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We have our first map of Newham from Sairah – Yasmin Gunaratnam

We have our first map of Newham from SairahWe have our first map of Newham from Sairah! It’s a beautifully crafted map that not only conveys the places that are important to Sairah but also the different times in her life. At Forest Gate she writes ‘Priceless Memories of my later Grandma’. There is the caption ‘Story books, Revision and Time Out’  to mark the Town Hall and library; ‘Prayer + reflection = Peace’ is how Sairah captions her drawing of her local mosque.

At Central Park, we find ourselves some twenty years away at a momentous occasion ‘My first swing on a swing and ride down a slide – Weee!’. Newham College is a place bursting with text ‘No doubt college days were the best: Amazing teachers; Warren, Kate…, Day dreaming in the ‘Link’, Passing notes around the class on (wait for it…) STARBURST wrappers lol’

The map has lifted our spirits. And perfect timing. We are having the briefing for the research team this afternoon.

Hospice-tality: Cicely Saunders and ‘a community of the unalike’

Cicely Saunders, a professional chameleon if ever there was one – philosopher/nurse/social worker/doctor – is regarded as the founder of contemporary hospices. Cicely was posh. She went to the public school Roedean and then to Oxford, but she says that she felt miserable and out of place. It was this sense of being an outsider that drew her to work with dying people, several of them migrants, in London in the 1940s and 50s. It is perhaps not so surprising then that Cicely’s vision for the first modern hospice – St Christopher’s in South London – sounds so much like a description of our global multicultures ‘A working community of the unalike’.

Anyone who works with – or lives with – illness and dying knows that the subjects are likely to be conversation stoppers. ‘Isn’t it difficult/depressing/sad?’ ask the ones who haven’t changed the subject. Yes it can be. But as strange as it might seem, without ‘the nasty pain’ as one person described it, illness and dying can sometimes become a part of ordinary life. Not necessarily denied or resisted, just ordinary. There is vitality, surprises, boredom, computer games, reading and digital social networking at the end of life, just as there can be at other times. And although there are routines and regulations in hospices, hospice professionals seem especially sensate and resourceful; skilled in the technical demands of pain and symptom control, they also often double-up as bubble-bath virtuosos, hairdressers and ventriloquists.  

Hospice buildings are also very different from what people usually imagine. They are gaining quite a reputation for their aesthetic and care-full design The memorial garden at Richard House is one small, yet powerful, example. The garden provides a place for families and friends to remember their loved ones. Each pebble is unique. The shape, as much as the feel of a name carved into the stone’s surface, colours and leaves its sonorous trace on each one.  Hospice-tality:  Cicely Suanders and 'a community of the unalike'


The encounter between name and stone are themselves a part of a bigger, arresting circle of life moving beyond metaphor. In the novel Fugitive Pieces, the poet Ann Michaels writes,  

It’s no metaphor to feel the influence of the dead in the world, just as its no metaphor to hear the radio carbon chronometer, the Geiger counter amplifying the faint breathing of rock, fifty thousand years old (Like the faint thump from behind the womb wall)

 Cicely Saunders knew that her community of the unalike would need to change and evolve to meet new challenges and demands. She also knew something about the surprising reversals in giving and receiving. ‘When the hospice opened we could look around and say “Everything we have is a gift”’ she wrote. ‘Now we can say “And everyone who comes here is a gift”.’   


Every Minute of Every Day

Every minute of every day is a collaborative experiment in real-time ethnography between Goldsmiths’, University of London and Richard House Children’s Hospice (Newham)  and St Joseph’s Hospice (Hackney). The aim of our project is to capture something of the local areas and communities that are served by the hospices by using an array of methods – photos, sound recordings, film – and of course talking and listening to people.

We hope that our research will help the hospices to find out more about their local communities and vice versa. We also hope to learn more about real time and engaged social research.

Starting off

Richard House Sign posts Richard house 1st visit

Richard House Children’s Hospice In Newham was the first children’s hospice in London. The hospice accompanies families caring for children with life-limiting, life-threatening and complex healthcare needs.

Why did Richard’s House want to be a part of the real-time ethnography?

‘Richard House Children’s Hospice jumped at the chance to support Yasmin Gunaratnam, Les Back and the students at Goldsmith’s in their ethnographic work based in the heart of the community we serve – Newham. At Richard House we are currently engaged in a number of projects that we hope will give us greater insight into the communities we support and facilitating the immersive ethnography is also a way for us to learn more about Newham, its people and its special places. We are excited about the work and look forward to seeing the results.’

Rachel Power (Director of Human Resources)