Taking Note

Sharing moments of happiness across the Addenbrooke's community

I walked past your exhibition every day. It made me smile. I liked the simple things - the personal moments - like the picture of the hug and the mother watching her daughter go off to school. It's just so human. You feel you are in their personal moments. Keep doing it. It's really special.

Diane (Specialist Nurse)

Hospitals are busy and sometimes overwhelming places. The Addenbrooke’s Hospital site is like a small town in itself, with over 40,000 people moving around the spaces everyday.  CCI’s project Taking Note began exploring how stories might connect individuals across this community in 2016 – the patients, staff, researchers, visitors, volunteers and many others who spend time there every day. These stories are all about happiness, however fleeting or seemingly insubstantial. They are about the individual moments that are recorded if we find a way to stop and take notice. 

Being part of Taking Note has made me realise it is good to share one's experiences. I've received so many positive comments from people who have seen the exhibition.  It was lovely to be able to share my story with you.  I hope people can understand that being in hospital doesn't have to be a negative experience.  I was thrilled to see my story as part of the exhibition and so was my husband. The project should continue.  I think it will encourage patients to be more positive .  Taking Note helps people to think outside the box. 


You can read some of the stories collected to date and shared via the project Facebook page since we began here:



The initial phase in 2016 involved artists Susanne Jasilek and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and illustrator Josie BirchPatsy Rathbone created the cloth of pockets specially for the project. For 2017 the project is developing links with poets and poetry. Account of the project as it has developed to date are in the diary posts below.

The project is ongoing and people are invited to take part by:

  • Joining the day of events on National Poetry Day, Thursday 28th September - details here.
  • Finding the project facebook page and contributing to the conversation
  • Emailing a note to info@cambridgecandi.org.uk or writing to Addenbrooke’s Arts, PO Box 146, Cambridge University Hospitals, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QQ

Cambridge News wrote about the project here and Cambridge TV featured it in their news programe on Thursday 12 May. 

Taking Note was inspired by the recent personal experiences of Ruth Sapsed (CCI’s Director):

I’ve had a close relationship with the hospital since 2011 when I had to have emergency neurosurgery. It had to be repeated in April 2015 and I wanted to find a way to distract and comfort both myself but also family and friends as I approached the planned date. As a documenter of many of CCI’s projects, I’m used to listening out for the unexpected and surprising observations people make and it was fascinating to turn this process on myself.

I invited a group of us to create a 'Wall of Happiness' on Facebook where we shared any small positive moments we noticed in our day. People loved it. They offered all sorts - stories of delicious tastes, smells, a tree they passed as they walked to work, an old alarm clock that sits on their desk and keeps good time. One friend has since created an award winning film about happiness inspired by one of the posts. Doing this together was really joyous.

It is a huge pleasure to reimagine the Wall of Happiness as a project for the Addenbrooke’s community.

This image comes from my first stay at Addenbrooke's in 2012. I had returned to my bed to discover it freshly made by one of the staff and with my daughter’s bear (bought in by her comfort me) settled in and enjoying the computer. It made me smile and the other ladies on the ward too, but also, I like to think, whoever set it up. 






Like all arts activities at Cambridge University Hospitals, this project is not funded by the NHS but is designed to support and enhance the care and experience of patients, visitors and staff to the hospital.

Taking Note logos

We were swirling


A group of young carers from the County visited the hospital as part of our Animating Addenbrooke’s project. They shared some brilliant moments from their visit.

Going downstairs to the archive where no one else gets to go was great. We put on the old nurses uniforms and we were swirling….it made us think of 'Call the midwife'. It’s something you can’t do every day.
Lucy (12) and Chloe (16)

Lucy and Chloe swirling

Lucy and Chloe swirling

Lucy and Chloe swirling

I’d noticed the old fashioned photo in the museum and the beard. I’d finished doing a charcoal drawing and I was ripping up the paper – browns and grey and green – to try to make the beard. It was good to be able to do something creative and what I want for once – not having to do what other people need. I started it off after we came back from lunch and kept going for two and half hours. I really like art. At times I’ve spent 6/7 hours drawing and not noticed the time.
Alice (21)

I really liked seeing everybody here and eating lunch with them. Some of us go to school together but I’ve met new people too. When I was down in the archives I saw a prosthetic arm and other bits. It looked fun and I tried to make my own and then I went into the corridor and got reactions from people. I was wearing a prosthetic arm and leg. People were a bit confused and said 'what’s going on'.
JP (12)

Meeting the Active Board


Paris looking at the swirly thingActive are the children and young people’s board for the Hospital. They are an extraordinary group of young people, hugely committed to helping the staff make experiences as positive as possible for all children or young people.

They shared some of their Taking Note moments.

I went out at 6am in the morning and got back at 9 - me and my brothers on our bikes. We saw the sunrise on the hills and fields near where I live. It makes you feel different in the morning. I felt more awake like I’d been in the shower.
Matthew (13), Active Board Representative

I used to really like coming to see this swirly thing when I used to come in for my operations. It was really big and not like anything I saw in my real life.
Paris (16), Active Board Representative

Eesha also asked if she might use some of the stories in her role as a visitor to her local care home. She told us afterwards how positive the experience had been:

I go as a volunteer to the care home at the top of my road. Lots of the ladies I talk to have dementia. When I started I was way too shy - I think a lot of conversations were about the weather! Now I know them better. Sometimes I read short stories or we play bingo or other games. I really liked hearing about Taking Note when you came to meet the ACTIVE board and I wanted to try reading them out to the ladies. I had such positive feedback. It kind of sparked conversations. They started talking about their lives. Sometimes the short stories go on too long but these were short and snappy so I think stuck with them more. I especially remember the one about the lady in the Jubilee Garden. We talked a lot about that one. One lady told us about how much she had loved playing outside with her siblings. I think it gave them something they could relate to.
Eesha (16), ACTIVE Board representative

Matthew (13), Active Board Representative on his bike

Making connections


Joao and Oliver in front of the Taking Note exhibitionStories from the project were exhibited in a second exhibition in the Hospital from September to November 2016 with many also featuring in our Festival of Ideas exhibition in the city.

We met Joao, a nurse, when we visited the wards for the elderly and his story featured in the second exhibition. It was about his baby Oliver and here he is showing Oliver the exhibition itself.

We have also heard from visitors about how the exhibitions have helped them, offering them different ways to go and be alongside people they are visiting.

I don’t like hospital environments, and after an episode at A&E in early Feb this year, I briefly passed out, probably due to heat and stress. My sister, a GP, suggested that I simply needed to become more familiar with the environment – something I didn’t intend doing anytime soon. However the opportunity came in May, when a friend Bob went to Addenbrooke’s for a major operation. He was likely to be in for some weeks, and I decided to try to visit him every other day, if possible.

On one of the early visits when I’d walk to the ward with a little trepidation, I spotted the Taking Note exhibition on the arts space in a main corridor. Each time I passed, I read a different story - about a smile, a hug, the scent of summer, a laugh with a stranger and so on. What struck me powerfully is the choice we all have to reframe our experience, however difficult, and notice the positives. I tried to do this on my visits, giving less attention to the bewildering equipment, catheters and intravenous ghastliness, and instead focused on the signs of deep and loving care in a frontier where several people were balanced between life and death.

Bob’s condition was very complex. Not only his health, but his whole wellbeing is fragile, and we have regularly talked about the Taking Note initiative. Each visit, we would both try to notice something tangibly positive – the feeling of warm sunshine on the skin, an overheard anecdote that makes us laugh; a lilting Irish accent reminding him of travels, and so on.

The Taking Note exhibition was intriguing but not intrusive, just there for us to be drawn in by curiosity or not. No pressure – simple but powerful stories that made us think; and left us with a choice about what we dwell on. It has been humbling how Bob, whose health has slowly deteriorated further, has somehow taken heart in small blessings. I guess it’s easy to do this walking by a babbling stream, but less so if you’re dying on ward L4.

That’s why we need exhibitions like these.
Alasdair, visitor

Taking Note exhibition

A day in the sun


Our final pop up event took place again at the back of the Hospital concourse. People stopped by to chat and enjoy a moment in the sun. Many left notes on the bunting or the windows.

I’ve been working here 25 years and never been allowed to write on the windows before.
Rachelle, staff

That’s our favourite part of the day - our strolls. Because we’re stuck in side. I do love being with my friends.

It makes me happy just reading these.
Safaa and Lin, staff

Woman writing on glass

Ruth Sapsed having a conversation

Man writing on a flag

Popping in


I am 100 years old. I feel blessed. My life has been long and on the whole very interesting. I’ve had the opportunity to experience many parts of the world, some wonderful music and people.

Weekends are much quieter so we took the opportunity for our second pop up event to take the Taking Note trolley to meet patients and staff less likely to encounter us out in the concourse area.

Four of us - Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Susanne Jasilek (the artists working on Taking Note) and Damian Hebron (from Addenbrooke’s Arts) and myself – spent the day in the Lewin Stroke and Rehabilitation Unit and wards G6/C6/F4 in the Department of Medicine for the Elderly. It was an extraordinary day full of many beautiful moments. Some tears and sadness too but overall the sense of people wanting to talk, to share their memories, to think about their lives and work and to contribute to our project. A series of these stories was posted on the facebook page.

Here are just a few:

I didn't marry as I knew I always had to be in charge! I trained as a teacher but my first teaching job was before this, when I was 19. I looked much younger than my years and the school thought I was a pupil (there were pupils there of 17). I walked into the classroom in 1948 and I was introduced - 'Children this is your new teacher' and then I was left to get on with it. A class of about 30 between 4 and 17 years of age. I asked other staff what they did and they said scripture and reading books so I thought I could do that. I loved it and the chlldren and the parents.

I have 3 great nieces, 5 great great nieces and 7 great great nephews. They are my greatest joy. I don’t think I could be any happier.

I lived in Stratford on Avon. I was a dancer and we used to meet the dancers who were visiting the town. We used to drink in a pub called the Black Swan – which we all called the Dirty Duck. They all had stories, I remember drinking with Rudolf Nureyev. He was very temperamental but he could tell funny stories. We told some naughty stories! He used to like Bison Vodka which only comes from Poland and the USA.


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