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That Very Breath - David Matthews


Beverley's story

Making it Happen

Rosetta Life Artist Gill Thomas

Art therapist turned Rosetta Life artist Gill collaborated with Beverley on That Very Breath.

photo of Gill Thomas with Beverley Ashill It was stepping from me being a therapist into to me being an artist. I was working with someone differently. We didn't know how it would work out. I was crossing boundaries. I felt a great weight of responsibility.

We devised a way of working with words, cutting them out from sheets of paper and playing with them on the table. Something happened fairly quickly and my nerves subsided a bit. Then, as we went on, I felt nervy again. How would a piece of music come from this?

It felt very natural to be stepping out of the therapist's role and becoming the artist and it was important that Beverley understood this. We talked through what it might feel like. But I couldn't entirely take the therapist away. I always had an eye on her wellbeing.

Usually when I work with someone I'm very aware of their inner state, and the people I see are often very down, depressed, frightened, and worried. Creativity changes that. It enables a person to connect to that well side of themselves where they are in control and empowered. You can step out that sense of who you are in your unwellness into a powerful sense of being alive. You connect with the well part of yourself, in the moment. The energy is different. You feel as if you're giving birth to something. There's a sense of wellness in everybody, that core of who they were before the illness.

photo of Gill Thomas with Beverley Ashill There were a lot of ups and downs with Beverley. One of my roles was to give her the confidence to say what she wanted to say. Sometimes she would be very dismissive of what she'd said, and I'd point out its significance. But I didn't feel that confident working with words myself. I was stepping into edgy challenging territory. It was bursting with possibility but also anxiety. Would anything happen? We've got all these words and we don't know how it's going to work. Then David came in.

There's a moment in the text where the mood suddenly shifts. I was worried about that. I thought it was too sudden, but David delighted in it - musically. As a musician, Beverley had already seen this but I hadn't quite embraced it. It was fascinating watching David reading the piece. He was seeing it musically. You could see him composing it.

It's been a very emotional experience for me and I've felt heavy with it at times. The day Ruth and David first performed it here I crumbled. This has only happened to me twice in my career as a therapist. I went straight from hearing the music to some support work with some young children on the in-patient ward here. Crumbled inside. I've learnt hugely from my involvement with this piece. It's moved me, it's shifted me.

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