Film shows the way the Fresh Arts Festival helps create a caring, creative community at the heart of Southmead Hospital Bristol

A remarkable new film launched on 12th December 2014 captures the atmosphere of warmth, fun and celebration during a three-day arts festival held to celebrate the opening of the new Southmead Hospital Bristol.

The film, by Josh Gaunt, catches the spirit of North Bristol NHS Trust’s Fresh Arts Festival held during October 2014. It documents the role that art and creativity have played in bringing people together.

The Festival brought poetic first aid, a community knitting installation, model car racing, promenade theatre, music and a writer-in-residence on the wards, community choirs and a programme of activities to celebrate the opening of the new building.

North Bristol NHS Trust Director of Nursing, Sue Jones said: “I thought it was a fantastic three days; so inspiring. The festival brought a real sense of community to the hospital and was so beneficial for patients. It was like breathing soul into the building. We’ve designed the hospital to be a healing environment, and the arts programme has made that personal for people.”

“The Festival has brought people together in the new building to create a home. It has been like a giant house warming party,” said Jane Willis, Director of Willis Newson the arts and health consultancy that curated and produced the Festival in collaboration with the Trust’s arts programme Fresh Arts.

“The Festival has been a fantastic way of welcoming people into the hospital building and showing them that it is a healing space. It has been an opportunity for people to find out why we have a hospital arts programme, what it means,” said North Bristol NHS Trust Fresh Arts Manager Ruth Sidgwick.

One patient Jayne Richer describes the impact of the Festival: “To be able to get out of my room, being able to go for a walk on my own even with a Zimmer frame, was just the best ever. And then coming down to all of this! It was just a fantastic day!”

The festival was the culmination of a public art programme which involves patients, staff and the wider community. It features the permanent work of six artists in the building and surrounding grounds. Pieces of art provide moments of reflection or distraction. They lift the mood, or provoke emotional responses, encouraging empathy and understanding.

Underpinning the project is a close collaboration between North Bristol NHS Trust and its arts programme, Fresh Arts, architects Building Design Partnership (BDP), the commissioned artists, Carillion and Willis Newson.

Andrea Young, North Bristol NHS Chief Executive said: “The art at Southmead Hospital Bristol helps to create a more aesthetically pleasing environment, which is important for people’s sense of wellbeing. There are special places where people can have a quiet moment for reflection, there are things to help you feel more cheerful and things to comfort you. The art is helping to make Southmead Hospital a better place to be for patients, visitors and staff.”


The Touch Diaries


The Touch Diaries is a research project led by Bristol based choreographer, Lisa May Thomas that looks deeply into the themes of touch, connection and community. It is also exploring how human contact can have an impact on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Project research is being carried out via a series of workshops across the South West open to all ages and mobilities that are exploring the project themes of touch and connection through movement, sound, rhythm and discussion. So far, Lisa and her team have led workshops in Bath and Dartington. The next workshop will be in Bristol on Wednesday 21st January 2-5pm at Trinity Centre open to 55+ of all mobilities, with workshops following at various locations across the South West. If you are interested in taking part in the Bristol workshop or would like to find out more about the other workshops, please contact production assistant Katherine Hall.

My favourite activity was standing with a partner, making eye contact, holding hands, then releasing the hold and, with our eyes closed, gently turning in a circle until we found the hand again, opened our eyes, looked at each other, smiled then moved onto the next person. When my eyes were open and I could see everyone gently turning in circles, arms outstretched to find the lost hand, re-connect, it was like a beautiful slow dance. I think if everyone did this at the start of their working day it would go a long way to building trust, breaking barriers and hierarchies.

(Jan, Workshop Participant in Dartington)


Anyone interested in the project research is invited to complete a Touch Diary!

The diary has space for each individual to track and record moments of physical contact through each day over a maximum of a 7-day period via a series of set questions as well as free spaces in which to record their thoughts and experiences. There is also space for people to recall and write about past moments or periods of life remembered through touch and connection.

If you would like to complete a Touch Diary please contact Katherine Hall with a preference for print or digital versions. Currently a mobile app is being developed!

Research collated through the workshops and touch diaries will inform the project team’s creative process leading to the production of a film and live performance experience. The film will address ideas, questions and work with real-life stories and memories that are significant to the research. Some of these ideas will be taken into more physical movement with a team of professional performers.

As part of this process Lisa is working with the Physical Cultural Studies Group at the University of Bath to reflexively evaluate the project process and outcomes.

The film will premier at ICIA, University of Bath on 9th July 2015 with accompanying talks delivered by Lisa May Thomas and the Physical Cultural Studies Group.

For more information and to keep updated with project blogs please visit:

Lisa May Thomas:

To enquire about The Touch Diaries workshops or to request a Touch Diary please contact Assistant Producer, Katherine Hall:


This project is supported by Arts Council England, Bath Dance, Theatre Bristol, ICIA, Jniversity of Bath, Trinity Centre, The Marine Theatre, Dartington, West Dorset District Council, Activate.

Photography: © Paul Blakemore 2014


inspiring communities

The new innovative project Creative Drop will be pairing young people with cutting-edge creative professionals to artistically transform a single parent centre in Easton this Christmas.

Creative Drop will be inspiring young people to kick-start their careers in the creative industries by harness­ing their skills to renovate spaces in need within the local community. Organised and funded by the social enterprise PAPER Arts, with the support of well-known organisations such as the Prince’s Trust, Young Bristol, Creative Youth Network and Knowle West Media Cen­tre, Creative Drop aims to stress the beauty and energy of our young people and their capacity for social contri­bution.

From textiles to photography, the Creative Drop team will start its legacy this Christmas by adding a splash of creativity, design and soul to The Silai Centre (Easton). This organisation undertakes fantastic work supporting, empowering and mentoring vulnerable, single parents, enabling them to build a more fulfilled and successful life for them and their children.

Creative Drop will make this space striking, imagina­tive and inspiring by leading a team of young creatives to work together and use their creative skills, making a genuine difference to the users of The Silai Centre and their community.

The creative sector in Bristol has enormous potential to generate economic growth in the region. However, it is deeply concerning that creative employers in the South West are struggling to fill entry-level vacancies, while there are hundreds of unemployed young people desperate for work.

In reaction to this, PAPER Arts and its Creative Drop project were born in a pursuit to help long-term un­employed young people develop a career in the cre­ative industry. It is doing this by providing opportu­nities in which to apply their creativity and grow their aspirations, connections and skill sets. The project is without doubt a massive stepping stone between young people and a future creative career that they may be struggling to kick-start.

Simone Kidner, founder and managing director of the Broadmead-based social enterprise PAPER Arts, explains: “Creative Drop is proving to be a very hands-on, exciting way to engage and empower young people to embrace their ambitions, whilst doing some genu­ine good in the local community.”

From the 13th to the 19th December Creative Drop will be taking over the café at the Silai Centre to transform it into something amazing with a celebratory reveal of the results on the afternoon/evening of the 19th.

We are hoping to gain further funding for the project through crowd funding, visit our pledge page online:–2/x/9253551

To find out more visit our Facebook page: