CCI’S Taking Note project took place over the course of three years with one of our largest local, and perhaps least celebrated, communities - the patients, staff and carers who are part of Cambridge University Hospitals.
Around 40,000 people visit or work on the site - which includes Addenbrooke's Hospital - on any given day.
Beginning in 2016, and inspired by CCI director Ruth Sapsed’s own relationship with the hospital, the project invited some of those who make up the Addenbrooke’s community - patients, staff, researchers, visitors, and volunteers - to take note of a moment of happiness in their lives, however fleeting or seemingly insubstantial. The resulting collection of more than 100 stories was as varied as the participants themselves, and were shared by means of pop-up displays and exhibitions both in the hospital’s public spaces and elsewhere, and on social media, providing a rare glimpse of moments that gave people moments of joy and comfort in the course of their daily lives.
In 2017, four poets were commissioned to spend time at the hospital and respond to the spaces there and the themes of the project. Jo Shapcott (winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal, 2011, and the Costa Book Award, 2010) and Cambridge based poets Kaddy Benyon, Eve Lacey and Rebecca Watts took time across the autumn to engage with patients, visitors and staff. The resulting book of poems, Taking Note - Poetry in Moments, was published and on National Poetry Day 2019, two of the poems were unveiled as a permanent part of the Art Trail in the hospital.
Taking Note was supported by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, Awards for All and the Cambridgeshire Community Fund.
Swimming was one of the first things I did when I came home on weekend leave from Stoke Mandeville. I had to be there to learn how to cope without the use of my legs. It made me feel things were still possible. I had said straight after the accident that I wasn’t going to give up these things, though it was totally different swimming without any legs.
Rosie, former nurse and patient
I was here for 3 and half months as a patient after I got knocked off my bike. I had to lie flat on my back as I’d broken it. After a month and 28 days I could sit in a wheelchair and my family took me out to the Jubilee Gardens. They had found out about it, I had no idea. It was such a peaceful space. I would see little flowers and growth. It made me very happy. It still makes me happy. Telling you this has reminded me to tell people about the garden more when I’m volunteering here.
I wish I were well and strong, so that I could give these poems the concentrated attention that they are serious enough to deserve. But I suppose the whole point about being unwell is that one is not in one's best form as a critic. Nevertheless I can tell that these poems are serious, and they've certainly got a serious subject. The subject is life, and how it might be lost; and how it might be saved. There is brave and tender hope here; but, even deeper down, the thrill of being human.
Clive James (1939-2019), writer, critic, poet and longtime Cambridge resident.
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.
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
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.