28 April 2021

Guest blogger: Beth Calverley

I’m the Arts & Culture Programme’s Poet in Residence at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, made possible by Above & Beyond and Weston Area Health NHS Trusts Charitable Fund. 

I’m taking a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned from being an NHS Poet in-and-out-of Residence during a global pandemic. I’ve separated this blog post into four sections: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. As we are now in the swing of National Poetry Writing Month, I’ve included a writing idea at the end of each ‘season’, so you can have a go yourself.


Summer 2020 - gathering twigs

When the first lockdown came into effect, I felt quite helpless as I could no longer visit the hospitals. My residency with South Bristol Community Hospital had come to an end and I was waiting to hear whether it would be expanded to further hospitals. 

I decided to get stuck-in anyway - whatever I could do in a small way to support the monumental efforts of NHS staff members. I wrote and donated a poem, Love Letter to the NHS, to Above & Beyond’s fundraising appeal, promising to stay at home as my tiny contribution to the cause. 

Members of the intensive care unit team also asked me to create a poem, titled Thread, which aimed to connect patients in the ICU with their families. The ICU team’s dedication to families was beautiful to behold. With so much responsibility already on their shoulders, they made time to reach out to me for the poem. Thread has been sent, along with the hearts, from the General Intensive Care Unit and respiratory wards throughout the year. You can read more about this project here.

During the summer, I also contributed a double-page spread of seaside-themed poetry puzzles to the Boredom Buster newspaper and co-hosted an online session called Poetry + Health, co-produced by the UHBW Arts & Culture and Culture Weston. Since then, I have contributed another collection of countryside-themed prompts to the second edition of Boredom Buster. Both editions can be ordered by any health and social care organisation – email [email protected] to find out more. 

Connecting with patients through digital devices is very tricky as you need to allow for tech issues, data protection and the support of members of staff on the ward to get the patients set up on the call and manage any issues. Where this was impossible, it felt good to be able to share printed poems and activities so that patients could take part in their own time.


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