Our Creative Teaching and Learning team was approached by dance and health professional Lucinda Jarrett, with an intriguing proposition: could the work we had been doing in Primary schools on movement metaphor have something to offer people recovering from a stroke?
Lucinda is co-director of Rosetta Life, a pioneering arts and health organisation that for over 14 years has worked with children and adults in range of health settings, including hospitals, GP surgeries and hospices. She wanted to explore how movement and imagery might help stroke patients in rehabilitation, and to this end we jointly organised a short series of workshops with dance health professionals, patients and clinicians, including neuroscientist Dr Nick Ward and Fran Brander, head of the physiotherapy team at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurological Surgery (NHNN) in Queen Square, London – not far from The Place.
The workshops were very encouraging. There was a real agreement that here was something worth exploring - that multisensory activities involving movement, touch, music and visual imagery might offer a valuable contribution to wellbeing people in rehabilitation after a stroke.
Following further pilot sessions at the NHNN and a successful funding bid to the City Bridge Trust, we embarked with Rosetta Life on a weekly series of workshops in the gym at the hospital, exploring movement, music, memory, touch and visual imagery with a small group of patients. Participants volunteered for the sessions, often guided by the psychology team, who were enthusiastic supporters of the idea.
In July 2013, with the British Museum participation team, former patients created and performed ‘Seize the Day’, a walk-through performance involving movement, painting, storytelling, poetry and singing, all in the setting of the Museum’s Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition, with its dramatic narrative of catastrophe and arrested lives. The performance gave audience members an insight into the personal catastrophe of stroke and also the ways in which lives – albeit irreversibly changed - can go on, and a sense of self can be re-created.