A few months ago, after a chat in a Facebook group about the history of Fairfield Hall, a lady called Jane Soley, who used to work here, told me she had 20 copies of A Place in the Country, the infamous book about the Three Counties Asylum, which were discovered when her boss was clearing out offices before the building was vacated. 

Knowing that many residents in the Hall would love to have a copy we decided to sell them in order to raise money for a mental health unit she works for in Luton. Suffice to say, they were snapped up within hours, and £200 was raised. We decided to donate this in the form of Hobbycraft vouchers so they could purchase the materials they needed for therapeutic art sessions.

A couple of weeks ago I received a lovely card and photos of the items they bought. Sharon Hill is an occupational therapy assistant, working in an acute mental health setting. They work with diagnoses ranging from schizophrenia to anxiety. 

Therapy is very important in offering structure to their day, and art in particular is very popular, even with people who aren’t particularly creative. There are no expectations and it allows people to express themselves within the safety of a therapeutic environment. The therapy room where they hold their groups allows service users to come away from the main part of the ward where it can be noisy and sometimes volatile. 

They work to encourage therapy as meaningful occupation, grading activities according to need and promoting independence as much as possible. The unit only has a small budget of £50 a week to cover all groups, including baking, healthy living group, social groups and art and craft. Events like Halloween and Christmas obviously use up a lot of that.

As part of a quality improvement group, (aggression and violence collaborative), there is evidence to show that the therapy sessions significantly reduce violence and aggression on the wards.

Jill Haine