I am an artist based at APT Studios in Deptford. Since 2013 I have been making small hand holdable sculptures for people after a conversation in which they tell me a wish in confidence. Obviously I am not a magician and I cannot make the wish come true, but there is a value to people in expressing a wish however impossible, and then having an especially made object which they can hold and keep to remind them of it. In 2016 Saskia Delman, the Arts Manager for Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust visited APT Studios to look at some art work for the hospitals and she heard about the project. She immediately saw its potential for the children's wards and successfully applied for a grant from Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust Charitable Funds.
Over the last two months I have been making regular visits to the Safari and Tiger awards at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. I have had wonderful support from the Health Play Specialist Carol Sullivan Wallace who again understood the value and embraced the project wholeheartedly, and who carefully selected the wishers for the day. During this time I have made 20 objects in various materials after hearing wishes from parents, children and staff. A week ago we held an I wish party where wishers came to collect their objects and I photographed them with them as a record and for an exhibition which will follow. The wishes are always in confidence, so when they receive their object only they understand its meaning, and can share and communicate that to others if they want.
The ages of children involved ranged from a few months old to sixteen years old. I also included parents and staff. For parents the conversation was a welcome distraction from the stress and anxiety of dealing with medical problems, and it gave them a chance to reflect about the bigger picture, what really mattered, and a chance to think positively. For the younger children, depending on how well they were at that moment, the conversation was often playful and funny. We discussed their favourite animals, real or imagined and desired pets featured strongly. However ill they were, they managed to retain an image of themselves as able to be strong and energetic in the future and thinking about animals helped visualise this.
The first child I saw asked if she was allowed to wish that she could get better. "Of course!" I said, and that conversation helped me frame all the future conversations, as how can we help wishing for a positive and healthy future for ourselves and our loved ones (or patients)? There has to be a space given for that deep wish and that is what the objects are there to remind us of. I also gave wishers a little bag to decorate and to keep their wishes in, in the style of Native American "medicine bags" and there were some beautiful ones at the I Wish party, with parents saying it had been a therapeutic exercise.
One very important wish was made by a group of staff from Tiger Ward. They didn't want to make a bag as the wish will be openly displayed to remind them of a hopeful future. They also wanted their wish to be shared. On the ward is a special bell, a bit like those on a ship, and when a child has finished their treatment it is rung and all come along to celebrate. The staff have had too many times over the last 14 months when the bell could not be rung for a child, and their wish was that every child on the ward gets to have the bell rung for them. This is the object I made for Tiger Ward.
Victoria Rance April 2017