Art and music create new links to children

wet  Artist in residence Helen Scouller and music therapist Mike Gilroy at Martin House Hospice.  (120906M1d)
wet Artist in residence Helen Scouller and music therapist Mike Gilroy at Martin House Hospice. (120906M1d)

Many facinating facts are set to be revealed as visitors are allowed through the doors of a local children’s hospice next month.

Once a year, when all its residents have gone home for a week to allow the building to be cleaned and revitalised, Clifford-based Martin House holds an open day to allow people to see for themselves the amazing care they give.

And one aspect of the ground-breaking work done with the children who suffer life-limiting illness, is that of the art and music department.

Forming bonds with terminally ill youngsters can be a major hurdle for carers but at Martin House they have turned to the arts to break through.

A team of music and art therapists work with the children at the Clifford-based facility and their efforts pay off in many ways.

Music therapist Mike Gilroy (49) explained: “Our role is about addressing the emotional, psychological and developmental needs.

“For example there may be issues of low self-esteem because of their illness.

“Or with somebody else it might be about encouraging them to be more independent. Often children who stay at Martin House are dependent on carers throughout the day and we give them the chance to help themselves.

“There are lots of different issues and needs as we work with young children through to teenagers in Whitby Lodge.”

And Mike, a musician who lives at Saltaire and has been working at the hospice for the past eight years for two days a week, says there is much more than being able to play a tune at the end of the day.

“There are also non verbal aspects. With some who have low function, it may be a case of using touch or vibration or their breathing pattern for music.

“Older children in Whitby Lodge often want to produce music and this we can do through the technology we have.”

A host of guitars, keyboard, percussion, and electronic equipment is available thanks to donations and gifts of instruments and money.

The care given at Martin House is not just for sick children but for the families during the illness and after the child has died.

Carers pride themselves at providing support through respite care and having an open door to the family afterwards to help them through the grieving process, which can often take years to come to terms with.

Artist in residence and former paediatric nurse Helen Scouller explained: “Bereaved families will often talk about the things their poorly children had made while here at Martin House.

“We work with bereaved siblings and parents who often come into the art room.

“We try to help them make sense of it all. It is never just about care.”

One way to create memories for the child’s family is by making hand prints.

This year a new walk of art has been added to one of the corridors linking the new additional building at Martin House to celebrate its 25 years.

Children, parents and staff were asked to contribute by creating pictures in any way they liked and these are now proudly hanging for all to see.

Staff in the art and music departments are rightly proud of making connections with children often closed off from the outside world.

Open day, October 7 (11am-3pm), visitors can take part in hands on demonstrations in the arts and music rooms.