The soundscapes of hospitals are a colossal disjuncture from the comforting and familiar surroundings of everyday life. The sounds of monitors and machines, sick patients, unfamiliar medical terms, the activities of clinical staff and the absence of familiar routines and diurnal rhythms, makes the soundscape quite alien. In addressing this, the project aims to anchor patients in the familiarity of local soundscapes, and familiar sounds embedded within slow film and music. Hospital in-patients can experience a lack of personal control over their environment and their own bodies. In exercising choice over their listening, patients gain some agency over their sonic environment, enhancing wellbeing and recovery.
The slow media pieces will be created as art therapy by local mental health support groups and by secondary school pupils, guided by experienced community artists. Organisations backing the project include ‘Open Mind’ (Real Time), Prospect Park NHS Hospital (mental health in-patients), The Engine Room (arts and mental health group), Nature Nurture CIC, Langtree and St Joseph’s School. The project also intends to establish a local ‘slow arts’ group as an ongoing support and legacy to the local community.
Panic Buying was one of the outcomes of a collaborative project between Associate Artists at the Jelly Arts organisation in Reading, responding to the theme of ‘breathing’. I have recently been working with the Royal Berkshire Hospital Intensive Care Unit Support Group and was intrigued by one gentleman’s recollection of the soundscape in the ICU. He told me how comforting it was to hear the various alarms and monitors around him, as it was a constant reassurance that he was still alive. In experimenting with sounding the tides of the breath using household objects, I stumbled across the idea of juxtaposing this calm reassurance with the ‘panic’ of running out of toilet roll and bread flour.