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Paediatric Playrooms as a Creative Space

 As part of her internship, soundLINCS’ Programme Facilitator Intern Orinta has been involved with research and delivery for several projects, including soundWELL. This is her experience throughout the first phase of the project. 

DSCF7873As soundLINCS’ Programme Facilitator Intern involved with research projects as well as being a visual artist, it’s fair to say I was excited when I was given the opportunity to work on paediatric project soundWELL. The project saw me collaborating with soundLINCS Music Facilitator’s Crauford and Jonny in an ‘Inspiration Week’ project, transforming Lincoln County Hospital’s Rainforest Ward Playroom into an engaging and creative space!

soundWELL is part of our Youth Music Fund C programme a 3 year long project delivering music workshops and training focusing on the ‘Inquiring Minds Process’. This is taking place through work with CCC across 5 diverse strands; looked after children, youth justice services, paediatric services, young parents and children with special educational needs, including those who are hearing impaired.

There were lots of ideas at first in discussion with Crauford and Jonny of a storytelling – day and night video of the ward, that would also include photography around the hospital corridors. Gradually, I started to refine the ideas in discussion with the team at soundLINCS and what would work best, to be both achievable and creatively stimulating. Another vision started to emerge from research into most recent exhibitions such as the Kaunas Biennial and the Venice Biennale by turning the space into a sensory installation that would contain an element of video, sound and light in the Rainforest playroom. All three would be combined together in the space to create an ambient and relaxing environment, changing the space from the ordinary daily activity to a playroom that can be actively engaged with visually or instrumentally, transporting people away from the worries or distractions of the ward.

The weekly sessions at the Lincoln County Hospital with Crauford and Jonny captured the children’s activities with instrumental music and iPads through video documentations. Each week, we would come to the Rainforest and Safari ward, doing a four hour film session from 10 – 2 pm. As with all the components of the installation, the film is one of the most vital parts for the ‘Inspiration Week’; as it is all about the children, their families, the staff and their journey and the change in atmosphere in the playrooms when the music workshops happen. At times, I thought there was a curious suspicion from the staff and families seeing two Music Facilitator’s and an intern holding almost a video camera near the beds and walking around the wards with it, perhaps thinking “What are they trying to achieve? What is their final purpose? Why are they near the beds of children that are trying to get better – filming their musical activity?” However, through persistent engagement and frequent visits, shooting short clips, to specific angles and trying to artistically express the precious moments in time, a collection of hours and hours of video clips proved the significance of the musical opportunities for well-being and skill development.

DSCF7780As the children would come into the paediatric wards with their families, the Music Facilitators would find the right moment to ask them if they want to have some musical fun. The distraction work (especially in the Safari ward) would happen before their blood test, consultation with nurse or a check-up. The ability to bring music into the playrooms (that most of the time could be heard all around the wards) increased social interaction, levels of happiness and excitement, because the power of music was being shared throughout the wards openly and freely! With the video camera, capturing the children’s changes in mood from tense to relaxed, and observing their impact was a weekly routine. Through observation, they really enjoyed the sessions led by the Music Facilitators, and most of the time didn’t expect to enter such active musical playrooms. Neither do I remember as a child entering a paediatric ward and having a team of skilled musicians deliver sessions. Again, through observation, the patient’s perception started changing of what it means to enter a hospital and wait for treatment. Their openness to engage increased and their understanding of the paediatrics environment – that it isn’t only a place for poorly children and young people, but a place that can be transformed and made to be fun and inviting. No longer do you need to wait in silence, nervously, but with a little help of distraction, you can immerse and open yourself up to a new musical experience!

Whilst engaged in bedside work, the situation of the patients had to be closely observed, whether to do a musical activity or to move on to the next child. Even the children that were unwell at their early stages of recovery found the strength and energy to play music. They almost tried to find that extra bit of enjoyment that would make them feel better, and the Music Facilitators provided those feel good emotions. With care and empathy, each session opened the eyes of the children, brightened their time (even if it was just a 30 minute session before the blood test) before moving on. The support of the families was crucial in the whole process, because they encouraged and motivated the child when they felt apprehensive, shy or still very much in the recovery stages. Knowing deep down that they would do anything to see a smile on their little girls/boys face!

The huge difference in the weekly sessions in the hospitals has been the Rainforest and the Safari ward. The Rainforest ward has children that are much more unwell, with more wards and beds for bedside work and naturally the atmosphere isn’t as lively as in the Safari ward. Sometimes the main goal was to make a change and bring a sense of joy and reduction in stress to the Rainforest ward, through musical activities and sounds that are not usually heard. Even if the sounds are not always directly engaged with the staff, as they are busy working hard around the clock, the sound could be heard from one side of the room, transferring the optimistic energy to the other side.

DSCF7792Sometimes the playrooms would suddenly become the busiest part of the ward! At those times, I would be standing as a shadow, silently watching over the transformation. An example of a day that I can clearly remember has stayed as a pleasant memory in my mind; I look over to the right and I would see a young boy seriously concentrating in creating techno DJ music on the iPad, joking that if he was a DJ he would ask the people to leave if they didn’t enjoy his sounds. His creations were playing simultaneously with another young girl who was on the piano. The mixture of technology and instrumental overwhelmed the playrooms! At the same time, another child would be using an instrument, exploring their skills and intensively watching the Music Facilitators to take some tips from them. The guitar and mandolin by far were the most fascinating instruments for the children to have a go on. Even if reluctant at first, they enjoyed trying and eagerly making a sound.

Working in the hospital has been an entirely new experience for me, working directly with the children and young people. If I hadn’t come to the weekly sessions at the Lincoln County Hospital, I wouldn’t have received the confidence in knowing what it takes to deliver a successful session. Each week I would see how the Music Facilitators deal with the children and handle situations. I never witnessed a session that would not provide a positive outcome, as one way or another the children or the parents appreciated the extra time spent. Crauford and Jonny have opened my eyes to how the facilitator becomes the role model for the child, and a source of aspiration through a demonstration of skills and knowledge that are then transferred to the child.

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