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Hospice UK National Conference 2017: Using images and film to tell the story

Author: Eleanor McConnell
01 December 2017

Sue Wixley, Director of Communications and Campaigns at Hospice UK, chaired a session at Hospice UK’s National Conference that explored how adult and children’s hospices tell stories using videos and images about their care.

Dr Michele Aaron, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Birmingham and Jed Jerwood, of the John Taylor Hospice Community Interest Company, described how they had combined the expertise of film academia and end of life care research to create a series of films that showed the experiences of those living with terminal illnesses. 

Dr Aaron spoke of her belief that films depicting stories at the end of life is vitally important because they show a set of experiences that are often misrepresented in mainstream film and other media. However, Dr Aaron also emphasized that if these films are to truly empower their subjects, then they must depict their stories with honesty and authenticity.

The audience were shown examples of some of the films that had been made with patients of John Taylor Hospice as a part of the project ‘Life: Moving’. These films are intimate snapshots of people’s thought processes as they near the end of life. All are as different as the people they depicted, but highlighted their vulnerability and creativity in equal measure.

Jed Jerwood spoke further about some of the challenges that needed to be overcome within John Taylor Hospice to create the films. He said that though some clinical team members in the hospice were initially skeptical about the project, and particularly concerned about how much time it would take out of the working day, keeping lines of communication open helped others in the hospice to understand the value of allowing patients to tell their stories. 

Delegates at the conference were lucky enough to be able to view some of the videos in our conference exhibition, getting a first-hand encounter of the power of hearing these patients tell their stories first-hand, in their own way.  As Jerwood said, watching these videos reveals things about the watcher, as well as the subject. When watching someone speak so openly and honestly about  death and dying, it is impossible not to make connections to our own experiences, and it encourages us all to open up our own conversations.

Maria McGill, Chief Executive of Children’s Hospice Across Scotland (CHAS), then showed the audience how they were embodying this ethos with their recent work. Earlier this year, CHAS worked with BBC ALBA to create a documentary called ‘Home from Home’, which followed some of the children and their families who had been admitted into two of Scotland’s hospices.

The extracts Maria showed the audience had children experiencing joyful moments with their families, and highlighted how CHAS had allowed parents to make happy memories, even during a desperately sad time. The result was a moving depiction of love and joy that brought tears to the eyes of several people in the room. 

‘Keeping the joy alive’ was the message at the centre of Chas’ recent campaign to reach every family in Scotland who needs hospice care for their child. To help fundraise for this effort, CHAS decided to use imagery in a boldly creative way, and produced a new alphabet. Over 60 children designed their own letters, using a huge range of colours and patterns unique to their own sense of creativity and style. Any supporter of CHAS can use this alphabet to create their own digital name tag, and raise awareness for their cause.

Following these inspiring presentations, the audience made good use of the time allowed to ask the panel questions and seek advice on how they might also be able to use images and film to tell powerful stories in their own hospices.

For more information visit Hospice UK National Conference 2017

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