Arnolfini and Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital Residency and Commission
I was invited as the first artist-in-residence just one week after staff and patients had relocated from a crumbling, Victorian site – Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital for Sick Children, on St Michael’s Hill to the new state of the art multi-story building, renamed Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital, a short walk further down the hill. I focused on this shift and the emotions that inevitably surface. I was interested in how everyone had in some way attached themselves to the old space and all the ambivalence in having to leave behind this beloved place. My experience was one of meandering dialogues with children, parents, nurses, counsellors, play staff and the chaplains about their lived experiences up the hill. And quiet wanderings, alone through the empty wards and corridors trying to grasp hold of all the stories I had been told. During my wanderings I picked up some of the incidental and leftover ‘stuff’ discarded in the move.
The piece I produced entitled Tribute is an archive of and a memorial to the old hospital, prompted by the collection of letters handed to me by the outgoing chaplain, Chistine Froude, which she’d received after her interview on local radio requesting a ‘record of memory’ in honour of the old hospital. As well as acquiring these letters I researched the role of the Women’s Guild in the 1900s whose members mended the hospital bed linen. In making Tribute I wanted to imbue the work with the lifetime of experiences still resonating in the building on St Michael’s Hill long, and not so long, after the daily goings-on there had stopped.
Tribute is dedicated to Naomi Thacker (1993-2002) whom I had the privilege to meet during the residency and, who in the short time I knew her, was an inspiration.