Making a Difference

I showed 30 minutes of the film today to a rather intimidating group of people – leaders in palliative medicine across the UK, who had assembled at 8 am to watch what we have done in Strathcarron Hospice. It seemed a bit early in the day. “We’ve seen thousands of films on hospice care they said”. Gulp. Maybe they hadn’t had breakfast. And then of course the film wouldn’t play on the PC. Back up plan one – another type of file. Also didn’t play. Keep calm, Amy. Back up plan two – a DVD, made for me last night by the fleet-fingered Garaine at Scottish Documentary Institute. Worked beautifully.Mandy_and_Iain.jpg

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One Chance to Get it Right

Iain_alone_.jpgThe report from 'Dying without dignity: Investigations by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman into complaints about end of life care' came out last week. Seven case accounts are given of people who met their death in ways that are not what they wanted. It is heart-breaking. But this is an important report: and the NHS needs to face the challenges it sets. There is only one chance to get it right. And it is more heart-breaking when it is communication – between professionals, patients and family, that is the fault-line.

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We are nearly there!

I was delighted when Mark Orton, composer of Nebraska, ( multiple Academy Nominations) agreed to score the film (we are calling it, rather unimaginatively, Singing Hospice – anyone any better ideas?)

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Movie-making as palliative care

Hilary Brooks, (amazing singing coach, see earlier blog) and I did a talk at Edinburgh University School of public health today.  Hilary talked about  how she had realized early on that music was the currency at Strathcarron, and how each patient was different in their relationship to music. So with Dorene, who had stopped singing after her cancer diagnosis, what Hilary could do after Dorene decided she wanted to sing again, was work with her new voice, which was a little lower, and perhaps even more powerful than before. And with Nicola, she was able to give her confidence that she could sing her best on camera.

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Star Quality

Hilary Brooks is the woman who I brought into Strathcarron Hospice to bring out the star quality of the amazing singers I am filming. It certainly raised my credibility raising – Hilary has coached Billy Boyd, Una Maclean, Elaine C Smith and Barbara Rafferty (you may have seen them in Lord of the Rings, or The Last King of Scotland), but she is also the most down to earth person you could find. More on Hilary here

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Seasonal Energy and Vitality

A first glimpse at Amy Hardie's upcoming film was offered last week at a palliative care conference. 

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Dr Erna Haraldsdottir who is Head of Education at Strathcarron Hospice shares what happened:

"In 2010 I made a funding application to Creative Scotland to bring a non healthcare professional into the hospice where I am Head of Education. We hoped to find an alternative way of working with patients that would complement the medical and nursing model of delivering palliative care. That funding bid succeeded, and we welcomed Amy Hardie as a documentary film director into the hospice in 2011.

Last week I took parts of the resulting film-in-progress and evaluation studies to the Help the Hospices conference in Bournemouth – this is the UK's biggest forum to discuss palliative care issues within the hospice setting. I had no idea what to expect – this was the first time for me to present work through film in a professional health setting.

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We Are Family

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"I am glad that our family can be seen today as a four-legged table." These were the words of Gwen Hardie for the opening night of Skin Over Bone, an exhibition celebrating the work of James, Gwen and Amy Hardie. Despite being united by their family connection, the three artists are showing very different works of art. Visitors could also admire the beautiful sculptures of Ann Hardie, beloved wife and mother, who died in 1999. "It is the first time our works are shown together," Gwen pointed out.

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Changing Capacities – Changing Identities

As part of DaDaFest in Liverpool, this seminar stimulated discussion about the impact of changes on peoples’ day-to-day lives so that the lived experience of life-limiting illness and related phenomena is not always one of loss.

The video below shows some of the discussions and performances that happened during the day. Amy is in there talking about her Strathcarron Hospice project, from around 12 minutes into the video.

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Feeling better: film as therapeutic tool

Amy has been filming at Strathcarron Hospice for 16 months now. As an intern at the Scottish Documentary Institute, I got the privilege to assist her in her work. As I am slowly discovering the way she works, I am also learning about this place, the patients, and their relationship to Amy’s film.

Amy seems to know every part of this labyrinthine place, full of stairs and doors. The patients and staff greet her with a great smile and some kind words every morning: she is not just a 'filmmaker in residence', as the sign on her tiny office’s door says; she is also part of this place now. "People like Amy have to read other people", says Ian, one of the patients. "She comes in here, she wants to film people, she’s got to look at those people and say okay, right, what can I do with that person?" With some time and dedication, Amy built what the patients here call a "two-way relationship": by showing them the footage and some edited sequences, she is able to get them involved in the whole process of filmmaking.

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Legacies

Last week I held up a tiny cheap plastic camcorder in front of some very distinguished people. We were at Strathcarron Hospice AGM. I have been looking for a camera that patients and staff in Strathcarron Hospice can use to make films, without any special training, and that is super-easy to set up and to edit with. It also needs to reproduce the full dynamic range of the human voice without a fiddly microphone. It’s a big ask.

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Patients are using the cameras in the hospice to make their own films. Last night I showed the film made by a young woman and her daughter. The woman has secondary cancer, but it doesn’t stop her amazing dance moves. They chose to film themselves dancing in every sort of location – in a zoo, in a fair, in the livingroom, on the lawn. In years to come, the daughter will be able to look at the film and remember how her mum loved to dance with her...

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