A project responding to people in waiting situations

Bisakha Sarker’s performance at Blythe House Day Hospice

Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak,  20 March 2007 

Carol Taylor Bruce attended the the Marks of Time Conference at Liverpool inJanuary 2007. She invited Bisakha to Blythe House to perform in front of a small audience of day visitors and staff on the afternoon of Tuesday 20 March 2007 where she was welcomed by Day-care Sister, Margaret Walker, and Carol Taylor Bruce.

Those who attend day-care at the hospice are receiving treatment for cancer or other long-term conditions.  They regard their day at Blythe as time away from hospital environment, where they can rest, be stimulated by different forms of arts activity, such as stained glass work, painting, silk-screen printing, planting seedlings, and other things, and to replenish their spiritual forces in order to cope with their present circumstances.

Bisakha’s performance in the beautiful chapel at the far end of the main activities room, was bathed in brilliant spring light.  After her introduction when she explained a little of her early years in Calcutta, there was some participatory activity with her audience, before she worked her spell in words, music and movement. Her stories from the Indian narrative tradition, including poems by Randrabath Tagore were accompanied by music and dance movement

One particular poem told the story of The Two Pots, one new and strong, the other old and leaking.  Each day a wise woman went to the river and filled the two pots with water before walking home.  On arrival at her house, the new pot was still full, but the old pot had shed water along the route;  This happened every day for years.  Why, one might ask would the old pot be of any use.  The answer was that along the route it gently watered the dry soil and allowed young seedlings to grow and flourish.  The metaphor of young and old, each with their gifts became plain, and the audience was entranced.

Magically, the background to the chapel was of modern stained glass windows, depicting a river beside green banks.  The audience was transported in imagination to the Indian sub-continent, to large rivers, being a country’s life force, and its dry banks, and the struggle of the woman became theirs too.  The message was conveyed that all pots, old and new have their uses, and all people make their own contribution to life. Bisakha has spent many years in England and has a strong  wish to share her culture with others and tell some of its universal messages which can bring people together.

The message was conveyed with grace and beauty.  Bisakha’s performance captivated and enthralled the audience, her expressive hand and arm movements spoke in a language of shared experience and hope.

This form of expressive dance with audience participation was a welcome initiative at Blythe House and staff and visitors recognised its powers to calm and encourage and uplift those they are helping.  Its contribution to health and healing is now well-recognised. Flowers and gifts were exchanged, tea was shared, and grateful thanks expressed.

Carol Taylor Bruce

["Two Pots" was first performed at the Marks of Time Conference in January 2007.]

Photos by Simon Richardson

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