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P-8 How dance and memory making has enhanced family wellbeing and hospice care
  1. Mary Newbegin and
  2. Niki Gilding
  1. Martin House Children’s Hospice, Wetherby, UK


Funding from a charitable art foundation was secured to enable children’s hospice users to access the arts.

Since 2013, 11 families participated in a joint annual project with a dance company. To date 12 children with life shortening conditions; 22 well siblings; and 22 parents or significant adults have taken part. Three of these families had already had a family bereavement.

The project’s aims were twofold; for the families to experience dance and to capture this through photography. These shared family moments were encapsulated on a website and a photographic exhibition. The hospice care team collaborated with the dance company’s learning team to create a bespoke plan for the families’ needs.

The project’s format included six project days incorporating live shows, dance and photography workshops.

Families experienced dance without the concerns of access or finance. The parents and children loved the rare and mutual experience of trying something new together, with no one left out. As some families were already bereaved the project created a positive time for their ‘new’ family unit. The project was valued so highly by the participants that even when a child had surgery or became ill the families continued with their engagement.

An unexpected outcome from the project was the enhanced relationship that developed between the care team and the families. It created a deeper understanding of the needs not just of the poorly child but also of the siblings, parents and even grandparents. These strengthened bonds proved invaluable, especially where previously only the poorly child had stayed at the hospice.

The joy of being involved in live dance as a whole family unit, coupled with the creation of special memories through photography enabled the participants to nurture new friendships and cement their own family bonds whilst enhancing hospice care.

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