Poetry, Prose and Film in Palliative Care Rotating Header Image

Presentation of Poetry as Unifying Shared Experience (PaUSE) at LAPCEL Conference

Dr Rossella M. Riccobono was invited to present the project Poetry as Unifying Shared Experience (PaUSE) at

The LAPCEL (Learning Alliance for Palliative and End of Life Care Services)

‘Spreading the Message of Palliative Care Within Ethnic Minority Group’

3rd September 2019


Gravesend Borough Council, Civic Centre

Dr Riccobono presented PaUSE interventions as potential medical and therapeutic tools in palliative care communities, thanks to poetry’s ability, when read aloud in small groups, to elicit human connections, resonance with people personal experience, and exchange of storytelling.

The paper was well placed within the context of a day-conference which was presenting the research behind the ideation of pictograms for community strengthening in palliative care communities, and spreading the message for public awareness.

The presentation of PaUSE at the conference was able to draw interest in a new collaboration with LAPCEL, and several new members added themselves to the FB group: Poetry as Unifying Shared Experience (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1614295322033729/)



Association for Medical Humanities (AMH) Conference 2019

Date: Wednesday 26th June- Friday 28th June

Location: University of Plymouth

Theme: Material Medicine: Objects and Bodies

Reflection by: Fiona Gilmour


The theme of the conference was medical objects, their role in medicine, how they have evolved over time, their influence on patient experience and the ethics of medical objects. The project ‘Poetry, Prose and Film in Pallative Care’ was very well received at this conference and the papers Rossella Riccobono and Fiona Gilmour took to their panel session attracted several questions and offers of collaboration with other project which deal with end of life care. Overall attending the conference was a success and brought the project further forward in its development.

Below are the abstracts that were submitted by Rossella Riccobono and Fiona Gilmour for the conference.


Fiona Gilmour – (University of St. Andrews / Four Seasons Health Care)

Finding a voice through literature in palliative care

Keywords: Poetry; Palliative care; Finding a voice


Background: Embedded in Cicely Saunders’ Philosophy of Palliative Care is an open awareness of death, whereby patients and families are encouraged to engage with the emotional impact of life limiting illness. And for Saunders, health care practitioners in palliative care were seen to having a key role in supporting this to happen. This continues to be as essential part of holistic palliative care to enable patients and family members to find a voice to express their experiences.

Aim: To explore the use of poetry therapy for people in palliative and end of life care and its role in supporting patients, families and health care professionals to find a voice.

Methods: A narrative review evaluated evidence from 19 studies pertinent to this practice.

Results: Within the literature, 4 key themes emerged: 1) The impact of poetry on the wellbeing of people in palliative care, 2) The impact that poetry may have on the wellbeing of health care professionals, 3) The value of poetry for family members to prepare and cope with bereavement, and 4) The value of poetry for health care professionals who are supporting people to die with dignity.

Conclusions: The use of poetry in palliative care may enhance person centred practices and enable people in the end stages of life to connect with others and voice their feelings and experiences.


Rossella M. Riccobono – (University of St Andrews)

Poems as Therapeutic Tools in Palliative Care

Keywords: Poetry; Shared reading; Palliative care; Community; Wellbeing; Poems;

Therapeutic tools; Storytelling; Third space; Dying in dignity


Despite Cicely Saunders’ active work within the ‘hospice movement’ to render the journey to death as a stage of ‘life’, and the hospice institution as a place of life where being part of a community would be regarded as the most effective preparation for ‘death’ in a holistic sense, the hospice institution has resisted for many decades as modelled on the medical institution.

This paper aims to propose the use poetry shared reading and discussion, through its potential ability to facilitate pause, mutual listening and storytelling as a powerful therapeutic instrument for the strengthening of community and enhancement of wellbeing for people in Palliative Care.

Poetry shared reading in small groups creates community and discussion and it helps turning the ‘reading room’ within the hospice into a space of encounter and exchange where people are able to negotiate between their identities / personal stories and the medical protocols to alleviate pain and prepare to die in dignity. Poems are herein proposed as ‘objects’ that intrinsically contain human life and stories and that can add a holistic dimension within the hospice medical environment because they are able to phenomenologically transmit that humanity to the medical dimension of palliative care.

Within the reading room, perceived as a space of encounter, patients, family members and healthcare professionals are present as human beings with their feelings and personal experiences, free to listen, discuss, and relate more deeply with each other whilst exchanging their stories.

In this sense, poems become truthful instruments of healthcare as they acquire the ability to support patients, family members and health care professionals allowing the transition from life to death to become holistic for all members involved in the process.


For further information about the 2019 AMH conference in Plymouth please follow these links:






A Reflective Review of the Masterclass ‘Reading poetry and short prose aloud for discussion and enhanced wellbeing’

Author of the Review: Ms Fiona Gilmour

Facilitator of the Event: Ms Fiona Gilmour

Hosted By: On the Rocks, St. Andrews University

Location: Byre Theatre, St. Andrews

Event Date: 10thApril 2019

Aim: To read and discuss poetry pause, mutual listening and storytelling for improved wellbeing

Participants: 8 in total



Introduction to the session

The group facilitator initiated the session by welcoming participants, and introducing the project Poetry as Unifying Shared Experience (PaUSE) and the aims for session. The facilitator then invited participants to select evoke word and picture cards (http://evokecards.com/) from the workspace table that portrayed their feelings in that moment in order to measure wellbeing at baseline. The group took turns to share their chosen cards and the rationale for their selections. This activity facilitated participant interactions, and enabled the facilitator to understand their motivations for attending the session. It emerged that some people felt speculative or hesitant about engaging in the sessions. Others felt intrigued and were keen to learn more about what the session would involve. Interestingly, some participants disclosed personal experiences and narratives, perhaps enabled by the respectful and supportive space created by the group.


Poetry reading and discussion

The facilitator presented three poems to the group and invited the group to choose the poem that would be the focus of the poetry reading and discussion section of the workshop. The group selected ‘Strawberries’ by Edwin Morgan (1968).

Firstly, the session facilitator read aloud the poem, followed spontaneously by another member of the group. Remarks by participants during discussion time included that they felt moved by the readings, and commented on the influence of the differing accents, paces and tones used by the readers on their experience of hearing and making sense of the poem. Three further readings and discussion opportunities enabled the group to explore the poem in detail and consider themes that resonated with them. Participants generously offered personal accounts and engaged in personal storytelling, supporting and promoting dialogue and engagement, creating a sense of community and shared understanding.

The group decided to end the poetry and reading section of the workshop by collectively reading the poem, further reflecting the connections and community cultivated by the workshop.



The facilitator invited participants to consider the themes and narratives identified during the discussions, and essential oils and fabrics were made available to facilitate a creative and sensorial approach to reflection. The participants conversed and wrote during this time, and later regrouped to share their thoughts, feelings, memories, diary lines and poems; and their openness was received with respect and understanding.



The session concluded with participants having another opportunity to select evoke cards and shared their final thoughts relating to the session and their own wellbeing. Participants also kindly submitted written feedback to the facilitators in the form of answers to a questionnaire, which will be useful in developing the workshops and project. The use of the evoke cards at the end of the masterclass and of a questionnaire was useful to measure wellbeing and capture any impact.

Masterclass: ‘Reading (poetry and short prose) aloud for discussion and enhanced wellbeing’

On The Rocks Festival

Join Dr. Riccobono and Fiona Gilmour in collaboration with OTR for a poetry masterclass. This events aims to use poetry reading and discussion, through its potential ability to facilitate pause, mutual listening and storytelling, to strengthen wellbeing. This event is supported by the St Andrews Poetry Forum.

The interactive masterclass will offer the chance to work with some experiential and kinaesthetic learning  and some practice at note taking / poetry writing during the On The Rocks Festival in St Andrews, on 10th April 2019. This is part of the public engagement for ‘Poetry as Unifying Shared Experience’ part of the larger research project ‘Poetry, Prose and Film in Palliative Care’.

The Byre Theatre, Studio, 10 April 2019, 4pm


Follow this link: https://www.ontherocksfestival.com/copy-of-dance?fbclid=IwAR3F26p-n1M3DhUqJpSLPzqu6-yZBEhLH1A6UBz4eVYHaTDJy-ROnpUSdeY

A Reflection on the Networking Day Event

A Reflection on the Networking Day Event.

Poetry and Film in Palliative Care: Reflections on Holistic Approaches to End of Life Care

by Fiona Gilmour


Event Date: 17thOctober 2018, 10am-5pm

Hosted By: St. Andrews University

Location: Byre Theatre, St. Andrews

Organiser:  Rossella M Riccobono

Funders: The Italian Culture Institute in Edinburgh & The Russell Trust Development Fund


Keynote Speakers:

Rossella M. Riccobono (University of St Andrews)

Erna Haralsdottir (St. Columba’s Hospice and Queen Margaret University)

Fiona Gilmour (Four Seasons Health Care & University of St Andrews)

Suzie Stark (Chaplain at St. Columba’s Hospice)

Sarah Collins (University of Manchester & ‘Remarkable Lines’)

John Killick (Poet)

Giancarlo Sissa (Poet, Actor, Educator)

Margherita Carlotti (University of St Andrews)

Susan Chater (St. Columba’s Hospice)

Mary Gilles (GP)

Amy Hardie (Film Director)


The themes of the networking day were poetry and film as instruments to inspire holistic approaches to palliative care. Speakers and specialist considered and debated holistic practices to support people approaching end of life. This included healthcare professionals, people working in palliative care, poets, arts therapists, academics, a film director and an acting company. Presentations covered a range of topics, contributing evidence and experiences from practice.

Themes from the day included:

  1. Exploring the needs of people in palliative and end of life care (patients, professionals, family members etc.)
  2. ‘Being with’ and listening as enablers of therapeutic relationships.
  3. Creative and holistic approaches can facilitate expression and capture narrative (e.g. film, drama, poetry)

The day commenced with a welcome by Sean Allan, professor of German and Head of Modern Languages at The University of St. Andrews.  This opening eloquently captured the essence of the day. Rossella Riccobono offered further context to the day and her passion for medical humanities reinforced the significance of the event. She also read a short introductory text and a poem by poet Myra Schneider, who was unable to attend the event. Followed were the keynote speakers, separated by breaks and time for workshopping and discussion.

As the day developed, creativity and discussion flowed. The networking event united people from diverse backgrounds and professions who were curious to learn and explore holistic approaches to palliative care and to consider what they could offer to the practice. Reflecting on the needs of patients, families and healthcare professional in palliative care enabled the network to consider how holistic practices could support these needs. The group dedicated discussions to understanding approaches to listening and ‘being with’ people approaching end of life.

Throughout the event, there were a number of poignant moments, interestingly permitting the network to practice ‘being with’. In testimony to the warmness of the day, a member of the network voluntarily shared their experience of living with cancer and facing death; An Italian poet shared with network a poem spoken in Italian; and, a drama company performance demonstrated that acting could prepare people to engage with experiences of health care and ill health.  In the evening, film director Amy Hardie invited the network and public to a viewing of her powerful documentary ‘Seven Songs for a Long Life’, which explores connections with mortality.

Event organisers and speakers created a workbook for the day. The workbook included the programme for the day, information about the speakers and exercises that the speakers had prepared. The exercises aimed to encourage discussions and debates relating to the presentations within workshopping time. The organisers invited participants to note responses and feedback within the workbooks. During discussion participants commented on the value of the workbooks as a resource to capture thoughts from the day. Remarks also included that the event challenged participants to consider the power of words and their therapeutic worth.  It seemed that people had taken time to ponder their responses to the exercises and embraced the challenges posed.

For future events, we will encourage attendees to share content on social media. An organised twitter hashtag could capture feedback and support dissemination.

The opening image of the ‘word butterfly’ embodies some thoughts and expressions from the day.

Networking Day, 17 October 2018

Reflections on Holistic Approaches to End of Life Care

University of St Andrews, Byre Theatre, Lawrence Levy Studio

17th October 2018, 10am-5pm


The event will host a number of select invited speakers and specialists in palliative care and art therapy, an acting company who work with medical humanities, a film director, a poet and educator, postgraduate students working on poetry and the sick body, and a selection of academics to debate the validity of the project ‘Poetry and Film in Palliative Care’.

The day will open with a presentation by the Investigators, a report on the Literature Review conducted by a research assistant, to outline the genesis of the project, its academic insights and therapeutic effects.

The afternoon will be dedicated to hearing and debating various experiences by artists, educators, and a film director. The day will be accompanied by plenty of group workshopping, pop-up acting and reflection on poetry and film as therapy.

The event will also be completed by a Byre World event, in the same venue, where Amy Hardie’s documentary ‘Seven Songs for a Long Life’ will be projected to the public of St Andrews town, in order to ensure that the project is open to public engagement. The Film Projection will be preceded by a short performance, and followed by a 15-minute inspiring workshop with the audience and a Q+A with the film director, Amy Hardie.

Note: The day event 10am-5pm is open by invitation only and is strictly for the members of  the Network.

The evening event is open to the public.

Programme: http://poetryfilmcare.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/events/programme/


This event is sponsored by

The Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh & The Russell Trust Development Fund