After living through a global pandemic for almost two years, and with COVID-19 unfortunately still very much a reality in the UK, lots of us have been forced to confront illness, death and dying on a previously unexpected scale.
For world-renowned author and broadcaster Michael Rosen, who spent seven weeks in intensive care in London last year, this sadly wasn’t the first time the prospect of grief and bereavement sent shockwaves through his family – but it also wasn’t the first time that he used creative expression to make sense of incredibly sensitive and difficult times in his life.
After the death of his 18-year-old son Eddie in 1999, Michael turned to writing to help process the challenging environment he found himself in, later publishing his most recognisable and touching work Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. More recently, having been discharged from hospital mid-way through 2020, Michael picked up a pen and wrote extensively about his experience, praising the incredible care he received from the NHS. Despite suffering with the aftereffects of long COVID, including a foggy eye, deaf ear and ongoing dizziness, Michael then published his work, titled Many Different Kinds of Love, earlier this year.
The value in recognising the benefits that creative expression can provide in challenging times is understood by staff and volunteers at St Christopher’s Hospice, who are hosting a one-day conference this November in their newly opened Centre for Awareness and Response at End of Life focusing on all aspects of this matter. Michael Rosen, as keynote speaker, will host a session at the conference on Friday 12 November, sharing anecdotes and wisdom from his personal life with his trademark sense of heartfelt, relatable and gentle humour.
Both Michael and St Christopher’s share a commitment to supporting people through death, dying and loss, through a variety of creative tools used to communicate, connect and remember. Many of us credit creative arts with holding us together throughout the pandemic, but we may still be unsure how exactly such pursuits give meaning to life and help us to cope with grief and loss. The ‘Facing Death Creatively In A Pandemic’ conference will reflect on the hugely important role that art, music, writing and creating bring to our lives, especially at the end of life; and will offer students and practitioners from a wide range of health, social and creative disciplines the chance to network and learn even more about how their skills can be applied to help those experiencing death and bereavement.
Professionals and members of the public have all had to adapt how they engage with each other and the world around them across the last eighteen months, and death rituals from multiple cultures and communities have seen both interruption and innovation as people knowingly or subconsciously have had to think creatively about how to react to an environment outside of their control. Through a mix of seminars, exhibitions, workshops, speeches and performances, St Christopher’s will encourage participants to share success stories and challenges alike, and take the time to process how the pandemic has affected us and our response to both end of life and creative pursuits.
Tickets are currently on sale, and anybody interested in hearing Michael Rosen speak and exploring the concept of facing death creatively further is encouraged to book their place now to avoid disappointment.
St Christopher’s Hospice www.stchristophers.org.uk