Emma Woodhouse joined the St Christopher’s CARE team in May 2021 after four years working at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
We asked Emma to talk about her new role as Enrichment and Conference Coordinator, explain what that means, outline her ambition for making St Christopher’s CARE a thriving centre for the whole community and how she plans to help people overcome any nervousness about visiting a hospice.
You’re the Enrichment and Conference Coordinator, what does that involve?
Half of the job is coordinating formal conferences for health and social care professionals working alongside staff from the hospice and partner organisations. The other part of my job is encouragomg people who’s never visited us to come and engage with St Christopher’s.
St Christopher’s has developed a reputation over many years, for running a great programme of regular conferences in the old education centre. We’re looking to build on that using the fabulous new facilities at St Christopher’s CARE.
Can you tell us about any of the conferences you’re planning?
In November we’ll be running a conference known as Facing Death Creatively. Excitingly we’ve got the writer Michael Rosen as the keynote speaker and we’ll be exploring how, in the wake of Coronavirus when we’re collectively and individually facing the challenges of bereavement and loss, we can use the creative arts to explore these experiences. We’re also planning a conference about frailty in October 2021 and there are a number of others in the pipeline.
Are you planning in-person conferences or sticking with online?
The last year or so has shown people that they can ‘attend’ events without having to deal with the stresses and expense of travel, transport and childcare. That means we have to make sure our conferences are events people really want to come to. I’m excited about considering a blend of both approaches with opportunities to join digitally and physically, recognising the need to make them as interactive as possible.
What does the other half of your job involve?
It’s really a blank a canvas – but involves coordinating opportunities for more informal learning and, importantly, for the community to come here via a whole series of events. That could see us running workshops, talks, installations and exhibitions. The aim is to bring people into the hospice who might never have engaged with us before to come and explore death, dying and loss. We’d like people from all walks of life, including under-represented groups to come and find new perspectives and find that they think about the hospice in ways they never had before.
What experience do you bring to the job?
Previously, I organised community projects, school workshops and professional development courses at Shakespeare’s Globe, working with local community groups, schools and teachers. I think my proudest moment was organising a big community concert and an LGBTQ dance group took the time afterwards to tell me that this was the first time they had ever felt a part of the community. I was very proud of that.
What would make you proud looking back in four years’ time?
For St Christopher’s CARE to be open, thriving and welcoming people from all different sections of society. For it to be fun, interesting and accessible to all. For there to be things for people of all ages to read, to see, hear and do at St Christopher’s CARE and for us to be rushed off our feet and constantly learning from the stream of visitors.
How much did you know about hospice and is it what you’d imagined?
I really didn’t know much about hospices at all and was surprised to find that most of St Christopher’s work actually takes place out in the community. I also had no idea about the range services and activities, like arts, music and complementary therapies.
How will you attract people to come to St Christopher’s CARE?
I’m very excited to be managing a group of enthusiastic volunteers who’ve signed up to work specifically with St Christopher’s as ambassadors. They are really representative of the community, some with lived experience of death and dying and some who just want to volunteer. There’ll be able to help us understand some of the barriers that are preventing people coming to the hospice. There are ways in which we can make it a genuine community space, such as running things like yoga classes. That way we make it feel like it isn’t somewhere that is scary to cross the threshold.
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