Victorian Garden Reflective Space Opens at the Downshire Hospital

7th July 2023

“Our staff are deeply committed to the provision of safe and compassionate care. They have faced immeasurable challenges in recent years, not least of which was the COVID pandemic. It is essential that we care for our staff in order that they can continue to care for all our loved ones. Creating spaces for reflection & calm is a wonderful way to improve the well-being of staff and using a variety of mediums, like art, helps the trust reflect the diversity of our teams.”

The thoughts of the Director of Mental Health in the South Eastern Trust, Rachel Gibbs as the new Victorian Garden Reflective Space opened at the Downshire Hospital in Downpatrick on Friday 7 July 2023.

The Trust’s Mental Health Services partnered with Arts Care Belfast in January 2023 to create a piece of reflective artwork to be enjoyed by visitors to the Victorian Garden in the Downshire Estate. This artwork has now been installed in the gardens for everyone to admire and enjoy.

Staff and service users across the Trust area were given the opportunity to participate in creating unique designs featuring insects, butterflies and abstract images that were transferred onto aluminium panelling to be installed within the garden as part of a lasting legacy symbolising the Hope, Love and Challenges faced within the Health Service over the past few years. The response to this request was overwhelming, with numerous people turning up to show their encouragement and support by participating in the pre-arranged art sessions.

The Victorian Garden Reflective Space is situated in a tranquil, peaceful setting to allow visitors to relax and reflect while taking in the beauty of the space.

Garden Manager, Clare McCawley has been tending to the gardens in Downshire Hospital for the last 27 years and has been involved in a number of extraordinary garden projects to enhance the health and wellbeing for staff, patients and the local community. She has been integral to the creation of this new space and is very proud of the completed project, she commented, “My involvement in this project has been a very positive experience, it has brought so many diverse groups together to add their personal contribution and support the ongoing development of the Victorian Garden.

“I was very pleased to be asked to be involved in the installation of this special artwork that will be part of the legacy of the Trust for years to come. The original Victorian Garden project was started over 25 years ago by the former Chief Executive, Dr Patton, so it is amazing to witness this wonderful development so many years later. I really hope that this will encourage many more visitors to the gardens, so they can appreciate its stunning beauty.”

Arts Care Project Artist, Selina Coyle added, “This project was instigated by the Mental Health staff within the Downshire Hospital to recognise the enormous impact of Covid-19, with the goal to produce a positive reflective piece of artwork. Workshops were facilitated with multiple groups of staff and service users throughout the Trust, the workshops were filled with laughter and chat and provided a welcome break from hectic work schedules.

“Participants were given the opportunity to experiment with several art techniques that had an emphasis on printmaking to create individual artworks that would be collated and used to create the final piece. Additional work explored nature as a theme and the final installation is a wonderful vibrant reflective piece of art that  incorporates many creative techniques including printmaking, cyanotype, block printing and collage. The final artwork will establish the gardens as a destination for a peaceful and reflective break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life”.