As part of the project to commemorate the closure of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, many local residents, staff and patients witnessed a spectacular performance on 7 June in the hospital itself. Following several weeks of interviews with patients and doctors, past and present, and rehearsal time in the hospital, all the preparation was complete. The team of artists, including both musicians and dancers, came together to produce their interpretation of the life of the hospital, creating a site-specific dance that incorporated not only the physical space but also, at times, materials that were integral to the running of the hospital. In one particular scene, two of the artists utilised a hospital bed and, dancing with the bed sheet, fully captured the vitality that could be witnessed in the hospital and the hope that it brought to so many.
The patients that witnessed the performance included a young boy who watched from his bed, his leg suspended in traction. It was a scene that, to me, was reminiscent of a day in Leonard Tasker’s life, in 1926, when as a young patient he was wheeled out in his bed to view the Lady Godiva Carnival Procession along Stoney Stanton Road. This link between past and present served as a joyful reminder of all that was great about the hospital.
Other moments were noticeably more sombre. The beautiful tones of Frank Moon on the acoustic guitar, chinese harp and Tibetan singing bowl combined with Emily Levy’s enchanting vocals to create an atmosphere that was both dark and yet captivating. Artists both young and old were involved, with Sean Martin and Alice Read looking impressively comfortable at such a tender age, when surrounded by a more experienced cast.
The true uniqueness of the event, however, lay in the fact that during each of the four performances, as with the life of the hospital itself, it was those who passed through that ultimately shaped the event. As the hospital was still in full operation, patients, visitors and doctors passed through the performance space, interacting with the performance as the dance continued regardless. Some passed by with trepidation, not wanting to interrupt the show; others, however, including those on crutches and wheelchairs, gallantly passed straight through, reminding the audience that even at this time of closure it is ultimately the patient that plays the most important role in the life of a hospital.
Many thanks go to Cecilia Macfarlane and Sarah Whitley, in particular, for directing such a beautiful and touching send off for the hospital, but thanks go also to all the other performers involved, namely David Bennett, Andrea Berry and Kath Kimber-McTiffen. It was also wonderful to see that several of the members of the audience were the very same people whose interviews had been the inspiration for the performance; thanks also go to them for their part in this event.
Mark Chapman is a student at the University of Warwick and a member of the Project Team.