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Seasons of the Sun

Seasons of the Sun was a Music Residency at Robin House Children’s Hospice, Balloch, Scotland.

Developed in response to an initial day of staff training at the newly built hospice, Seasons of the Sun took its name from the changes of the seasons. Four music residencies per year took place, each lasting four days. Two musicians stayed on site for the duration of each residency and worked across the hospice setting to deliver a music programme receptive to the needs of the setting.

Participants

  • Children and young people with life-limiting illnesses and medical conditions
  • Siblings, parents and family members staying at the hospice during the residency sessions
  • Nursing and care staff, bereavement groups and chaplain services
  • Volunteers, activities team and co-ordinators

Aims

  • To enable the newly opened hospice to explore the potential for music activities for children, siblings, parents and staff
  • To give the musicians a clear insight into hospice life and the work of a children's hospice through regularly planned residencies
  • To raise awareness of the value of music for children and families utilising the hospice
  • To allow music making to be open and accessible to all, non-intimidating and complimentary to the existing work carried out by staff
  • For music created to be responsive and reflective of both the physical and emotional environment
  • To build confidence and ease with music making among children, their families and staff

Methods

Prior to and on arrival at the hospice, the musicians would meet with the activities co-ordinator and discuss ideas for each residency. In order to provide openness and accessibility to music making, it was decided between musicians and activities staff that sessions would be provided in a range of settings across the building.

Residencies would start with an open drop-in session in one of the central spaces in the building where music could be heard easily so that children and families could pop in and familiarize themselves with the musicians and the music making informally. Instruments would be laid out near to the musicians so that children could participate if they wanted to. This enabled the children and families to get to know the musicians in a relaxed environment, and helped the musicians to get to know children who were interested in making music.

Sessions for individual children, siblings or families, either requested by families and children or suggested by staff working closely with a particular family would then be developed. These included music making in the quiet room, in outdoor spaces and by the poolside; sessions to accompany physiotherapy; adding live music to story time sessions led by hospice staff; creative workshop sessions to accompany themed weekends and festive events (Halloween, Bonfire night, Christmas celebrations); songwriting sessions; guitar lessons for dads; and lullaby sessions for children at bedtime.

At all times the approach was responsive to the needs of the individual. For example, a young girl staying at the hospice with her family was introduced to the musicians on the Friday night they arrived. Her key worker knew that she had played the violin before becoming ill. The musicians spent much of the weekend playing music with her. The girl's mum told them how important this was to her as her daughter loved music but the deterioration of her illness meant that she could not play as much anymore. She was able to play the keyboard with one hand; photos were taken and recordings made of her playing music with the musicians. The girl passed away just a couple of days after their visit. The recordings provided a keepsake for her mum and family of her playing and enjoying music right to the end of her life.

Artistic Outputs

  • Regular CD recordings, soundtracks and slideshow DVDs made for individual families, using themes chosen by children
  • Hospice events – Christmas, Remembering Days, Open Days
  • End of residency compilations of work created for both the hospice and individual families; for example, Seasons of the Sun DVD
  • Audio examples from the project can be found at the following link: https://soundcloud.com/rosfishmusic
  • Slideshow documentation can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/83425390

Evaluation Methodology

  • Musicians kept a diary of all sessions, accessible by staff on the Hospice computer system.
  • End of residency reports were submitted by the musicians which included numbers worked with, content of sessions and evaluation of activities delivered.
  • Feedback forms were given to staff to ask for their reflections on the music sessions they had observed or participated in and asking them to note how they felt the children and young people responded.
  • Informal feedback from families often occurred in conversation at mealtimes, during the day or during sessions; families also volunteered feedback in the form of written cards / comments.

Evaluation Outcomes

The initial aim of the project was to provide a yearlong residency but the Hospice funded a further three years of project work – this commitment demonstrated that music and creative approaches to music making were seen as beneficial within the hospice environment.

One of the longer term aims during the extra three years of project work was for the hospice to further develop its music work and opportunities offered to families; after four years, the number of families accessing its services had grown enough for them to be able to employ a music therapist who could visit on a regular (weekly) basis.

An ongoing dialogue between musicians and the activities co-ordinator was essential to the smooth running of the project.

Working in a pair enabled the musicians to provide support to each other creatively and emotionally. At times, the work was emotionally very challenging for the musicians – there was a period when the hospice had a series of deaths over one winter, which really affected staff. Finding out that children had died was very difficult, but hospice staff were sensitive and understanding in their communications with the musicians.

On occasion it was difficult to get written feedback from medical and care staff after the musicians had visited – feedback had to be collected whilst they were on-site for the best results. Parents often fed back to staff verbally about sessions they had witnessed or volunteered feedback to the musicians which helped support their work, including one family who wrote a letter after the death of their child.

'Thank you both for enriching my family’s life and I hope you continue to entertain and educate the many more children and adults that will no doubt cross your paths in the years ahead.' - Letter from parents to musicians

'I really enjoyed the first visit as it allowed me to see a child smile who I have never seen smiling before. This had a very positive and emotional effect on myself and other staff.....Wonderful!' - Staff member

Seasons of the Sun proved a catalyst for developing a specific artistic and creative approach to music projects in healthcare settings and led to further projects: working with cystic fibrosis patients for the award-winning arts and health organisation, Lime, and developing a paediatric music programme in partnership with The Royal Northern College of Music, The Royal Manchester Children's Hospital (RMCH), the RMCH Department of Therapeutic and Specialised Play, and Lime, where both musicians are now employed as Music for Health Specialists (www.musicforhealth.wordpress.com).

Documentation & Dissemination

  • Regular on-site end of residency meetings took place with staff teams to disseminate work created with the children and families
  • Slideshow DVDs and soundtracks were made for individual families
  • CD recordings were kept in children’s files to be used for repeat visits
  • Musicians were asked to participate in events to raise awareness of the project – delivering workshop sessions at the Children's Hospice Association of Scotland (CHAS) volunteer conference, workshops with the bereavement group, delivering staff training days and writing about the project in the Jessie’s Fund Newsletter.

Dates

2005-2009

Lead Organisation

Robin House Children’s Hospice

Partners

Jessie’s Fund
Rosfishmusic

Funded By

Jessie’s Fund
Robin House Children’s Hospice / The Children's Hospice Association of Scotland (CHAS)

Location

Balloch Scotland

Web Link

Artist(s)

Mark Fisher, Ros Hawley

Artform

Music

Context

Children's Hospice

Nature of Project

Collaborative/ participatory, Residency, Training/ Continuous Professional Development


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