Project Manager Cicely Taylor visited one of our first year Start Hospices partners, Jerwood Gallery, for their first ever Family Day.
To learn more about Start Hospices, click here.

Braving the October drizzle, I walked down from the train station through the cobbled streets of Hasting’s picturesque Old Town to the most easterly end of Hastings beach, where Jerwood Gallery sits. Nestled among fishing boats along Rock-a-Nore Beach, the award-winning Jerwood Gallery is a beautiful piece of architecture in its own right, with panoramic views of the Sussex coastline.

Since the doors opened in 2012, Children & the Arts has worked with the gallery helping them establish education and outreach schemes. Previously one of our Start partners, the legacy of Start continues in the ‘Pearls of the Sea’ project with local schools, a Start initiative lasting beyond the funded programme and now in its fifth year.

Jerwood are now part of our Start Hospices network, having partnered with children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House, a local hospice caring for 300 children and young adults with progressive life-shortening conditions.

Jerwood Gallery's first Family Day

At the first Family Day for hospice users, staff from the gallery and from Chestnut Tree House teamed up to greet families in the foyer with a warm and colourful welcome. The gallery chose a day they were already closed to the public, which meant that the gallery was wholly accessible and engaging for the young people from the hospice.

Families embraced the range of sessions, inspired by the visiting exhibition of artist/ storyteller Paula Rego. Built-in speaker systems piped calming music into each space, such as sounds of bird call, whilst distinct spaces across the gallery were created for participants to discover and experience the sessions:

Sound Space

Part of the gallery with a range of musical objects laid out, young people and their families created soundscapes exploring the changes in materials and instruments. Ed used his guitar to teach a range of songs that he had written, adapting to each individual’s interests and sensory needs, and encouraging the young people to lead the group if they wanted. Three-year-old Freddie even stood up to conduct a whole group of families playing music. He learnt about dynamics of sound from loud to soft, and tempos from fast to slow, and described it as “fantastic!”

Quiet Space

A relaxing sensory room filled in with low lighting, cushions and a play tent. Jerwood staff had downloaded the ‘Brian Eno’ interactive music and art app onto an iPad for participants to trigger soft sounds and images, which was projected onto a wall. One little girl enjoyed this space so much that she transferred out of her wheelchair to sit on the floor close to her family, interacting with the app and range of sensory lights in the room.

Making Space

An art workshop room was set up with lino printing and paint activities for families to create their own art. ‘Giant printing’ involved block printing with large foam shapes, and children really enjoyed the tactile materials, taking their work on to the floor to make prints by stamping on the blocks. Each family took home a gallery-standard canvas artwork of their own making, a lasting memory of the whole family’s enjoyment together.

Performance Space

An interactive storytelling area with matching sensory materials and cushions to immerse children in the stories of the sea. Everybody listening in this space was encouraged to join in with percussion instruments and shouting out at certain parts of the story.

What next?

Jerwood Gallery will run two more Family Days and two Sibling Days as part of their Start Hospices 2017-18 programme. The gallery’s vision is to create a range of fun, creative experiences, providing long-lasting happy memories for families. Hospice and gallery staff will also benefit from the opportunity to develop their skills, knowledge and experience of working in this collaborative way.