Cathedral school

In summer 2019, Year 8 pupils from Salisbury’s Cathedral School performed music and songs at the hospital over three weekly sessions. The project was organised by the school as part of their Post Common Entrance (post 13+ exam) programme. After the exams, pupils have 4 weeks at school where they have no formal lessons, but they still have music lessons and chorister duties, so the children get involved with various community based activities. Before pupils played at the hospital, Elevate coordinator Rebecca Seymour visited them at school to tell them about the work that ArtCare does. This included an introduction to the healthcare history collection, highlighting the hospital’s World War 2 and D-day landings connections, followed by an activity making nurse and GI hats.

The performances took place in Horatio’s garden and the Stars Appeal Therapy Garden, with the music drifting up patients in bed in the wards above. The audience of patients, staff and visitors were treated to a mix of classical and popular music, all performed to a high level.

The Year 8 Organiser commented, “The experience has been incredible for all the children and has really highlighted the importance of ‘community’. We would love to continue our relationship with Elevate over the next academic year building on what we have started. Many thanks for making us feel so welcome.”


Healthpitch – ‘The Audition’

In May 2018, Healthpitch presented a light-hearted, live performance of some of the best bits of opera, featuring internationally renowned singers to an audience of hospital patients and visitors. Described by Healthpitch as ‘A jukebox opera on your doorstep’, three singers arrive for a mysterious audition. They haven’t seen each other for a long time, but when they get together they can’t help but burst into song. The performers really connected with the audience and soon had patients laughing, singing and conducting. Horatio’s garden was an ideal setting. The audience enjoyed tea and cake and were able to chat to the performers afterwards.

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Visit Healthpitch’s website for more information about their work.

Lily and the Albatross

Tall Tree Theatre’s show ‘Lily and the Albatross’ delighted patients, staff and visitors of all ages when they performed at the hospital in February 2019. With giant wooden and metal puppets and original songs the audiences were enthralled. ‘Lily and the Albatross’ is a lovely inter-generational story based around Lily, her mother and her grandfather and is set on an old fishing boat. The show was part of a fun day for families organised by ArtCare and Odstock Health and Fitness, the hospital’s on-site leisure centre. Families had the opportunity to make their own Albatross puppets, before watching the performance. Afternoon activities included swimming, bouncy castle and singing along with Elevate musician Alex Bett on his guitar. A second performance meant the Spinal Unit dining room was also temporarily transformed into a boat on the waves, as the show was taken to patients and relatives there to enjoy.

Tall Tree Theatre have recently received Arts Council funding to create a hospital ward-based version of ‘Lily and the Albatross’ to take to patients’ bedsides. They will be returning to the hospital from autumn 2019 with their adapted show. Visit Tall Tree Theatre’s website for more details about their work.

Shackleton in hospital

With funding and additional donations from various sources, separate to the main programme of ward sessions, the Elevate programme has been able to deliver theatre performances around the hospital. Tall Tree Theatre are regular visitors with their interactive puppet show Shackleton. Shackleton, a wooden dog, has been delighting patients of all ages from young children on Sarum Ward to older people on Spire Ward. Anna from Tall Tree describes her experience of transferring the show to a hospital setting.

“The response from the staff greatly supports what we do. We’re welcomed on arrival with enthusiasm, during our performances a nurse often whizzes passed saying ‘hello Shackleton, I hope you’re behaving yourself?!’ and a cleaner told us last week ‘That’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before. We all need that darling, we all need that’.

But the interactions with patients are the most special, everyone finds their own way to relate to Shackleton. Dogs are loving, they have their own personalities and are often a symbol of home, of past. Some patients watch us, smile and laugh along. Some heckle us and ask Shackleton to do tricks. Some quietly talk to him as though he’s perfectly real, telling him he’s a beautiful dog or comforting him, chatting away about their own dog who is back at home.

We see a huge variety of people each time we visit, across all ages and with different interests but we find they all have something in common; they know how to talk to a dog. As a performer in hospital I cherish the moments we create, each individual and unique to each patient or ward. People open up to us about their lives a little and they go along on the creative journey that we’re offering.

On one visit to the Children’s Ward we met a girl who had been learning Ukulele and had missed her school concert because of being in Hospital. We handed her ours and she played us, the other patients and the staff a song. Another child asked Shackleton to do huge leaps over tables, back flips and more – which of course he did!

Our aim is to bring some conversation, some joy and some fun into the wards. And to see how cheeky Shackleton can be….!”

Visit Tall Tree theatre’s website to find out more about their work.

2Faced Dance

2Faced Dance’s visit to Salisbury District Hospital in June 2019 was special in many ways. From the moment the costumed performers left the ArtCare offices, staff and visitors reacted in a positive way to them walking down the corridors, bringing smiles to faces and ‘high fiving’ the dragon.

Some very special interactions took place on Sarum Ward with children – including a whole family with 2 young children, clearly totally delighted to meet the ‘Moon’ characters and share dance moves. Nursing staff also enjoyed the entertainment and were copying dance moves in the corridor, which caused plenty of laughter.

The weather was touch and go for doing the main show outside in the afternoon, but it eventually went ahead in Horatio’s Garden, as staff and spinal patients wrapped up warm to get the full effect of the aerial work outside. Those who couldn’t brave the cold, were able to watch it from the large upstairs window and the performers, particularly the Moon, directed some of the material in their direction, so they felt included. One male patient watched the show outside from his bed, with his wife curled up next to him – very special.

The visual and audio description for the show was so well integrated that it enhanced the show for sighted and hearing audience members as well. Many of the patients hadn’t seen anything like it before and thoroughly enjoyed it, commenting that it had cheered them up and made for a special afternoon.

A huge thank you from Elevate to 2Faced Dance for embracing the day so openly with enthusiasm and total respect for hospital staff and patients and to the Stars Appeal for funding this activity.
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Kingfisher poets

The Kingfisher poetry group meets weekly to write poetry and then share a lunch together afterwards. We are a unique group of people, who care for each other and sharing poetry helps us to bond and to cope with the strains of life. We write our own verse, which can vary from rhyme, prose, sonnets to some fabulous wit. We are open to trying other forms of poetry also.

The original Kingfisher project was a 10 year collaboration between ArtCare and Salisbury Arts Centre, which began in 1999. The creative writing and poetry project brought people in the hospital and the community together. Working with poet Rose Flint, participants used words to get through periods of illness or, in a more general sense, to express themselves about life. When Lottery funding ceased, the Kingfisher poets continued to meet after the 10 year project came to an end.

The project still flourishes at the Salisbury Arts Centre, and it is run so that people who have minor or more serious health issues can attend the group and be with company that is in tune with them. Grace Gauld is now the group’s lead writer and Mike Rogers is the chair person. Grace is well known in Salisbury as she used to run the poetry cafe. For a small sum of twenty pounds every quarter, we are able to bring in another lead poet five weeks a year to work with us.

The Kingfisher poetry club meets at 10.30am every Thursday at the Salisbury Arts Centre. We have a full capacity membership at the moment, however if you should be interested in joining the group when a place is available, please email Mike Rogers with your details.


Poem from the Kingfisher project

All tomorrows
filled with blue sky
sweet earth
gives and gives

Sun enough
for daisies
the hills still green

Light folds me
in joy
these green hills
like loving hands

This wide sky
this land of green
five rivers
of life
my heart’s
with love

Highlights of the original project

  • a set of nine colourful poem postcards written by participants and linked by the title ‘Healing Earth’, delicately illuminated by Salisbury artist Laurence Rushby, Gardener poem pictured above.
  • ‘Confluence’: original works by Kingfisher project poets taking inspiration from Salisbury’s confluence of five rivers interpreted in movement by Jigsaw, Salisbury Youth Dance Company.
  • ‘Wishing Well table’ – a commission by Zoë Cull for the hospital’s Nunton Unit and a series of calligraphy artworks by Helen Scholes illustrating Rose Flint’s residency


Salisbury Healthcare History

Salisbury Healthcare History is a growing digital archive of Salisbury District Hospital’s historical collection. In December 2015, ArtCare were successful in a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for £40,000 towards the sorting, cataloguing, recording and sharing of the historical archives and collections relating to health care in Salisbury. With items dating back to the building of Salisbury General Infirmary in 1766 and beyond, this online resource provides an exciting insight into Salisbury’s health care. Visit the dedicated website: to explore the collection.


A Department of Health Grant, enabled parents-to-be and their new arrivals to benefit from a refurbished Labour ward, which is calm, soothing and clutter free.

ArtCare’s Penny Calvert designed the new look based on feedback from staff and parents. She explained how the elements of her design came together, “We chose interior finishes which are warm, stylish and much less clinical looking. Colour changing LEDs in the delivery rooms that parents can control has enabled them to personalise the birth experience. New bedside lockers and overbed tables look sleek and are easily cleaned and we chose furniture that is comfortable, and durable, but still attractive.”

Penny continued, “We fitted Altro Aquarius flooring in the rooms, which is safe for both mothers with bare feet and staff wearing shoes. Blinds were replaced with bespoke designed window film that created a sense of space, as well as being attractive and affording privacy. Finally, printed ceiling tiles, carefully chosen artworks and complementary signage, all inspired by nature, added colour and points of focus in the overall design. Parents-to-be now arrive on a ward environment, which soothes, relaxes and supports the delivery process, allowing them to focus fully on their new arrival.”

Fertility Centre

Patients using the Salisbury Fertility Centre will have noticed improvements to the waiting areas, toilets, consulting and treatment rooms. Sky themed artworks throughout and a relaxing palette of neutral and blue tones used for the walls and doors as well as ceiling tiles, means the Centre now provides a more welcoming and calming environment for patients. The refurbishment has created a clear, professional identity for the department.

Pembroke Ward

A series of bespoke artworks were designed for the bedrooms, bays and entrance to Pembroke Ward and Suite when it moved to Level 3 of the hospital in 2018. The artworks cleverly continue from the wall part way across the ceiling to create much needed colour and focus to rooms used by Oncology patients.

The artworks were designed by ArtCare’s Penny Calvert taking inspiration from shapes found in nature including flowers, foliage, swans and water. The designs were created by layering textures from scanned fabrics, graphical patterns and outlines of plants and flowers. The designs were printed onto vinyl and will bring plenty of bold, bright colours to rooms used by patients who are isolated because of their treatment.

Staff Photography Club

Part of the Staff Arts Club programme, this staff-led monthly group enables hospital staff and volunteers to get creatively inspired, to develop their photographic skills and share feedback on their images. Participants range from beginner to more experienced. Practical sessions are regularly arranged and themes chosen by those attending the group. See our upcoming workshops on the Staff Arts Club page for more details.

Hoodwink in Hospital

In 2017, Elevate commissioned its first piece of theatre made specifically for the hospital setting, funded by Arts Council England and Salisbury Independent Hospital Trust. Hoodwink in Hospital was born from artistic director, Stephanie Jalland, working as a regular artist on the Elevate programme and understanding how the right theatrical experience could ‘gently interrupt the hospital day’.
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The 20 minute experience using music, sounds, and even the odd dance step, unfolds around the patient, ‘sweeping in wind and waves, birdsong and boats’. Patients of all ages are enthralled and uplifted by the experience.

The show is so portable, that everything is cleared away afterwards (even the paper confetti) and not a trace left, apart from mementoes of the event on a patient’s table – a shell, a feather or a fortune telling fish and an origami present made as part of the show.

Hoodwink in Hospital also toured Yeovil, Dorchester, Basingstoke & North Hampshire and Chelsea & Westminster hospitals, with the one-to-one special experience for patients.

“You made all the difference. Did you see the smile on his face?” (relative)

“That was amazing. You never expect to see that in a hospital.” (staff)

As part of the whole learning experience of creating immersive theatre work for hospitals, Elevate held a seminar in December 2017 bringing together hospital staff, arts professionals and academic researchers to share their experiences of how the project has helped support patients and how it may continue in the future.

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