Park Lime Pits
“We used to play here as kids, paddling in the water, catching sticklebacks. There were never any adults around, just us kids playing around, carefree. Then later in 1957 this was my courting place as it was for many couples who wanted to go somewhere quiet to get away from it all. We would walk down from Ryecroft down the path by the cemetery. It was known then as the Sixty Steps and would take you down to Park Lime Pits.”
Park Lime Pits was specifically made as an artwork for palliative care. This piece was made as a commission for the St Giles Palliative Care Hospice in Walsall. Through visits to the “Friday group” at the Day Centre, I got to know some of the people who were about to move into the newly built Palliative Care Hospice.
Park Lime Pits was a local nature reserve, one of which many of the people at the hospice had stories to tell. For one elderly lady it was a place where she once used to meet or ‘court’ with her partner in the evenings, another remembered spending days playing down there with other children, trying to catch fish and generally messing around freely in the pond. For others it was a place to go for a quiet walk, to spend some contemplative time.
A place of sanctuary
To me, this place did not hold any of these memories, I was very much an outsider, not even a local. I visited this small nature reserve, centered around a large pond, many times over a period of 5 months. I walked around at sunrise, at sunset, on winter mornings and summer afternoons until slowly I found the view I wanted to capture. It was very obvious view from the main approach along a footpath down to the pond, but somehow that was the essence of this place, the discovery of a pool of water in a wooded hollow in the landscape. There was a feeling of something hidden within the landscape, a place kept safe, private, away from the open skies. From the stories people shared with me about Park Lime Pits, I felt that it was a magical place, a place of innocence and freedom. A place where time did not matter. Time here, whether it was now or 50 years ago, was one. This was a place of retreat, of sanctuary.
Embracing the notion of memory with artwork for palliative care
Making artwork for palliative care was quite a different experience to other healthcare commissions I had worked on. Most of the people I talked to about this place will probably never have the chance to visit it again in their lifetimes. This had a sobering impact on me but also made me want to really capture the essence of this place. So it was so important to capture it just how it was for them, and how it is for them- still vivid in their memories.
I was planning to photograph this location for the main reception of the hospice and knew that it had to be a vertical image and that it would be a light box. I wanted it to have the feeling of a view into another world, like a sneak preview of a hidden garden, a rich habitat of fervent green undergrowth and tranquil waters. The fact that in reality now it might have been a pond with the occasional shopping trolley, car tyre or beer can, really did not matter. This piece was to be about memory and in honour of real human memories, those which live on beyond the everyday experience of life.
Park Lime Pits, 300 cm x 120 cm Light Box, installed in the reception of St Giles Palliative Care Hospice
While this image was my preference for the reception of the hospice, I wanted to first get feedback from the people whose memories it was to represent. At the Day Centre, there was an overwhelming vote for this image and subsequently the Creative Development team, NHS steering group and the architects all agreed that this was the piece.
More images from this commission can be seen here:
Click on the logos below to go to the Walsall St Giles Palliative Care Hospice and the Walsall Creative Development Team website: