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One Last Look

The Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was founded in 1838, when three doctors were appointed to look after just one ward of twelve beds. In July 2006, having outgrown its site on Stoney Stanton Road, all staff and services of the hospital were relocated to the new University Hospital at Walsgrave.

To mark this significant moment, the empty hospital was opened for ONE LAST LOOK at a building whose wards, corridors and operating theatres hold the stories of thousands of Coventry people. Below are the different events and activities that took place throughout the weekend.

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Sites of Memory

An exhibition combining the display of objects salvaged from the hospital site with the personal stories of former staff and patients, Sites of Memory charted the history of the hospital since the mid-nineteenth century. Utilising the empty space of the hospital, and filling it with these traces of the past, the exhibition provided an opportunity to reflect on the hospital as a site of memory.

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Workshops for Families 

Two workshops were offered throughout the event, one on germs and the importance of cleanliness in hospitals, and another on DNA. During the workshop on germs participants were shown just how resistant germs are to hand washing. Everyone who participated in the DNA workshop made a necklace containing their very own DNA strands.

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 Departure ‘Departure’ is a series of photographs, taken by Paul Blakemore on 11 and 12 July 2006, showing the last days of hospital life. On these two days, the last of a city centre hospital in Coventry, all staff and services departed to the new University Hospital on the outskirts of the city. Paul’s portraits are of people from different departments, showing an array of staff with different responsibilities.

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Three Doctors

In groups of twelve, audiences were taken on a journey through the deserted hospital building, accompanied by voices, music, and the ghosts of Doctors Arrowsmith, Bourne and Mellor. Working from the oral histories collected by the project, Three Doctors was created especially for One Last Look by Talking Birds, a Coventry-based group of artists specialising in acts of transformation.

ONE LAST LOOK was produced by the Centre for the History of Medicine and Talking Birds, with the invaluable assistance of Haydn Burgwyn and Liz Thiebe. The producers also thank Michael Bevan, Mark Chapman, Mario DiMaggio, Alan Dyer and the Coventry Canal Basin Trust, Richard Fern, Kat Foxhall, Charlotte Grove, Sasha Handley, Claire Hayhurst, Huw Jones, Matt Lessimore, Andrew Moore, Susan Nicholls, Robert O'Toole, Caroline Proctor, Gauri Raje, Clive Robinson, Ruth Semple, Chris Simmons, Emma Spencer, Dave Thomas, Carl Titman, Jimmianne Warner, Brooke Whitelaw, and Peter Woodbridge. Many thanks also to St John Ambulance, West Midlands.

Above all, however, we thank the former staff and patients of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, whose memories have guided both the event and the project; and the Wellcome Trust, which has provided funding.

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