using materials provided that don’t take up space on their nearby coffee/tea table. Either way, it feels like a group endeavour, as we show and share what we make and within this there is much encouragement and praise. New skills are learnt or re-discovered. All work has been finished within the workshop, not to be expected to be continued. The examples I show are given to those unable to participate, so they also take something away.

We made mosaic birds, cotton tote bags with individually coloured images using textile markers, pot-pourri sachets chosen from 6 x different spices, herbs and blossoms, different card making activities, using embossing powders and stamping, cut paper collage and decorative papers, we tried fabric decoupage on glass baubles, carved wooden items decorated for hanging up, watercolour and acrylic painting, drawing, wind chime, stained glass effect decorations and the list goes on.

Comments from Staff and Patients :

Vicky (Victoria Lambert, Sister of Day Services): “You are very engaging with our patients, and they have expressed to staff how much they enjoy seeing you. Your art sessions are therapy for people, especially at this time in their life when they have lost how to express themselves and have become withdrawn and lack confidence and self-esteem. You help reverse this as what you do gives people the chance to express their individuality, they can be themselves again. This is very important at this time in their life.  We all feel that this has been an invaluable project and we all really hope you come back soon to work with us.

Trixie (Staff Nurse): “You are good at what you do, and I am amazed how you engaged and encouraged people who might have otherwise struggled in joining in your art session. I’d also like to add that I had had a different attitude to art before I met you and then I watched how you worked, although you brought in seemingly simple ideas, I was able to take this away and adapt your ideas enough to work with my children. This has changed my personal life as I now do crafts more comfortably at home with my kids”.

Shelley (Healthcare Assistant): “You are amazing with everyone, and I mean the staff and the patients. You engaged with all of us with your enthusiasm. It’s important to add that you are on the same level as our patients, and you get what we are doing. You are a ray of sunshine and you have brought groups of people together”.

Anthony Hall (Head of Supportive Care): “Thank you for all the work you have done, I know from our meetings the passion you have for your work and I am so pleased you chose to partner with us in using the Awards for All funding to deliver art for our patients. From everything I heard it went down extremely well and because of your work, you have provided a rich and wonderful experience and knowledge about art. Thank for idea about ‘Art Kits’ during lockdown but we felt we could better use your skills in face-to-face situation. We would have liked you to have worked with our Bereavement Groups too, but sadly as the situation regarding covid-19 is uncertain, we aren’t able to extend this yet to you. We hope you might come back and work with us again”.

Heather (Home maker Volunteer): “I love your art sessions, they are creative, delightful, varied and relaxing and a space where you encourage camaraderie. You created a community activity for multiple levels of ability, and you are helpful, encouraging and interested in what everyone is doing”.

Helen (Healthcare manager):” You coming in has made a difference, and given people a focus for their day and something to look forward to. If anyone can get people to join in, it’s you, you’ve got this absolutely right”.

Feedback from patients, no names as to keep identity anonymous:

D: This is what I enjoy, a time to paint and do art because I stop worrying about the heavy things.

M: I thank you for what you are doing, this is all new to me and I know each week I feel better for being creative. I like what we do and didn’t think I would be able to join in, but I have and it’s really helping me. You put a lot of thought into this don’t you?

A: I don’t know how long I will be able to be creative because of my medical condition, so doing weekly art sessions with you has really helped me feel more positive.

P: I haven’t painted in watercolour before, thankyou for giving me a watercolour set so I can practice at home, thank you.

D: I can’t believe what I make each week and I am so happy to take things home that I made myself.

N: Well, I haven’t done this before, and am surprised at what you’ve encouraged me to make.

A: I have a condition which affects the use of my hands, and I am surprised that I have been able to join in and make beautiful things.

J: I don’t think I do much each week, but you encourage me to join in and I like that, I do as much as I can and that makes me feel good.

R: I want to thank you for what you have done and how you have encouraged me to work on my ideas at home.

I absolutely loved working at St Michael’s. The openness, the positive and helpful and cheerful staff, the opportunity for fun and to be serious, a space for everyone to talk openly, a place to share thoughts and express our feelings. And the response to the art sessions was a resounding success.

I can only say a huge Thank You to Awards for All who believed in this project and funded it.

Red Earth Arts CIC is a community interest company, a collaboration between writer and poet Sara-Jane Arbury and myself.

We joined forces so we could broaden our scope of what we can offer the communities in which we work. Previously we have enjoyed working with different groups (in museums, libraries, for healthcare providers, schools, clubs for older people, hospital trusts, literary festivals, arts centres etc).

Red Earth Arts CIC plans to expand to continue to offer high quality, original and entertaining workshops. But we also intend to offer more ‘project’ based collaborations working alongside and with people, so there is a sharing of ideas, a building of skills, and an exchange in a creative environment.

We are based at Studio 4, The Old Cottage Hospital, Ledbury HR8 1BS.

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