Letters in the leaves

by Elspeth Penny, Bristol Exhibition Consultant


This autumn, Life of Breath consultant and Arts-in-Health specialist Elspeth Penny facilitated two Letter to the Breath workshops as part of the Sept-Dec 2019 Bristol Catch Your Breath exhibition and events programme (more events coming Jan-Feb 2020). Elspeth writes about the workshops…

Letters in the Leaves workshop at Southmead Hospital, 3 Oct 2019

We were inviting patients, ward matrons, visitors, nurses and porters to our Letters in the Leaves drop-in workshop, in front of the Catch Your Breath exhibition at Southmead hospital. The workshop invited people to consider their breath and create letters: we have run similar workshops in the past as a sit-down event, where participants are led through a series of exercises before writing their letter.

This time though, because of the busyness of everyone in a hospital, we offered a mini introduction to help people to get into the right frame of mind, before they got down to making their works of art.

For part of the day, artist Louise Jenkins joined us and invited passers-by to make breath capsules.

There were some great outcomes – encounters with all kinds of staff, patients and visitors on their way to somewhere, or on their way back; origami breath capsules; heart felt letters; including one from one of the buggy volunteer drivers. During the day, we also had a lot of conversations about breath, life, the exhibition and the Life of Breath project.

Whilst in the foyer, it was a great opportunity to signpost people to the Catch Your Breath exhibition at Southmead Hospital, which was just behind us. Life of Breath‘s Alice Malpass and my work on Letters to the Breath is represented in Louise Jenkins’ beautiful installation Suspended Breath included in the exhibition, using letters that previous participants have made to create breath capsules.

Everyone can go and see the exhibition – walk inside the main entrance of Southmead Hospital, down the foyer, where you can find the display nearly at the end on the left.  It will be at Southmead until Christmas 2019, and after that at the Bristol Central Library foyer until Thursday 27 February 2019.

Fun Palaces, Barton Hill Settlement Community, 5 Oct 2019

Catch Your Breath offered two separate workshops as part of Bristol Fun Palaces at the same time. One was Catherine Lamont‘s beautiful Living Anatomy workshop, which featured breath related sensory stimulus as well as The Breathing Space: an enclosed space for mediation and yoga, led by Bristol University medical student Joshua Grover. Also on offer was another Letter to the Breath drop-in workshop, run by Life of Breath researcher Alice Malpass and myself.

I loved seeing beautiful work emerge from inner city kids, adults, people with breathing conditions or disabilities, people from afar who came specially and a few that returned from last year.

Thank you to all who run Barton Hill Settlement Community, to Fun Palaces and to all the folk that visited. Also to Ruth Sedgwick and the fantastic staff at Southmead for welcoming us into the hospital.

Check our website for more free events and to keep up to date on our Catch Your Breath programme.

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