Local NHS staff showcased in online poetry event

An inspiring evening of online poetry was recently presented on Zoom by Culture Weston and the Arts and Culture programme of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW).

The ‘Poetry + Health’ event celebrated the success of the These Are The Hands NHS Poetry Anthology, the first poetry collection to feature poems by NHS staff –

“A wonderful anthology to celebrate the NHS, which is itself the best poem a country has ever written” – Stephen Fry.

Since its publication in March 2020 by Fair Acre Press, the anthology has sold over 4,165 copies world-wide and so far raised  £9,241.68 from book sales for NHS Charities Together. This supports over 135 NHS charities across the UK, including Above & Beyond in Bristol and Weston Area Health Charitable Funds, raising money for NHS Hospitals and services within the UHBW NHS Trust. Currently, funds raised will go towards NHS Charities Together’s Covid 19 Emergency Fund.

The online event showcased the poetry of NHS workers at UHBW published in the book, who performedtheir contributions alongside acclaimed local poets writing within healthcare and community settings. The audience also took part in a shared conversation discussing the benefits of creative writing in healthcare environments.

Image by Beth Calverley

The evening was curated by Beth Calverley, founder of ‘The Poetry Machine’ and Poet in Residence at UHBW, a post funded by the Above & Beyond charity. Beth has two poems published in the These Are The Hands collection and was joined by fellow UHBW colleagues and poets also reading their entries from the anthology – Katrina Curtis, Respiratory Physician at UHBW and Rachel McCoubrie, Consultant in Palliative Medicine and lead wellbeing consultant for doctors and dentists, UHBW.

Beth Calverley said: “’Poetry + Health’ is a celebration of Weston and Bristol based poets who blend the worlds of poetry and health. As Poet in Residence for UHBW, I see first-hand the benefit that poetry can have on people who are isolated, anxious and unwell, as well as the joy and confidence it can bring to people from all walks of life.

”’Poetry + Health’ presented an amazing line-up of performance poetry, in an intimate, online showcase of the local poems featured in the These Are The Hands NHS anthology, which gives voice to the experiences of NHS staff and celebrates their creativity and talent.”

Other poets that took part are Helen Sheppard, a Bristol-based poet and former Neonatal Midwife also published in These Are The Hands; Dr Elizabeth Osmond,  Neonatologist and facilitator of a staff creative writing group for reflective practice sessions, UHBW; Stephen Lightbown, a Bristol-based poet, champion of disability rights and Director of Comms at North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) and Bob Walton, a published poet who co-runs the ‘Chapter 1’ creative writing group in Weston in association with Theatre Orchard, free, open to all sessions currently taking place on zoom and providing support for older people who are shielding.

‘Poetry + Health’ followed the postponed ‘Weston Arts + Health Weekender’ in April, when some of the poets were to have come together in a live sharing of their work, as part of the Weekender line-up of over 50 arts and health events scheduled to take place throughout the town.