SAFEmetal, Abbey Court Hospital, Warrington 2011

SAFEmetal, Abbey Court Hospital, Warrington 2011

This project is a collaboration between three arts organisations; Alternative Futures Group, Metal Monkeys and SAFE Productions Ltd, providing a focused intervention with people experiencing dementia.

Metal Monkeys worked with Abbey Court Independent Hospital in Warrington, with residents, their families and hospital staff.

Metal Monkeys see this unique piece of work as evidence of the value of arts in health; it can be seen as a memorial to the living.

One of the most distressing aspects of living with dementia is a profound sense of loss. The loss of memory and sense of identity for the sufferer and the gradual loss of the sufferers’ personality, for the loved ones of the sufferer.

Metal Monkeys began by working with residents, their families & friends and staff at Abbey Court in July 2011. We facilitated 3 sessions where we mentored 10 members of the SAFE group in working with dementia creatively. 19 residents engaged in creative expression, exploring a variety of media, felt making, plaster casts and clay work and some engaging with paint for the first time!

Stories about the lives of the residents were shared in an informal way and objects gathered that had significance to the residents or their loved ones. The artists also had the opportunity to observe how residents engaged with the space they live in and what objects within their space were of value to individual residents.

The creative outcomes from the sessions were taken back to SAFE Productions in Liverpool were the Safe artists continued their training, responding to their experience in the hospital , creating sculptures to be cast in iron, that were a response to stories and individuals from Abbey Court hospital. The artists learned how to make wax and foam ‘patterns’ (the original sculpture). They explored ideas and reflected on the lives of the people they engaged with.

A resident who was experiencing late stage dementia, had been a rugby captain for England. The first time we met him he wouldn’t sit down for more than 2 minutes at a time and was described as having a short attention span. During the second session he created a painting of a rugby pitch and worked with us for 2 hours, much to the amazement of the staff! A family member brought one of his rugby balls in and we discovered that one of his pals in the hospital had been a professional football player and childhood friend to this man. We cast the hand of his friend and created a sculpture of a ‘Try’ using his rugby ball and his friends’ hand.

Another resident who was quite severely affected brought a small model car to the group work, his wife talked about the first car they had together and the memories of holidays they had taken together. The resulting sculpture that relates to this couples’ story featured the car on a long road with some of the words from their story.

Residents and staff saw the sculptures being made at a Public Iron Pour event in the car park of Abbey Court hospital in August 2011. The 8 finished sculptures are now permanently installed in the residents’ garden at the hospital; to serve as a reminder and celebration of the lives of the people who live there!

“This art work made me well up. I felt very emotional and wish I had a permanent memory of the loved ones I have lost. What a wonderful gesture to capture a memory in time, you can feel the love and care from the artwork and know without asking. It’s a special thing. Beauty in it’s purest form!”

A staff member from Abbey Court Independent Hospital.