Friday 20 October 2023

Kim Wiltshire, "NHS Verbatim Poems"

Dr Kim Wiltshire is a scriptwriter and fiction writer, with much of her creative work being political, issue-based or exploring health and well-being. Plays include: Polarised (2004 – Burnley Youth Theatre), about the 2001 race riots (later adapted as a film for schools); The Loser (2009) for Scenepool at Camden People’s Theatre; Sing When You’re Winning (2010) for Bolton Octagon; Joy With Child (2010) for Organised Chaos in Manchester (shortlisted for the 2009 Bruntwood Prize); Triple The Price Of Fruitcake as part of the Come Closer event at the Royal Exchange (2015). Short films include Living To Die for Let's Go Global/Mothers Against Violence and Transitions for Lime and the CF Unit. In 2014, supported by Bolton Octagon and Arts Council England, with Paul Hine she toured Project XXX, a multimedia play, and in Autumn 2017, The Value of Nothing, directed by Joyce Branagh, toured the North West and the Midlands. Both plays have been published by Aurora Metro.

In December 2015 her book, Writing For Theatre: Creative and Critical Approaches, was published by Palgrave Macmillan (now with Bloomsbury Academic) and in September 2018 the book she co-edited and co-wrote with Billy Cowan, Scenes from the Revolution, was published by Pluto Press. She has also had various academic articles, essays and short stories published. 

In 2022 she became a British Academy Innovation Fellow, working with the arts team of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), known as Lime, to explore ways of embedding the arts into healthcare settings. 

About NHS Verbatim Poems, by Kim Wiltshire and Caro C

NHS Verbatim Poems is one of the projects that came out of the British Academy Fellowship. Working with musician and sound artist Caro C, Kim interviewed a range of nurses both onsite at Manchester Royal Infirmary and across the city with the District Nurses. Using a range of questions, Kim and Caro formed the interviews into ‘poems’ using the clips from the recorded interviews, with Caro adding original music to these pieces often using found sounds from the working environment. At time of writing, there are three poems with a fourth planned for 2024. The poems can be found here.  

One Day, One Ward was showcased on the BBC Arts and Idea podcast (BBC Radio 3 - Arts & Ideas, New Thinking: Writing the NHS) and two of the poems formed part of an immersive dance theatre piece of the 2023 Being Human Festival in Liverpool, Be My Guest, working with Fusion Dance Company. 

The reason we wanted to use verbatim for the poems was because of the truthfulness of what was said in the interviews. As the writer, Kim shaped the words and sentences, formed them into a poem, but the phrases, statements, ideas are those that came from the nurses and healthcare staff we interviewed. Their words can paint a picture of what life is really like as a frontline healthcare worker so clearly, including not only the difficulties of their working life, but their homelives, giving a rounded picture of a whole human being who just happens to do an amazing job, rather than the faceless heroes/angels that the public were encouraged to bang pans for on their doorsteps every Thursday evening during the pandemic. These poems were created to honour and show appreciation for that work. 

Below is the transcript of One day, One Ward.

One Day, One Ward

Today Today Today Today Today Today Today

Today started with having a handover,
There was plenty of staff
Compared to yesterday.
Thereafter, we served breakfast.
I began to do my medications,
I also assisted the support workers.
Personal care,
The way you would care for your parents.

Today, quite a few surprising things happened.
Everything is kind of unexpected.
I got complimented off the matrons for excellent care.
My manager has said she would be very happy to be cared for by me.
A family member was very grateful of our support.
There is always someone who appreciate the little things you make to them.
There is always someone who’s smiling at you for no reason, you know.
That is why I’m in this profession,
I just want to make a difference in the lives of others,

Today the hardest part of my day 
Was trying to fit in seeing every patient that needed to be seen. 
Waiting for linen to come in to be able to get on with work.
Taking the observations of the patients, 
When patients’ families get upset because they’re in hospital.

Today for my break I just had summat to eat and a chill out time.
Cup of tea and my rice crispies.
Surfed a bit of Facebook, just to catch up on what’s going on.
And then I rang my family as well.
In my break, I sat, forgot work and ate tranquilment.

I’ve not eaten anything yet, not had chance today.

Today I haven’t had a break.

Today I heard that some patients passed away 
Before my shift started.
Our wish is to see every one of them go back to their family, you know, 
And when this tends to happen, we really feel it, you know, but …
Afterward, we move on.

We move on.

We move on.

Today I’ve heard call bells, door buzzers, fire alarm,
Patients shouting out.
Lots of interesting conversations between patients,
Shouts, screams, laughter, crying,
Obs machine, the IV fluids.

I’ve heard people smile.

The sound that was the most profound.
The fire alarm go off.
The fire alarm, because someone broke it.
The fire alarm.
The fire alarm went off, where is it, you know, 
Checking the toilets and the bay
To see if there is anyone smoking.
I asked why did you press it? 
He said, I don’t know, it was there.
The fire service, they came in and turned it off.
That was today you know.

Today at the end of the shift,
I would reflect about how the shift has gone.
Change into my regular clothes and then hurry off to the car.
I will go home, kick my shoes off, ask my daughter 
To make me a nice cup of tea. 
And relax.
Relax and watch champions league.
My plan is to make lots of macaroons, 
Coconut macaroons, 
For tomorrow,
For the patients.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up early and get myself ready for work,
Because I’ll be coming back tomorrow.
Probably do pretty much the same thing as what I’ve done today.
Tomorrow is my day off, and I’ve got to wait in for the gasman.
Tomorrow I’m expecting to look similar to today, 
But I’m hoping it will be better.
Tomorrow I’m back again, 
I’m very passionate about my job.
Tomorrow is my day off. 
I’ll look after my children in the morning before they go to school.

Tomorrow? Heh. I come back to work!
And give some macaroons away.

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