Olivia Colman involved in Salisbury Hospital Covid poetry project

Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman has been involved in a Salisbury Hospital poetry project.

The hospital has published a new collection of poetry about the Covid pandemic, and Olivia Colman has been recorded reading two of the newly commissioned poems for YouTube.

The actress is patron of The Stars Appeal, the official NHS charity for Salisbury District Hospital.

The Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust collection of poems – ‘My Name is Mercy’ – is inspired by some of the hospital staff’s experiences during the pandemic.

Olivia Colman reads the poems ‘Fifth Season’, which 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.

Fifth Season: https://youtu.be/ppZDwIeOtd8

Night Shift: https://youtu.be/GY3eee7ugzI

The Ridge Line: https://youtu.be/gRioZiLC_Dw

In March, the Trust commissioned the poet Martin Figura to interview staff from across the Trust, exploring how it felt to be on the frontline of the pandemic.

Salisbury Journal: Martin Figura. Picture: Harley Shearstone

Poet Martin Figura. Picture: Harley Shearstone

This became the ‘My Name is Mercy’ collection, which is also the title of a poem based on one of the series of reports that BBC’s Mark Urban produced for Newsnight.

On the cover of the book is nurse Priyanka Sharma, who appeared in the BBC Newsnight programme, photographed by a former Salisbury Hospital staff member, Monaya Abel.

The 30 poems went on to become part of the Trust’s Reflections on the Pandemic project, which included sharing the poems on social media, staff events and a music and poetry night at Brown Street.

The Reflections project was made possible with funding from the League of Friends and The Stars Appeal.

Martin Figura also led workshops where staff and groups, including 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.

‘Quite haunting’

Stacey Hunter, CEO of Salisbury NHS Foundation 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 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 said: “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 collection can be purchased from Salisbury Cathedral Shop, in the hospital at the League of Friends shop at the Main Entrance, or online: fairacrepress.co.uk/shop/by-martin-figura

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