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Written by Kate Pleydell, Arts Engagement Manager at Imperial Health Charity.

Over the past year, Imperial Health Charity has worked in collaboration with poet Keith Jarrett on a remote poet in residence project. As we went into lockdown in March 2020, our busy arts engagement programme came to a standstill. In response, we quickly brought many workshops to virtual platforms and started to commission new remote projects online, via the post and through activity books delivered to wards, all forming our new strand of work, Creative Links.

As we started to curate remote projects, it became clear to us that writing, whether through workshops or activity books, was an art form which could transcend lockdowns, helping us reach each other and work through our unprecedented situations. Consequently, we began the process of commissioning Keith as a poet in residence, with an aim to work with patients and staff across the Trust to explore and identify shared ideas and recurring themes during the pandemic.

Over the course of the past 12 months, Keith has worked with 195 members of our hospital community through Zoom workshops – from nursing teams to administrative staff to adolescent patients in the community. Sessions with Keith were offered via Trust communications to staff, inviting teams to host Keith during a scheduled team meeting. During these sessions, Keith would deliver a workshop helping staff to think creatively and collectively explore their experiences during the pandemic through written word. Here are some quotes from staff about the sessions:

‘It was helpful as an individual to have the chance to go through the creative session and the space to talk and think with my team, I think it was also helpful for the group as a whole to have the space to reflect on what has been a very stressful time, it felt supportive and important to be able to do that. I was grateful to be able to do it in a creatively engaging way.’

‘It reminded me how much we were carrying others’

‘Fabulous breath of fresh air – sensitive and affirming of suffering and joy in this pandemic’

Formed by these conversations with staff and patients, Keith has created an activity book ‘8 ways to write a poem during a pandemic’, in collaboration with design studio On The Mend. The book walks readers through 8 poetry activities, encouraging them to send in their final poem to be included in the project. We have printed 400 books to be delivered across the Trust, and a digital version is available if you email us. The collected poems will form part of an onsite display, giving patients and staff a dedicated space to reflect on the pandemic.

If you would like to get involved or to find out more about the project, please email

Imperial Health Charity helps our hospitals do more through grants, arts, volunteering and fundraising. Working in partnership with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, we fund major redevelopments, research and medical equipment at five London hospitals – Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and the Western Eye – as well as helping patients and their families at times of extreme financial difficulty. Supporting the arts in healthcare, we manage an Arts Council accredited hospital art collection and run an arts engagement programme for patients and NHS staff. We also manage volunteering across all five hospitals, adding value to the work of staff and helping to improve the hospital experience for patients. Fundraising through major appeals and community events enables us to continue our essential work.

Keith Jarrett is a writer, educator, and international poetry slam champion. He was selected for the International Literary Showcase as one of the 10 most outstanding LGBT writers in the UK. His work has included bilingual performances and installations, and his play, Safest Spot in Town, was aired on BBC Four. Having recently completed his PhD at Birkbeck University, Keith is currently finishing his first novel. His poetry collection, Selah, was published in 2017.

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