Griselda Goldsbrough is a visual artist and writer. She is co-curator for Aesthetica Art Prize and is Art and Design Development Manager at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Here Griselda shares her personal journey and professional perspective of the power of art in healthcare…

Art was all around us when my sister was receiving treatment for cancer. I remember the designed curtains in the ward round the bed, with prints of the Newcastle landscape. My auntie and I talked about the city on one side of the curtain and my sister on the other side, terribly sick, heard us chatting about these places. She recalled this later, laughing. Writing about our shared experiences became part of my journey with her to hospital.

The Ward
You are ill. I look at you and you look at me.
And we both know, you are somewhere in the middle of
hospital beds, corridors, hot wards, grey cardboard trays
water in plastic cups, curtains with city prints in yellow and blue
you and us.
We talk and look across at the other ill people in their beds
or sitting up sleeping and I think you look better than them.
But they go home first.
Your lips go dry and your hand has swollen up.
You try to sip one glass of water an hour, but it makes you feel sick.
You have white sort of bandage socks on and yellow socks
on over them. And it’s hot.
You have a bag for your urine.
You have a blue and grey
stripy dress on.
You look beautiful.

Our little boy Joel - Martin Sainty, photo Elly Ross

'Our little boy Joel' by Martin Sainty. Shown as part of York Teaching Hospitals exhibition programme. Photo: Eloise Ross

I remember the moments of finding results out, unable to take any of it in. All the prepared questions not needed. The results spreading out another unknown journey. I remember the surgeon and the consultant having to draw out the shapes of what they were going to do on bits of paper as we couldn’t understand the medical language. Sometimes everything is clouded however hard you need to hear it. Pictures helped - spoke a thousand words. Words and pictures.

I remember lots of waiting and trying to fill the time. Drawing, writing, looking out of the window, playing UNO - still reminds me of her.

Circular Paintings - William Goldsbrough

'Circular Paintings' by William Goldsbrough. Shown as part of York Teaching Hospitals exhibition programme. Photo: Eloise Ross

I remember a poignant moment with my mum in a waiting room reading a poem on the wall. We enjoyed the words and talked about it. Walking, sitting, waiting for results. Reading, being moved by poems in the waiting rooms.

The many of us who’ve experienced hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, waiting rooms, care homes and similar will know of the tiny touches that bring the greatest comfort. A kind word, a painting, a drawing, or a poem which connects with the space, time and freedom that seems to be taken from us. Art, landscapes and words become very much part of the journey.

Toy Box Tales at York Hospital. Artwork images: © #ToyLikeMe / Beth Moseley Photography. Photo: © Eloise Ross Photography

Paintings in Hospitals' touring exhibition 'Toy Box Tales' in partnership with #ToyLikeMe on display at York Hospital. Artwork images: © #ToyLikeMe / Beth Moseley. Photo: Eloise Ross

The Room
We get our own room now, our own room to sit in.
Two windows stretch out a grand view of the city.
You teach me to play UNO in-between nurses we don’t know who come in,
pressed into their parts well, muddling things up and down the corridor,
footsteps, trolleys, tea talk; we listen to what’s going on.
They bring me salad and peach crumble that sticks to my spoon.
You sign consent papers, laying the cards out along the table,
until your surgeon is in the room, going through all your bits and pieces.
We are listening, just looking, it’s not going in.
So he draws us a picture to make us understand what he’s talking about.
And the shapes and the lines form tiny pieces of hope, for him to deliver you home.
So we smile and talk and hold onto that.
He goes and we are left with - do we know what’s going to happen?
You stack up the cards, you put on your socks and gown.
I pick up your bags and breathe
as they come for you.

In my role at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, I’m fortunate to work in the team that coordinates exhibitions, participatory arts and music - where we discover daily how arts in healthcare can transform and connect. I see first-hand how staff, patients and visitors care, give and create and how specialists in the field of arts share their skills and develop the projects.

'Portraits' by Patrick Bodley. Shown as part of York Teaching Hospitals exhibition programme. Photo: Eloise Ross

Within this work, we support Paintings in Hospitals, sharing their vision to engage with and promote great art and to question and challenge the world around us. I love the chance to work alongside some amazing individuals, learn more about the power of arts in health and respond to the many ideas that people share.

Paintings can be a talking and turning point. Particularly in healthcare environments. A connection to engage, move forward and grasp some of the things that will run deep with us always. In the instant of creating our stories and narratives, we may in a moment look over a painting and hold it close.

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Griselda Goldsbrough is a visual artist and writer, with genetics interest. She has managed creative arts programmes spanning many disciplines and scales with expertise in community engagement. She is Art and Design Development Manager at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and co-curator for Aesthetica Art Prize. Griselda is on Twitter (@GGoldsbrough)