I Wish

A permanent installation of 25 images made during the 2017 residency at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich is now in place.

Victoria Rance I Wish installation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich
Victoria Rance I Wish installation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich
Victoria Rance I Wish installation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich
Victoria Rance I Wish installation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich

The I Wish residency at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich

"I am an artist based at APT Studios in Deptford. Since 2013 I have been making small hand holdable sculptures for people after a conversation in which they tell me a wish in confidence. Obviously I am not a magician and I cannot make the wish come true, but there is a value to people in expressing a wish however impossible, and then having an especially made object which they can hold and keep to remind them of it. In 2016 Saskia Delman, the Arts Manager for Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust visited APT Studios to look at some art work for the hospitals and she heard about the project. She immediately saw its potential for the children's wards and successfully applied for a grant from Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust Charitable Funds.

Over the last two months I have been making regular visits to the Safari and Tiger wards at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. I have had wonderful support from the Health Play Specialist Carol Sullivan Wallace who again understood the value and embraced the project wholeheartedly, and who carefully selected the wishers for the day. During this time I have made 20 objects in various materials after hearing wishes from parents, children and staff. A week ago we held an I wish party where wishers came to collect their objects and I photographed them with them as a record and for an exhibition which will follow. The wishes are always in confidence, so when they receive their object only they understand its meaning, and can share and communicate that to others if they want.

The ages of children involved ranged from a few months old to sixteen years old. I also included parents and staff. For parents the conversation was a welcome distraction from the stress and anxiety of dealing with medical problems, and it gave them a chance to reflect about the bigger picture, what really mattered, and a chance to think positively. For the younger children, depending on how well they were at that moment, the conversation was often playful and funny. We discussed their favourite animals, real or imagined and desired pets featured strongly. However ill they were, they managed to retain an image of themselves as able to be strong and energetic in the future and thinking about animals helped visualise this. 

The first child I saw asked if she was allowed to wish that she could get better. "Of course!" I said, and that conversation helped me frame all the future conversations, as how can we help wishing for a positive and healthy future for ourselves and our loved ones (or patients)? There has to be a space given for that deep wish and that is what the objects are there to remind us of. I also gave wishers a little bag to decorate and to keep their wishes in, in the style of Native American "medicine bags" and there were some beautiful ones at the I Wish party, with parents saying it had been a therapeutic exercise. 

One very important wish was made by a group of staff from Tiger Ward. They didn't want to make a bag as the wish will be openly displayed to remind them of a hopeful future. They also wanted their wish to be shared. On the ward is a special bell, a bit like those on a ship, and when a child has finished their treatment it is rung and all come along to celebrate. The staff have had too many times over the last 14 months when the bell could not be rung for a child, and their wish was that every child on the ward gets to have the bell rung for them. This is the object I made for Tiger Ward."

Victoria Rance April 2017

See all images here: http://iwishdeptfordx.blogspot.co.uk/
A film from 2014 about the project I Wish 2014 - the film 

History of the project
Since 2013 I have offered participants the chance to communicate a wish to me and in response I make a talisman or charm to help give them the good luck to achieve it. The experience is about fantasy, articulating what you want and giving it a visual or tangible form. It is reminiscent of the Bolivian annual fair Alasitas where everything is made in miniature and you buy what you want for the coming year, but in a tiny form. It is also about having a small reminder of hope when things are difficult. 

I am available to hear wishes by appointment in my studio at APT 6 Creekside Deptford London UK. People visit me in my studio and through a private and confidential conversation tell me a wish. I then gave them a card with the number of their wish. During the following week or two I make them a very specific object small enough to hold in the hand. This is collected by appointment at APT. When collected, and with their permission, I will take a photograph of the person involved holding their object in their hands, but keeping the wisher anonymous and the wish secret.  

In 2017 I was resident at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich, working with children, their parents and staff. Previously I worked collaboratively on I Wish with other groups in the community. With the support of Deptford X in 2015 I worked with The Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, with the support of Art Reach I worked with Montbelle Primary School in Eltham, and with the support of the PTA with Deptford (Invicta).

all images copyright Victoria Rance