Lyrical film showcases patients at Scots hospice

Asher: singing is therapeutic. Picture: Contributed
Asher: singing is therapeutic. Picture: Contributed
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A POIGNANT documentary exploring the lives of patients in a Scottish hospice will be screened across the nation in an effort to change attitudes towards end-of-life care.

Edinburgh-based filmmaker Amy Hardie spent three years working with patients at Strathcarron Hospice, in Stirlingshire, on the film Seven Songs For A Long Life, which will host its world premiere in Stirling on Friday.

Six patients share glimpses of themselves through their love of music, and the lyrical film aims to show how all stories have a different ending.

Among the patients featured are Julie Reid, who was diagnosed with cancer at 23, and retired midwife Alicia Phillips.

Hardie, head of research at the Scottish Documentary Institute, said: “The songs that came from the patients at Strathcarron were so full of passion, dreams, anger, regret, acceptance.”

After making music videos to share with relatives, Hardie realised that she could use singing to tease out stories from the patients.

She said: “So many people say they want to die at home, but studies show 80 per cent of us are not doing that.

“Doctors can do so much and when someone is in hospital you always think is there anything more they can do to help? Maybe we need to be having conversations about what we really do want.

“I’m hoping this documentary is supportive enough, unexpected enough and realistic enough that it might make people think about what they want for themselves at the end.”

Dorene Asher, 57, of Stirling, was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer called myeloma in 2010, which caused her such acute pain that she was referred to Strathcarron for full-time care. After months of intensive care Asher was discharged, but she continued to attend day care once a week, where she first met Hardie.

The mother-of-two had previously been an amateur operatics fanatic but she put aside her singing after her diagnosis.

Asher said: “Amy was talking to us about what it is that brings people together and I thought it has to be music.

“Whether it’s classical music or rock music, it can remind you of a place or a person when you are listening to your favourite music.

“Singing can be very therapeutic, I think. It was a way of talking about things.”

Asher, who is still undergoing chemotherapy, chose to perform Fields Of Gold by Sting during the film.

She said: “I think we wanted to show people that when you get a cancer diagnosis, you think it is the end of the world but it is not. It is just the beginning of a different journey.”

The film has been praised by palliative care experts, who aim to hold screenings UK-wide. Barbara Munroe, chairwoman of the Palliative Care Leadership Collaborative, said: “This sensitive and thoughtful film conveys powerfully through its interwoven personal stories that we do not have to go through the journey to death alone.”