What my Dad finally learned at the end


Bik’s Dad Keith, was a volunteer for four years and brought in organic produce from his allotment!

So, as many of you will know, the last twelve months have been especially difficult for me, Jani, my Sister and all at The Art House, where my Dad, our oldest volunteer, who worked here once a week, was diagnosed about a year ago, with Pancreatic Cancer. Next week would have been his 84th birthday. At his first consultation, given his age, he was offered no treatment, but with his insistence, some influence from my Sister, Wendy (she is the head of the Human Genetics Unit for the Medical Research Council) and his obvious general good health, he was put on a fairly radical regime of chemotherapy. Although there was a vanishingly small chance of any long-term recovery, he was rewarded with one more summer on his beloved organic allotment and in his award-winning wildlife garden, that he almost certainly wouldn’t have had, otherwise. We miss his surplus organic produce on our menu.

He was a stubborn old bird, and refused the help of the local hospice until it was too late, feigning independence until, in the end, when he finally couldn’t get out of bed one morning, and with the help of two brilliant paramedics, we were finally able to get him into a side-room at St Richards in Chichester, where we stayed with him round-the-clock, in shifts for nine unnecessary days of distress as he slowly vanished. He finally asked for help. But it wasn’t the kind we were able to give him, though the team their were, eventually, able to make him ‘comfortable’. It was the last thing he said. My support for assisted dying is now firmly cemented.

We can’t thank the amazing nurses and doctors enough – there were two, in particular, that we shall be forever grateful to. We had a privileged vantage point, walking the corridors of the Emergency Floor day and night, of observing all the medical staff and just how hard they work (and how tired they looked.) That is why, today, The Art House is supporting the Junior Doctor’s strike just outside in The Guildhall Square with free teas and coffee.. it’s the very least we could do.

We have some other heroes to thank – our Patrons. While we supported my Dad, they supported us with a monthly donation to The Art House. Without this regular income, it is not over-dramatic to say, we would have had to fold the business and The Art House would be no more. In brief, we have *always* been short by about 7%, which we would normally have plugged with a funded project, but that takes time – time we didn’t have. It was nerve-wracking for us. So we did what my Dad finally learnt to do. Ask. 150 of you came forward to donate as much as as £50 each a month, and most have continued with their donations.

Of course, we could have cut corners to make up the 7%. We could have decided not to buy Fair Trade, organic, local produce. We could have decided not to keep pushing toward our staff having a proper living wage. We could have gone for easy-to-market cover bands at our gigs, instead of genre-changing artists digging deep for their art. We could have decided not to make just vegan and vegetarian food and start doing bacon butties, so that fewer people would walk away from our menu board outside without coming in. (Actually, we couldn’t have done this in practice, if we had wanted to, because we wrote it into our constitution that we would always be a vegan & vegetarian establishment.) We could have decided not to take volunteers with mental health conditions and learning disabilities under our wings, or pay to have all our recycling processed and send it to landfill instead or not buy planet-friendly cleaning products. We could have sought corporate sponsorship, like the Tate does from BP. But then, we just wouldn’t be the Art House, so we may as well have closed, anyway.

Things haven’t been easy, mind. We did only get 150 out of the 300 patrons we needed, but thanks to a large loan from my Sister, we just about made it. Just. So, if you want to continue helping us close the gap, whilst sticking to the principles that make us different from just about anywhere else, please consider making a monthly donation. Seriously, any amount is amazing. Most donations are £5 a month. As it costs about £1.25 a minute, roughly, to keep our doors open, you will be paying for a whole 4 minutes a month, or nearly 3/4 of a hour a year! We can do a lot in 45 minutes! YOUR 45 minutes!

So, if you want to keep us afloat and to keep growing and keep those artists paid and those bills covered, then please consider joining us as a Patron. You’ll find a link and more information here: https://thearthousesouthampton.org/patrons-needed/

We have decided that, although thanks aren’t necessary for most of them, that we would start inviting Patrons-only to some of our events. (Tonight we have a Patrons-only art exhibition opening, a great opportunity for those Patrons who live nearby, to come and say hello and meet some new people.)

If you can’t make a regular donation, but can give us something one-off, that also helps a lot – click here to do this!


About Bik

I am a founding director of a Community Interest Company called The Art House Southampton CIC in the UK. I am a community artist / promoter / facilitator / technologist / general tinkerer! I believe that through the arts, people can rediscover themselves (and thereby reclaim their power.)
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