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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