Art class gives patients at St Asaph hospice renewed sense of purpose

A hospice patient with an incurable lung disease will be showcasing his artistic talents at an exhibition.

Bernard Lake, who lives in Prestatyn, is a member of the art group at St Kentigern Hospice, St Asaph, whose work will be on display at The Pilgrimage Art Exhibition at St Asaph Cathedral on Friday November 15 at 2.30pm.

The art sessions are conducted by Rachel Roberts, the Visual Arts Facilitator at St Kentigern Hospice.

The eight-bed in patient hospice with day care facilities provides unparalleled care for those with life-threatening and terminal illness, but has to rely on 80 per cent of its income from the generous donations of the public.

Bernard, 70, has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which causes severe difficulties in breathing, due to the narrowing of their airways.

Symptoms include increasing breathlessness when active, a persistent cough, and frequent chest infections.

The grandfather-of-three, who worked as the general manager of a lighting firm, said: “It’s brought on by smoking. When you smoke for all these years your lungs start to clog up. Eventually the lungs will collapse. Every few weeks I get chest infections, which is very tough because you can’t breathe virtually.

“I’m on antibiotics constantly, and steroids, and it doesn’t get rid of it. It’s always there, and it’s only going to get worse. Three months ago I could walk 50 feet. I can only walk 25 feet now.”

According to Bernard, the art group at St Kentigern Hospice has given him a renewed purpose.

He said: “At the beginning I thought it’s not for me, because I’m not an arty person. But when I got into it I really started to enjoy it.

“What I’m working on is going to be at St Asaph Cathedral in The Pilgrimage Art Exhibition.

“I’m looking forward to going with my wife and showing her my work. It’s an achievement I’m proud of.

“Being at the art class gives you something to aim for. It’s fantastic. I can’t praise it enough.”

The atmosphere at the art class at St Kentigern Hospice is far from sedate. The likes of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis can be heard rocking in the background as patients work on their masterpieces.

According to fellow group member, Alan Cockburn, 75, from Holywell, who has the same condition as Bernard, the art class at St Kentigern hospice has had a positive impact on his life.

He said: “The art class makes a world of difference. It’s relaxed laid back. It takes you mind off things. You just switch off totally.”

Ex-welder Alan has even started painting at home.

He said: “I paint at night, so the art  classes at St Kentigern have started something. It got me back into it, and I discovered a rather large amount of paint brushes and paint at home.

“I’m more used to doing window sills and things like that but I’m getting used to this now. Rachel is teaching me things like how to mix colours. She’s brilliant.

“We don’t just do art here. We get talks on things like exercising, and diet.

“Everyone’s so nice and so helpful. It’s a pleasure to come.”

The atmosphere at the art class at St Kentigern Hospice is far from sedate. The likes of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis can be heard rocking in the background as patients work on their masterpieces.

Bernard added: “It’s nice to have a day out and I’m sure everyone else would say the same thing. You get out for the day, get out of the house, see people and have a laugh.

“The volunteers are fantastic. You come here and have a cup of tea and a biscuit. They just look after you. It’s like a five star hotel. It’s fantastic.”

Rachel Roberts, spoke movingly of the difference the arts class makes to the patients.

She said: “We do notice that when people do start coming here their morale might be quite low, and the next time you notice that they’re a bit more cheerful, and generally we notice morale climbs quite dramatically. They look forward to coming here. They absolutely love it.

“They talk about things that they’re experiencing, and talk about their art. They’re incredibly brave. They’re not dwelling. They talk about their treatment in a very matter of fact way, and they appreciate every single day.

“Sometimes I work with them one to one and sometimes in a group, and sometimes they like to discuss things with everybody, and other times they’ll just talk to me.

“If we’ve got the group in the room we tend to have collaborative work. For example there is a large painting which is based on the St Kentigern symbol. It’s very large, vibrant and full of joy.

“Then we also have the very large mosaic to be produced again based on the St Kentigern logo.

“The big work at the moment has been the work for the cathedral based on the theme of pilgrimage because it’s the year of the pilgrimage this year.

“The chaplain from the cathedral asked if we would consider producing a series of work to exhibit at the Cathedral.

“We’ve produced again is a series of large collaborative paintings that represent a journey. They’re separate canvases. They’re going to be joined together.

“A lot of thought goes into it. Everything has been planned out by the team. The patients have come up with inspirational ideas.”

For more information about the hospice and how to make a donation go to

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