To launch a new collection of poetry about Salisbury Hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oscar winning actress and patron of The Stars Appeal, Olivia Colman, has read two of the newly commissioned poems. The Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust collection of poems - My Name is Mercy - is inspired by some of the hospital staff’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olivia Colman reads the poem Fifth Season that is based on a patient's true story and Nightshift, which has recently been chosen by Poetry Archive Now as one of the poems of 2021. The poem Ridge Line, read by the poet Martin Figura, reflects on the very personal experiences of one staff member, Lizzie Swift, and her horse Drum.
You can view 'Fifth Season' here
You can view 'Night Shift' here
You can view 'The Ridge Line' here
The Trust commissioned award-winning poet Martin Figura in March of this year to interview staff from across the Trust, exploring how it felt to be at the frontline of the pandemic response. This has resulted in an emotional collection of poems, titled My Name is Mercy, also the title of a poem based on one of the series of reports about the hospital that BBC’s Mark Urban produced for the Newsnight programme.
The book’s cover is of Nurse Priyanka Sharma, who appeared in the BBC Newsnight programme, and was photographed by a former Salisbury Hospital staff member, Monaya Abel.
The life and work of staff in and out of the hospital form the subject matter of the poems, including experiencing Salisbury during lockdown and using horse riding to help cope with the stress and mental challenges of the pandemic, and the poet’s own experience undertaking this project.
The 30 poems formed the basis of the Trust’s 'Reflections on the Pandemic’ project, which included sharing the poems internally and on social media, as well as at staff events and at a special music and poetry night at Brown Street. Martin Figura also led workshops where staff and groups such as Wiltshire Creative’s ‘Mind the Gap’ group for seniors and drama students at Wiltshire College could explore writing about their own experiences of the pandemic in Salisbury.
Stacey Hunter, CEO of the Trust said: “We all truly have been through an experience like no other in the history of the NHS. The emotional and inspiring poems in ‘My Name is Mercy’ capture the psychological challenges that our staff faced in working through the pandemic and coping as best they could at work and in their personal lives. Martin Figura’s poems resonate with our staff and provide a testament to their resilience.”
David Stratton, Chair of of the League of Friends, who funded the project, said; “I am very impressed. Some poems are really moving, others insightful and others quite haunting. For those of us who have marvelled at the depth of care that the NHS has given to so many, this anthology gives a glimpse of what life and death is like behind the headlines. The Salisbury Hospital League of Friends has been really pleased and proud to be part of this important work.”
Martin Figura aid: "Thank you to everyone who made this project happen. I am especially grateful to those who gave me their time to be interviewed. The lasting impact of the pandemic on their lives was palpable and deeply affecting. I hope the poems go some way towards honouring the experiences and sacrifice of the staff, those they cared for and their loved ones."
The Reflections project was made possible with funding from the League of Friends and The Stars Appeal.
The collection is available to purchase from Salisbury Cathedral Shop and if you're already visiting the hospital, the collection is also on sale at the League of Friends shop at the Main Entrance. You can also order online at https://fairacrepress.co.uk/shop/by-martin-figura/.
14 December 2021
Our staff at Salisbury District Hospital have long been well regarded for the quality of care and treatment they provide for our patients and for their innovation, commitment and professionalism. This has been recognised in a wide range of achievements and it is reflected in our award of NHS Foundation Trust status. This is afforded to hospitals that provide the highest standards of care.