Mural created during pandemic by learners living with and beyond cancer to go on public display

A mural recording the responses and experiences of those living with and beyond cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic is to be exhibited in West Lancashire.

The ‘Capturing a Moment in Time’ mural has been produced through a bespoke Lancashire Adult Learning arts-based health and wellbeing project with Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service users from West Lancashire. Some health professionals who have been supporting the service users during the pandemic have also taken part in the project.

Sunflowers, a symbol of hope and new life, and handprints, to symbolise identity, connectivity and togetherness, are key aspects of the mural, which has had a profoundly positive impact on health and wellbeing.

Learners – some of whom have been shielding – have managed isolation and developed new friendships during the project, while improving their digital skills at the same time. Others have seen improved self-esteem and resilience, and have praised its therapeutic qualities.

The project began in September last year and service users first built up the confidence to independently work on the mural by learning art techniques with LAL. These included zentangle (scribble drawing) and pointillism (repetitive dotting), renowned for the calming effect they have on the mind and their ability to lower blood pressure.

An image of the finished mural will be printed on to material for an external exhibition in Ormskirk town centre. The mural will also be exhibited virtually at the Heritage England and Arts Council-funded Once Upon A Town in Ormskirk online gallery and museum in this Spring, and physically at the Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk in the Summer.

Maggi Bradley was one of the learners on the project. Maggi, 54, said: “I’m really excited that the mural will be exhibited. I lost both of my parents to cancer last year and the project has helped me enormously with my mental health and my resilience.

“Before the project, I didn’t have an arty bone in my body and I thought art was not for me. I have totally changed my mind. I don’t think the others in the group realise what an immeasurably positive impact they’ve had on me with the camaraderie, the laughter, and the learning of new skills together.”

Paul Green, 68, another learner, said: “I will be very proud to see our work published for everyone to see in West Lancashire and beyond. I have never really been keen on art, but after attending the courses and seeing the development of the project, it became much more interesting.

“The project has led me to do a bit of creative writing and I have since written about seven poems in the last two months. It’s opened my mind to be a bit more creative in my old age.”

Helen Draper, Health and Wellbeing tutor at Lancashire Adult Learning, said: “We have been working with Macmillan in West Lancashire for around 18 months and I’m delighted that we have been able to be flexible during the pandemic to deliver health and wellbeing sessions for their service users at a time like no other in living memory.

“The project has brought West Lancashire communities together during repeated lockdowns. Those people, with the added pressure and anxieties caused by cancer treatment, have been able to chat and laugh with one another and escape the realities of everyday life.

“The project has also realised a sense of achievement. Art novices are going to have their finished mural professionally exhibited at a gallery, and it will bring the communities of West Lancashire together once again with the virtual and physical exhibitions.”

Caroline Flynn, Macmillan Information and Support Service Manager, said: “We really value our partnership with LAL, and this latest project has been wonderful. Our service users have been encouraged to remain positive at a time when nobody in a generation had experienced what the nation was going through. It has also given them something to focus on and strive for as they progress through their courses of treatment.”

Jodie Taylor, Macmillan Information and Support Service Assistant, said: “Those attending the sessions have not only improved their health and wellbeing, they have also developed new art skills, and these techniques can be used to support their health and wellbeing again in the future. We’re incredibly proud that the mural is going to be exhibited and our service users are very excited to see the finished article.”

Adult learners in the Red Rose County are being encouraged to ‘take control’ and make a positive start to 2021 through a new offer of courses designed with the current climate in mind.

The new courses are largely free, flexible and available online, and include courses to boost health and wellbeing, options to retrain, classes to improve digital skills, and family learning opportunities.

Further information on the new range of courses for adults can be found on Lancashire Adult Learning’s website at www.lal.ac.uk, or by calling 0333 003 1717.

The Macmillan Information and Support Service in West Lancashire is hosted by Virgin Care, on behalf of NHS West Lancashire CCG.

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