Music and Arts in Health Promotion and Death Education: The St Christopher’s Schools Project

  • Giorgos Tsiris St Christopher's Hospice
  • Marion Tasker St Christopher's Hospice
  • Virginia Lawson St Christopher's Hospice
  • Gerry Prince St Christopher's Hospice
  • Tamsin Dives St Christopher's Hospice
  • Mick Sands St Christopher's Hospice
  • Andrew Ridley St Christopher's Hospice
Keywords: Schools Project, St Christopher’s hospice, music, arts, health promotion, death education, end of life care

Abstract

The reality of death and dying is rarely discussed openly in modern Western societies, while death sometimes is even considered to be a ‘failure’ in the context of traditional, medically-focused healthcare systems. Similarly, loss and transition are part of the National School Curriculum in the UK, but many schools still find approaching these subjects difficult. In this context St Christopher’s hospice in London has initiated and delivered the ‘Schools Project’ since 2005. 

The St Christopher’s Schools Project is an innovative community arts programme. It takes the form of short-term collaborative arts projects between terminally ill patients and students from primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges within the hospice’s catchment area. The Schools Project has attracted the interest of many other hospices, as well as other healthcare institutions and inspired the development of similar projects, both nationally and internationally. 

The aim of the Schools Project is to introduce the hospice and its work to the school communities in a creative and non-threatening way. Within a structured framework students are given the opportunity to interact and engage in music and art making together with terminally ill patients, culminating in an exhibition or performance. Promoting healthier attitudes towards death and dying amongst the students, their teachers, school peers, parents and carers, is at the core of the project. 

This paper presents the philosophy and aims, as well as the process and outcomes, of the Schools Project. Additionally, an overview of all of the projects that have taken place at St Christopher’s since 2005, as well as some prospects for future development, are given. This will hopefully stimulate a constructive dialogue with regards to the potential role of hospices and the arts in the promotion of health and death education, as well as their potential impact on the development of sustainable healthcare policies and practices not only in palliative care, but also in other health and social care contexts.

Author Biographies

Giorgos Tsiris, St Christopher's Hospice

Giorgos Tsiris works as a music therapist at St Christopher’s hospice and as a research assistant at the Research Department of Nordoff Robbins. He is an MPhil/PhD Candidate at Nordoff Robbins, The City University, London. He is also the Editor of the e-journal Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education. He is the coordinator of the Research Network and joint coordinator of the Palliative and Bereavement Care Network of the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT).

Marion Tasker, St Christopher's Hospice

Marion Tasker was trained at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in Technical Illustration, Airbrush and Photography and Botanical illustration. She began working at St Christopher’s hospice in 2001 as a community artist and she is currently undertaking training in person-centred counselling.

Virginia Lawson, St Christopher's Hospice

Virginia Lawson is a qualified art psychotherapist (HPC registered and working towards UKCP registration), MA Integrative Arts Psychotherapy from the Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education, London. She also has a Degree in Fine Art from University of Leeds. She began working at St Christopher’s hospice in 2006 as a community artist and became an art therapist in 2010.

Gerry Prince, St Christopher's Hospice

Gerry Prince came to music therapy from a background in commercial music. After graduating from the Nordoff Robbins Centre in 2007, he joined the Arts Team at St Christopher’s hospice.

Tamsin Dives, St Christopher's Hospice

Tamsin Dives trained initially at the Guildhall School of Music. For twenty-two years she pursued a diverse career as an opera and concert signer. In 2005 she retrained as a music therapist and has served on the British Society for Music Therapy committee. Since qualifying she has worked with adults with severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviour, primary school children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, as well as adults with brain injury and in palliative care.

Mick Sands, St Christopher's Hospice

Mick Sands has been an Arts Team member for two years working with visual image, creative writing and music. He is a theatre composer and specialist in ethnic and traditional music.

Andrew Ridley, St Christopher's Hospice

Andrew Ridley has a background in Fine Art and Photography, studying at Canterbury and Gloucestershire College of Art and Guildhall University. He is currently working towards qualifying as an art psychotherapist at Goldsmiths College.

Published
2011-04-11