Our Hands in the Time of Corona

Back in April 2020 Art for Life started to think about how it could mark the changes in our lives that Covid-19 was making and the impact it was having on our staff.  Having been approached by Nurse Practitioner and writer Allison Day we collaborated with her and the Wellbeing Team to bring together a project called ‘Our Hands in the Time of Corona’.

We asked staff, in no more than 10 words, to let us know what ‘tiny treasure’ they had discovered in lockdown.  These ‘treasures’ were subsequently transferred onto the outline of a hand featuring a rainbow, which has become a symbol of the NHS, and Art for Life displayed them in a exhibition in The Musgrove Gallery from mid August until mid October 2020.  However, we are aware that during this time many people were unable to visit the hospital so here are some of the ‘tiny treasures’ people submitted.

Below is a summary of the project:

Throughout history, the arts have been used both personally and collectively as a way of documenting, exploring and understanding extraordinary events that impact on our lives.  As we currently find ourselves in a different world, challenged to make sense of what is happening, the arts, in the broadest sense, can provide an opportunity to reflect.

Nurse practitioner and writer Allison Day collaborated with Art for Life, the Trust’s art and design team and the Wellbeing Team on a project called ‘Our Hands in the Time of Corona’ (inspired by ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

Our hands have never been needed more. Whether being used to gently turn and prone a patient in ICU, forensically clean a clinical environment or deliver a clap of gratitude for frontline workers our hands are, more than ever, a universal symbol of unity, connectedness and care. Whilst some of their purpose is, through necessity, being denied during the global coronavirus pandemic, we are re- learning to use them to express our love and togetherness – a wave given, a kiss blown, a thumbs up now joined by fresh ways to touch without touching those we care about most, be it through a window, across cyberspace or via a myriad of wonderfully creative gestures. We are also using our hands in ways that may be new to us – baking a cake, growing plants from seed, playing an instrument. A new language of care – and self-care – grows amongst us.

Whilst visiting Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire in 2019, Allison came across Hannah Nunn’s beautiful little book ‘Tiny Treasures’ which she gave to her husband for Christmas. This book inspired Allison to write a poem in her husband’s Christmas card. What began as a very personal exchange between her husband and herself, has in the last few weeks, evolved into a reworking of her poem for wider appeal. A more inclusive poem that is uplifting and hopeful for staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Walk newly together,

Be unlearned in the wild

And let the tiny treasures teach us.’

Using Allison’s poem as a jumping off point, we asked staff at the Trust what ‘tiny treasure’ they have discovered during lockdown – it could be a passion they have reacquainted themselves with, an activity that was new to them or something wonderful they had noticed for the first time.