Artists & Our Arts for Health Programme

Our Arts for Health programme primarily takes place within our inpatient facilities across the Trust; St George’s Hospital, Stafford; The Redwoods Centre, Shrewsbury.  Engagement activities can involve our healthcare service users of all ages, carers, families, visitors and healthcare staff.

  • Arts for Health can include any artform such as visual art, photography, music, dance, drama, creative writing, reading for wellbeing, poetry.
  • Arts for Health engage professional artists and musicians to deliver the programme often in collaboration with external arts organisations in order to maintain quality and excellence.
  • Our programme and projects considers the wellbeing of the participants involved. Each participant’s contribution is highly valued and encouraged in a manner that is fair, equitable and inclusive.

Artist Interview - Maggie Hollinshead

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?  

Generally, my work is mixed media, papers, and stitch. I am very much inspired by nature, gardens, and wild nature. I often create work to commission. Over lockdown I did quite a bit of garden design from an artist's eye, which is really nice, and that has sort of take taken off. I also do quite a bit of mentoring with creatives as well.

I do quite enjoy working with artists who are maybe just thinking of setting up a business. I've got that experience and having had a small independent gallery for almost 20 years, that's an element of something where there's advice that I can share with others too. Also, with the age comes wisdom, so I’ve got that to impart onto others as well!

Please visit my website to find out more about my work and classes. 

What work do you do for Arts for Health MPFT?

I currently work on Kinver Ward (treatment of those patients unable to manage their eating disorder in the community). The sessions can be really nice, people doing things and sharing and encouraging one another as well.

Sometimes quite small creative things can be done in just one session. Some of the patients did a drawing last week, it was all done in permanent marker. The other week one of the patients drew a guitar, and it's was perfectly to scale, with some intricate decoration around it, and quite a long poem. She’d created this straight off, out of her head, using just a permanent marker! It’s lovely to see her be comfortable and have the confidence to do that.

Please could you tell us a bit about your journey to working in Arts and Health?

I was asked to come and do some sessions for Arts for Health and I was a bit nervous of whether that was me. I started working on The Mother Baby Unit, and I thought, I'm not sure I'm the right kind of person because I'm not an artist that comes in larger than life!

I've worked with dementia patients before because my Mom had dementia. I did work in some other nursing homes, because I knew what was needed and what I could do. But obviously, this is a completely different scenario. Once I started, I realised that I see what I can give to this, and it was making sense.

Once I was working with these people who were very, very poorly, I realised they needed that sort of gently, gently, softly approach. And sitting quietly with somebody… you can't really explain what you need to do until you're in it in the scenario.

What do you think Arts for Health means and how do people benefit from taking part in Arts for Health activities?

Well, I think it's inadvertently benefiting me, and I hadn't realised it! I’m more aware of other people, and I think it just helps to have that on your radar. Working in this environment, you're suddenly learning a lot more about life in general.

I think I'm quite positive personally. I've heard people say, I'm a glass overflowing person! Working for Arts for Health just makes you more aware of things that are going on.

So, I think I've got a lot out of doing it. And just being able to feel that I'm making a difference to people with the art. And it does change lives, and it does help people. And I've witnessed things that would be very hard to try and explain.

You need to be open to understand, but it's what art facilitates. Not necessarily that the person is going to become a fantastic painter or artist, because that's not what it's about. But what it facilitates in terms of their recovery. I think that's the biggest thing.  I'm there to offer something that is not to do with their illness, it's a break from that.

Can you talk us though a typical day working for Arts for Health?

Today is probably typical of what my day would be. Because I'm only involved with Arts for Health in the afternoon. So, this morning I had a meeting, which was nothing to do with arts for health, I came home, packed my bags, and had my lunch. And then came out this afternoon to deliver my session on Kinver.

Then tonight, I'll unpack my stuff in the bag and make a note of what needs to be done, and I'll be working on some samples for next week for doing some different things. So it's obviously it's an hour that's with patients, but then there's prep to make sure you've got something fresh to show them next week, as well.

What is your favourite Arts for Health story?

There have been many arts for health stories that have been an absolute delight, but many would not feel appropriate to share.  However, there was one occasion where I'd been out, I wasn't staying where I live, and somebody spoke to me who I didn't know. They spoke as though they knew me.

I said, ‘I'm sorry, I can't I can't remember your name’. It turned out that when Arts for Health had an open day she came to that. I had been there and I did an activity where the children were just doing some prints and turning them into insects. I didn't remember because she was out of context for me. But she remembered me! She came up to me in a situation that you would have thought she would have not wanted to make a connection outside of here. She did speak to me, because she wanted to, and I felt that was a really nice thing that happened.

What are your favourite activities for your own wellbeing?

I am quite positive, and as I've got older I think that's something to share. If somebody hasn't got a smile, give them one of yours!

So, what’s my thing that I do? I just keep busy and I do lots of things. The family is important to me, so I support the family. I love looking after the grandchildren, home-schooling over video calls and that sort of thing. Getting out in nature, that's like an everyday thing, just getting out and taking in a bit of bit of nature.

I keep in touch with friends. So, we meet up every couple of months and most of my friends we would meet and have lunch policy somewhere. Chatting and catching up with friends and family is really quite important to me.

Arts for Health Interviews

Here is an archive of all our Arts for Health Interviews. Please click on any of the Interviews to download and view a copy of our previous Artist Interviews.

Pease tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?  


I'm Sal Tonge, a lot of people also call me a musician and a storyteller, but I call myself a verbal artist. I work with words, whether they're sung or whether they're inferred. Sometimes I work with people who don't have words, they have sounds. 

As a storyteller I could never imagine working with a guitar, because the guitar physically sat on your lap like a little wooden wall between you and the audience as ‘I can do this, you can't’, so I just told stories.

When I started to work with early years, I explored the idea of ‘what if people can't actually talk yet for a whole host of reasons?’, and then the guitar became another voice!

Please visit my website to find out more about my work as a storyteller, musician and community artist.

What work do you do for Arts for Health MPFT?

I’ve worked a long time at Redwoods, performing live. Their concerts are beautifully hosted, and immaculately accessible – it’s so lovely to fill a hospital with music! 

I also go onto the wards to perform and engage with inpatients. The soundscape on the wards is often banging doors, lots of keys, beeps of machinery, doorbells and phones. 

So I kind of just take the musical temperature of the space. And then. When it's time. You put out a single chord on a guitar. And it's so different. It's like the walls haven't heard this and people haven't heard this and it's like putting out a whole new language.

Please could you tell us a bit about your journey to working in Arts and Health?

I am a very practical worker. I've got a really strong work ethic and I'm a bit Darwinian in that I will evolve if I need to. I've always been doing the same stuff and I can evolve and become it. 

Since I was 47 I trained to be a fitness instructor. I had to do quite a lot of training around, anatomy and endocrinology and aging, the muscles and all the rest of it. I had to do all that training and I'm really passionate about it. 

This training has really deepened my understanding of the physicality of it all. When you're singing, you're breathing differently, so you're taking more oxygen into your bloodstream, and oxygenated blood is happy. 

If music is a reason for somebody to look up, breathe deeply, take their elbows away from their body, then you've done some physical training, but you're also just going to sing a song! 

What do you think Arts for Health means and how do people benefit from taking part in Arts for Health activities?

We have to be connected. Singing can connect you to somebody. You look across the room and you see somebody and they're singing and you exchange a smile. 

You're not alone. So you're connected.

We all need to kind of connect, to look up and notice, have our emotions acknowledged, feel that we're in a relationship. 

Sometimes I sit on a ward and I'm singing away and there might be 15 people enjoying my music. What medicine can you dispense on a ward and one dose does 15 people? 

What work has Arts for Health delivered during the pandemic and what impacts do you feel it has had on the people and communities involved?

I struggled with zoom. I struggled with the flat screen world because so often when you're going into a session, I might look like I'm singing to you, but actually half an eyeball is across the room on the person that's sort of orbiting, looking at the window. 

I learned a lot and I learned that people are really responsive, even if your music has to come on a screen, and it was impactful and I couldn't deny the impact.

During the pandemic I needed people, so I trained to be a vaccinator. People came through these vaccination pods and they sat in the chair for three minutes and they told you stories. And I suddenly realized that my vaccination pod was the smallest theatre in the world!

It was very healing, a very positive place to work. From that experience came the show ‘JABS’, which we're touring to Theatres across the Midlands.

Can you talk us though a typical day working for Arts for Health?

A typical day working for Arts for Health is to know that there's no typical day! You pack up your car in the morning and you pack up as versatile as you can. You bring as little as you can in terms of props and you bring as much as you can in your mind and your heart. 

You know so many times you do a thing and there's somebody asleep in the corner and you think, oh, they slept through this whole thing and you play the last thing and your pack up your guitar, and you're leaving the ward, and then they say ‘thanks, I really enjoyed that!’

A big skill for any musician is really keep your repertoire broadened and really try and be able to play as many songs as you can on your instrument. 

Be obvious, be humble and let your audience lead. And hear them. They're not necessarily there to hear you. All you can do is galvanize and encourage and give people permission to sing, to breathe, and to smile.

What is your favourite Arts for Health story?

I have this moment that happened in a care home. I went into this care home to do an afternoon slot. When I turned up in the room, everybody was fast asleep… fast asleep! And I thought, ‘how am I going to wake everybody up?’

As I'm setting up this gentleman says ‘I'm just going to test the fire alarms’. I thought, ‘great’ because it might wake everybody up. So, he went out the room and then presently there was the fire alarm… and everybody carried on sleeping!

So, now it was my slot to begin. I sat down and I thought ‘right here goes nothing!’ I strummed one chord on the guitar… and everybody just woke up. It was as if I'd switched the lights on. They woke up and they smiled and I went ‘hello, hello, hello’, and they were all really happy to see each other! 

What I reckon had happened was that they lived in this sort of plastic machine, alarm world that they've become desensitized to. And then in comes this woman with a wooden guitar, and she strums a chord and it sort of resonated because it was real and everybody woke up!

What are your future plans for Arts for Health?

In the show ‘JABS’, there's a line that I sing ‘certainty was a luxury, we were living day by day, and any plans we ever made, the virus swept away.’ You just have to keep on going.

It's just been my 54th birthday on St David’s day. So I did a bit of Googling about Saint David and I checked out his story, and one of the things he says is “do the small things”

I think my plans are just to follow in the words of Saint David and just keep on doing the small things… because if you do lots of small things, they end up being a big thing.

Arts for Health Contact Details

Arts for Health - General Enquiries

Jessica Kent - Arts for Health Lead

Redwoods Centre, Somerby Drive,
Shrewsbury SY3 8DS 
01743 210048 / 07814 752783

Helen Wilson - Project Worker

St. George's Hospital, Corporation Street, Stafford ST16 3AG                  07964208542 / 01785221328

Owen Hurcombe - Digital & Communications Project Worker

St, George's Hospital, Corporation Street,
Stafford ST16 3AG

Diana Buckle - Administrator

Redwoods Centre, Somerby Drive,
Shrewsbury SY3 8DS

Amy Smith - Arts for Health Project Assistant

Redwoods Centre, Somerby Drive, Shrewsbury, SY3 8DS