Touching The Rainbow

"A rainbow of emotions, a rainbow of perspectives, a rainbow of stories and a rainbow of people. Here are the brave and beautiful stories of twenty-three different peoples' experience of cancer." Michele Angelo Petrone

In this ground-breaking project, Michele Petrone gave a series of art workshops at St Peter and St James's hospice in Sussex for anyone affected by cancer to come and 'colour' their feelings. This resulted in an exhibition and publication called Touching the Rainbow .

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How they learned to Colour their Feelings, and Touch the Rainbow

By Madeleine Mayhew, a communications manager with the former East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority.

Beams of rainbow colour radiate from a circle of solid black over a green landscape.  This was one of the ways Wally Backshall coloured his feelings about his cancer - "A black hole and then coming through the light, a coming to terms with the illness," is how Wally explained his painting.  "It's surprising how talking about the illness and then putting thoughts into colour worked," he added.

Wally was one of more than 60 patients, relatives, friends, health professionals and volunteers who took up the invitation to work with professional artist and cancer patient Michele Angelo Petrone.

The free art workshops - entitled Colour Our Feelings - took place during the summer of 1998 at St Peter and St James Hospice, North Chailey, East Sussex.  They culminated in a two-week public exhibition of  over 200 paintings, prose, decorated stones, masks and a Tree of Life.

Colour our Feelings was a unique collaboration between Michele, the Health Promotion Department of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority, St Peter and St James Hospice and Lewes District Council.

Michele found the experience of being "artist in residence" at the Hospice, working with people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences of the illness, very rewarding.

"My aim," explained Michele " was to help people feel at ease and to guide them so they felt free to express whatever they wanted.  The Hospice was a safe environment, particularly for anyone having difficulties coming to terms with illness and mortality."

Following the workshops and exhibition, Michele invited eighteen of the participants to talk about their paintings in a series of recorded interviews.  The pictures and texts were put together and published in the book Touching the Rainbow.

Since that first collaboration, there have been numerous MAP workshops, involving hundreds of patients, carers and health professionals, all taking their inspiration from what happened at St Peter and St James Hospice.