Case Study

“When I saw the mural, I cried a little. It’s so wonderful.”

Date published: 20 Jan 2022

Posted by: Joe Pick

Illustration of three nurses pushing a hospital bed. An eagle flys above it.

Maisy is a young patient accessing Wolfston Cystic Fibrosis Centre at Nottingham University Hospitals. She took part in our ‘Colours of Life‘ project, a collaboration between the centre and City Arts. Maisy heard about the project from Megan Dawes, arts coordinator at the centre. Megan had noticed Maisy’s interest in drawing and the arts.

Working as a group, project participants commissioned artists Megan Russell and Alastair Flindall to paint two murals at the centre. In workshops held over Zoom, they contributed ideas which informed the designs. They also joined one-to-one workshops with writer Matt Miller. Here they used creative writing to explore their interests, and life with the condition. The poetry these sessions produced has been turned into a series of posters, illustrated by Alastair Flindall.

I’m really passionate about art and how it allows you to express yourself. When I heard about the project, I’d just transitioned from paediatrics into adult care. I’d spent two weeks in hospital by myself. It felt horrible because the unit is so bleak compared to paediatrics. As strange as it sounds, I really missed all the details on the walls. I wanted something more. That was my main motivation for getting involved.

The projects I joined are a chance to talk to people who don’t really understand what Cystic Fibrosis is. It’s been an opportunity for me to say to people, ‘Cystic Fibrosis isn’t exactly what you think it is. It’s not just a childhood disease. It’s a real thing that we live with for a long time. This is how it affects us.’ Getting that across is important to me.

I hadn’t done anything like this before, so I wasn’t expecting a lot. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be as wonderful as it has been. It’s turned out to be so meaningful. When I saw the mural, I cried a little. It’s so wonderful. We worked on them as a group and I was surprised how everyone pulled together to make everything so wonderful.

Alastair Flindall, Megan Russell standing in front of a mural featuring birds and flowers
Artists Alastair Flindall & Megan Russell photographed with one of the murals

The poetry sessions with Matt were the most meaningful for me. We both had the opportunity to ask each other questions. I got to hear about Matt’s view as an outsider. They actually asked me questions about what it’s like to live with Cystic Fibrosis. That was really meaningful to me because it allowed me to gain another perspective.

Since the project, I’ve felt a bit more optimistic about Cystic Fibrosis. On the days where I feel a little bit sad, and I’ve got to go to the hospital, it softens the blow to know little bit more about the other the patients. Hearing other patients poems helped me understand what they have to go through. Whilst we all have Cystic Fibrosis, we don’t all have the same experience. It’s just made me a bit more thoughtful. And obviously, seeing the work is just really nice.

'Letter To The CF Trio' by Maisy Pilolli-Wall | Patient Poems at Wolfson Cystic Fibrosis Centre
Maisy’s poem. Illustrated by Alastair Flindall and animated by Mediabox Productions.

It’s inspired me to be a bit more creative and a bit more expressive. You sometimes feel down when you’ve got Cystic Fibrosis. You either feel unwell or you feel a bit ‘woe is me’. On those days, instead of wallowing, the project has inspired me be more creative. I either draw or write or look at pictures on Facebook. It’s reminded me that it’s not all bad. Something beautiful has come from Cystic Fibrosis.

I’d like to say thank you. I’m not sure if there is enough gratitude to express how I feel! It’s wonderful, and it means so much to me and the staff to see it. It genuinely puts a smile on my face.

Maisy’s story shows how art can drastically improve people’s view of their environment. It is testament to the power of involving people in the production process. Research shows that art in hospitals eases anxiety, stress and depression for both patients and care staff. It improves communication between patients and carers. It shortens patients’ length of stay in hospital.

Want to support future projects like this? Donate to City Arts and Nottingham Hospitals Charity.

Featured image illustrated by Alastair Flindall, 2021