A Day In The Life
Priscilla Middleton talks about the difference art can make as therapy . . .
We chat to an art therapist
PRISCILLA MIDDLETON has had her fair share of health worries in life, surviving cancer scares twice at ages thirty-one and thirty-nine. When she was in hospital in Nottingham with a heart condition in the 90s, she founded a support group for people suffering with heart problems, where they could spend time together chatting. At these, Priscilla would spend some time embroidering and would encourage others to do the same.
Artistic by nature, Priscilla then started a charity called the Bamboo Academy of Chinese Painting.
Working with scholars from Nottingham University, Priscilla was able to put together a programme that she took back into the hospital, Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre.
“The local paper put a feature together about it, inviting Chinese scholars to come on board and help out. We did a presentation to them, and they signed on. I became chairman of it, and they were happy for me to stay in charge.
“We were successful in applying for some Lottery funding, and in between that and some other funding from Nottingham City Council we started putting together modules for learning the art of Chinese brush painting and all sorts of wonderful things.
“We were invited to do a workshop at the hospital, and occasionally we’re on the road doing exhibitions to enthuse people about it.”
But the heart of that project is still about working directly with patients at hospitals.
“We head off to the hospital, and have a room there where the patients can come. All departments, all walks of life, all patients are welcome.”
The work isn’t only in hospitals, as Priscilla has taught classes in conjunction with the University of the Third Age.
“I’ve also worked with a lot of people suffering from mental health issues.
“Where we live, in Lincolnshire, there’s been a lot of trouble with folks suffering from loneliness and boredom. Unfortunately, it’s leading to a higher rate of suicide in the area.
“So we called a public meeting in our town, got a councillor involved, and have started a programme of classes to give people a chance to pull together and meet each other. It is going like a bomb!”
Priscilla’s gone on to be involved in setting up Lincolnshire’s “Live And Learn” programme of instructional classes for adults.
“Some of my most amazing experiences recently have been at a women’s centre, where there are people who have only just come out of prison.
“At first, many of them scowl and say they don’t want to do it. I tell them that’s fine and that they can just sit down and have a cup of coffee and chat.
“Often, before twenty minutes have gone by, they’ll have a brush in their hand. One woman painted puppies!”
Priscilla finds her inspiration in the difference she’s seen it make in people.
“One lady arrived with two walking sticks, and was in pain. She said to me that she was becoming a recluse, but when she saw an ad in the paper for the class she thought to herself that she would give it a go.
“Now, the simple act of coming to the class had given her the confidence to step outside again, and she was going to visit her mother after a long time of not even stepping across the threshold. That made me cry!”
courses have proved popular. The Chinese Painting
Priscilla is inspired by the people she works with.