A Day In The Life

Priscilla Mid­dle­ton talks about the dif­fer­ence art can make as ther­apy . . .

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

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.

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