Facing Out at Manchester Science Festival and The Whitworth : Day One. by Lucy Burscough

Facing Out came to Manchester Science Festival last week in the form of a two day conference which explored themes of the wider project within the inspirational setting of The Whitworth, the art gallery of the University of Manchester. Day one saw Eleanor Crook return to the gallery to deliver her outstanding facial anatomy workshop. I have been excited about Eleanor's collaboration with Facing Out since I took the same workshop last year when the fabulous Clod Ensemble brought it to Manchester. During the day I learnt the names and functions of the major facial muscles as one by one we made them, sculpting them in wax to be added onto a plaster cast of a skull. 

This is the most fun that I have ever had in my entire life! I might have to become an artist!
— Claire, Trainee Advanced Practice Nurse, The Christie Hospital

Facing Out Day One drew together a lovely and diverse group of people which included medical practitioners, academics, artists, gallery professionals and theatre craftspeople. I opened the day by introducing the Facing Out project, showing a sneak preview of one of the project's portraits and talking about facial disfigurement due to cancer.

Eleanor brought along some models of the early reconstruction techniques developed by Sir Harold Gillies at Queen Mary's Hospital at Sidcup, where he worked with the unprecedented number of soldiers who were returning from the trenches of the First World War with facial injuries. His patients refereed to themselves as 'The Guinea Pig Club' as much of Gillies work involved the use of novel experimental surgical techniques. It was fascinating to see Eleanor's models which brought to life Gillie's black and white photographic images. They recorded the stages of pioneering forehead skin flap operations, a technique is still being used today, and is one which has been experienced by one of our 'Facing Out' portraiture subjects. 

It is a remarkable workshop, not least because of Eleanor's depth of anatomical knowledge which she shares so generously, but also because of the humour, the fascinating asides and the storytelling that she weaves into the practical construction of each muscle. One comes away having learnt so much more that the anatomy of the face! 

I would like to thank Eleanor Crook, Wendy Gallagher who, as Arts For Health Partnership Manager at The Whitworth, facilitated the event. Thanks also to Dr Anne Marie Martindale whose research has fed into 'Facing Out' and who was instrumental in planning this event. Thanks to Caroline Johnson who made a beautiful drawing to record the day (that's for a future post!). Thanks also to our partners, University of Manchester's 'Engaging Our Communities' initiative, The Whitworth, Manchester Science Festival and Arts Council England.

Special thanks to all the participants whose enthusiasm and interest made this such an enjoyable day!

Manchester Museum at Maggie's. Week 3: Earth Sciences by Lucy Burscough

When David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Earth Sciences at Manchester Museum came to Maggie's Manchester to deliver a talk as part of the Facing Out programme of events, centre visitors were expecting to see some interesting fossils. They did see fossils, and they were interesting, but what they also discovered was the fascinating life story of a pioneering female scientist whose work in Manchester blazed a trail that influenced antarctic expeditions, led to pit owners naming plant species and freed women to plan their own families and take ownership of their reproductive rights.

The woman was Marie Stopes and David told her life story through the objects that he brought with him from the museum. We learnt of her formidable intellect and strength of personality that saw her able to break through into the male preserve of scientific academia, how she used coal balls to identify new species of fossil plants and how she won a scholarship which led to her travelling to Munich where she fell in love with a Japanese scientist only to be spurned by him when she attempted to be reunited with him in his home country. Not miss an opportunity to further her research, she used her trip to Japan to collect exquisite plant fossil samples laid down in the uniquely suited environment of a still, volcanic lake. We saw the veins in ancient plants that must have thrilled Mary as they did us. 

Back in Manchester Miss Stopes was introduced to Captain Scott at the Manchester Museum. We know this happened- David found his signature in the Museum's visitor's book! Unable to persuade him to let her join him on an expedition, she did convince him to find examples of the plant fossil record on his expedition to the antarctic, adding to the proof that the continents were once joined and formed a super continent. When Scott's body was recovered after his fateful mission to be the first people to get to the South Pole failed, plant fossil specimens were found near his body.

We may have heard of Mary Stopes and how her pioneering work led to the introduction of family planning as we know it, but hearing about her fearless quest to fulfil her academic potential and pursue her scientific interests was as inspirational as it was fascinating. Thank you David. What a fantastic story to share with the centre visitors at Maggie's and what a fantastic way to de-stress, by being led on a story back in time and around the world!

Manchester Museum at Maggie's. Week 2: Botany by Lucy Burscough

This week's visitor from the Manchester Museum was Rachel Webster, Curator of Botany. The museum's herbology collection is enormous and filled with beautiful botanical drawings, thousands of examples of pressed plants from around the world and the hand written notes and cuttings from journals made by the Victorian gentlemen collectors who gathered them together.

Rachel has a multitude of objects to choose between and she did not disappoint with the selection that she made to bring to Maggie's. Each object told a wider story, some illustrated the changing environment of the area surrounding us, while others told of the Victorian passion for plant-collecting and the characters whose search for interesting specimens saw them creating global networks of fellow flower fanatics. We were able to peruse beautifully bound books of botanical drawings and a box of unusual looking sweetcorn cobs gave an insight into the processes behind the development of modern vegetable varieties! It was truly compelling talk, and very informally delivered to centre visitors as they relaxed on comfy sofas. Perfect for the homely atmosphere that is so much a part of Maggie's Manchester.

Manchester Museum at Maggie's. Week 1: Frogs and Reptiles by Lucy Burscough

For the past three weeks on a Thursday afternoons the Manchester Museum has come to Maggie's Manchester as part of the Facing Out programme of events. We have been wowed to be given the opportunity to handle some of the objects from the museum's wide ranging collection and fascinated to hear stories from the expert curators who came along to share their passion for their subjects withcentre visitors. 

The first session was led by Andrew Gray who is the curator of Herpetology at the museum and an expert on reptiles and frogs. As the museum is part of Manchester University, Andrew not only cares for the reptiles and frogs that visitors can see and learn about in the museum's vivarium, he also conducts research and teaches.

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Andrew is particularly interested in conservation, supporting some of the world's most critically endangered species of frogs which are native to Costa Rica, where he leads expeditions to gather live eggs for breeding and the environment data needed to keep them in tip top condition. On one such trip Andrew rediscovered a species that was previously thought to be extinct! Through captive breeding programmes Andrew and his team at the museum and university support species that are on the brink of extinction, sometimes breeding species in captivity for the very first time. It was fascinating to hear about the frogs, exciting tales from the expeditions and about the fantastic conservation programmes that the team have initiated. Amazing that such important work is being undertaken behind the scenes at the museum!

 

 

Painting Annie by Lucy Burscough

I met Annie within a few days of starting work at Maggie's Centre Manchester when she was introduced to me by Sinead, the centre head. Sinead described Annie as 'a big part of the Maggie's family' and as I have got to know her, I can't work out if her place in the family is as everyone's favourite gran or the cheeky teenage rebel!

Annie is great. She is warm and chatty, funny, comforting and cheerful, and she shares these qualities with centre visitors in her role as a Maggie's volunteer. Annie welcomes people to the centre, giving tours and directing them to the various activities and practical support that is on offer, then takes her place around the kitchen island ready to lend a sympathetic ear, tell a funny tale or let you in on where to buy cheap Doc Marten's. Annie is retired, coming from a background in social care, and, not willing to let her counselling skills go to waste, she volunteers at Maggie's and at the local food bank. Annie's son Stephen is also a volunteer at Maggie's and he has obviously inherited some of his Mum's warmth and conviviality! 

When I met Annie she still had stitches from having undergone surgery following the removal of a malignant melanoma from below her eye. The area was reconstructed using the soft, hairless skin from her upper, inner arm and, by the time we took the photos for the portrait, it was beginning to heal well. I wanted to be sure to capture Annie's infectious smile so I called in another volunteer, Hilary, to stand behind me to make Annie laugh. It worked a treat. In my mind I call this painting 'The Hilary Effect'!

 I really enjoyed painting Annie surrounded by the beautiful wooden struts that are a unique and stunning feature in the design of Maggie's Manchester, and holding one of the lovely, slightly wonky ceramic mugs. I think, when you look at the painting, you can see exactly what Annie looked like as a little girl, full of fun and giggles! 

Maggie's Culture Crawl at The Whitworth by Lucy Burscough

I have had my first taste of some of the fantastic fund-raising activities that keep Maggie's Centre Manchester up and running when I was asked by The Whitworth to be involved in the Maggie's Culture Crawl 2017. The event was a 10km walk from the Maggie's Centre to Manchester town centre, stopping along the way at some of the city's top cultural attractions. A really fun night with giving back to Maggie's at its heart.

The walkers arrived at The Whitworth after a send off at Maggie's which included a choir, brass band and motor-bike cavalcade followed by stops at the Gallery of Costume and nibbles in Rusholme. Earlier in the evening The Whitworth celebrated the opening of an exhibition of artworks by the Raqs Media Collective entitled 'Twilight Language'.  The culture crawlers were given printing plates to emboss with drawings inspired by the exhibition in preparation for block-printing. Delivering hands-on arts for health activities for the 270 walkers who eventually signed up for the culture crawl was a little daunting but some military-style planning and the help of Maggie's staff and volunteers helped the workshop to be a great, if crowded, success!

Painting Bern by Lucy Burscough

Facing Out was inspired by meeting Bern Corri whilst I was painting in the atrium at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital during the CurARTive project. Bern had just lost his eye to a facial cancer and was about to embark on an extensive programme of reconstructive surgery. We hit it off (which is hard not to do with Bern-he's a love and funny as you like) and struck up a friendship which has led to his being the first portraiture subject of Facing Out.

Bern is a one man 'raising awareness' media outlet and through his honest, open and often hilarious Facebook posts, I was able to follow the progress of his facial reconstruction. The process was obviously arduous and distressing but Bern's humour never seemed to fail him and I hoped to try and reflect that in his portrait. Visitors at Maggie's who saw the work develop often commented on the 'twinkle in his eye' and that Bern was clearly 'a character', so I think that some of Bern's personality must have been captured! 

Bern is a poet and I really enjoy reading his work, particularly those poems that address some of the challenges that are faced by people who find themselves unable to work because of illness. It was great to be able to share some of Bern's poetry by incorporating it into his painting, especially when fellow cancer patients who have seen the painting have been moved by recognising a shared experience. 

Residency at Maggie's Centre Manchester by Lucy Burscough

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Facing Out has begun with a residency at Maggie's Centre Manchester. Maggie's Manchester is a beautiful place with a beautiful ethos. With a very light touch it provides practical, emotional and social support to people who have cancer and their family and friends. Run by welcoming and knowledgeable staff together with a group of friendly volunteers, Maggie's becomes a home from home for those people who are spending time at the neighbouring specialist cancer hospital, The Christie. 

Maggie's was designed by (Sir Norman) Foster and Partners and it's award winning architecture offers visitors a calming, therapeutic environment which allows conversations to happen naturally and friendships to be formed within its communal spaces over a good cup of tea. The kettle is always on.  Maggie's recognises the vital place that conversation holds in boosting well-being and promoting resilience when people are faced with illness, an understanding that is mirrored in the delivery of Facing Out, where painting is performance and conversation is key. 

Painting at Maggie's Manchester and spending time with centre visitors, its volunteers and staff is a pleasure and a privilege. If you would like to find out more about Maggie's or make a donation to help with their fantastic work, please visit 

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