Painting by Heather Green.
Patients of South Bucks Hospice have praised an online art group which has lifted their spirits during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The pilot course has been run once a week on Zoom since late January by Juliette Coffey, Head of Individual and Family Support at the hospice in Kingswood Park, High Wycombe.
Juliette, who was trained in using art in therapy, is delighted with the results of the classes and says the high quality of the work produced by the patients has ‘blown everybody away’.
“We are receiving brilliant feedback from the classes,” she said. “This has been a real blessing to all of us during this very hard period when we are in lockdown. The positivity coming from this is immense.
“Our patients normally have a lot to think about, so it is so life-enhancing to have an hour a week where you don’t have to worry about Covid or think about the circumstances you are in. The online classes have provided a very welcome sanctuary and they provide a space for people to explore their inner creativity.”
Initially, the hospice sent out a starter art pack – including watercolours, paintbrushes, a palette and a suite of suggested images – to the small group of patients.
Juliette added: “I said to the first class to just get some colour on the paper to brighten up January. However, over the weeks, they have developed their own style and become more creative which is really exciting.”
Paulette Rackstraw, from Amersham, said: “Before lockdown I had been attending Butterfly House as a daycare patient once a week. Now I really look forward to the online art class on a Thursday afternoon. Seeing and chatting with people helps my mental health as I’m in the clinically extremely vulnerable group and have been shielding for a long time.
“Painting together and chatting in a relaxed manner helps to take my mind off my continuous cycles of cancer treatment and side effects. Nature themes are my favourite to paint. I find nature is very soothing. It’s fun to show each other our finished art pieces at the end of the sessions.”
Heather Green, of Hughenden Gardens Retirement Village in High Wycombe, who has benefited from the hospice’s services, said: “I was a little apprehensive about joining the group as I had always considered myself to be less than skilled in producing artwork. In fact, if it wasn’t for this online workshop, I would have probably never picked up a paintbrush to paint a picture ever again. I had not attempted to paint a picture since leaving school in 1965.
“However, I have been pleasantly surprised with myself and on the very first week I completed a picture of a robin, by copying the image sent by Juliette. Since then, I have produced a new picture every week and have felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, considering this has been something I have achieved, whilst living alone during lockdown. I would like to express my grateful thanks for having the opportunity to be involved in such a positive experience.”
The hospice has also gone online to help patients in other areas during the pandemic. A ‘Mindfulness’ Group, as well as internet sessions on hand massages and relaxation techniques have proved highly successful, says Acting Chief Executive Jackie Ward.
* South Bucks Hospice plans to start a major new six-week bereavement course in May. It will be entitled Addressing Loss During Covid: Navigating Life After the Storm. Bereaved people who wish to attend can find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org