I chose to follow the patients’ stories strand as this relates most closely to the participant-led arts in health research which brought me to this Swansea conference. The diversity of voices and contexts were both complementary and enriching - expanding my perspectives around the significance of patients creating and co-constructing story within situations ranging from tense encounters in secure units to crafting narratives in GP consultations around the taking of medication. The cathartic impact of being witnessed authentically by both clinical and arts in health practitioners was highlighted in many presentations and for me, powerfully reinforced how patients’ wishes to contribute their stories to inform current practices within healthcare is a privileged duty we must honour despite ethical challenges in exchange for receiving these unique, un-homogenized and hard-won insights.
The range and excellence of creative practitioners seamlessly interwoven across the conference programme, exhibitions and events brought further facets of storytelling to light. The exquisite and poignant performance ‘Stolen’ by the Devil’s Violin fused spoken word, sublime music and gesture in a metaphorical alchemy I continue to unwrap. An equally impactful performance was ‘Chronic Pain; A Comedy’ by Karma Waltonen whose, by contrast, no-holds-barred, intensely embodied exposition of lived experience negotiating a multitude of chronic and acute conditions highlighted the harsh personal and socio-political realities of pharmaceutical dependence.
I relished the joy of spontaneous exchanges with delegates who also sought from this conference an opportunity to develop their world-view and individual practices. I am grateful to have left this exceptionally holistic event with carefully-honed treasures to share as a facilitator/researcher across arts and health communities and reference in medical education teaching programmes.
I have also gained an enhanced appreciation of the non-verbal aspects of story-telling which I intend to take further in my research and creative practices.