Lockdown art pebbles given a ‘forever home’ at Richardson hospital
HUNDREDS of painted river stones that captured the mood of people in Barnard Castle during the Covid-19 lockdown have gone on permanent display at the town’s Richardson Hospital.
What began as small project by art teacher Theresa Keeling to commemorate VE Day turned into a long trail of stones, lovingly painted by children and their families, that stretched down The Bank and across the Green Bridge to Startforth.
Themes on the stones range from simple artworks of animals and cartoon characters, to tributes to the NHS and messages of hope and encouragement.
An appeal by Ms Keeling to find a home for the stones at the end of the project was answered by volunteers from the Friends of Richardson Hospital group.
Irene Baker, who volunteers to tend to the garden in the courtyard at the hospital, took on the task of putting the permanent display together, along with her husband Raymond.
More than 400 stones now make up features throughout the garden, to be enjoyed by patients, staff and visitors alike.
Mrs Baker said: “We took them [the stones] home and varnished them all and brought them down as we did the gardening.”
It took the couple about two weeks to place all of the stones.
Chairwoman of the Friends group Pauline Harrison said: “They are absolutely fantastic. They will be here forever, as long as the hospital is here.”
Mrs Baker noted that many of the children who had painted the stones had put their names on the back and she hoped they would come back in later years to visit the display and see their own handiwork.
The volunteers shaped some of the displays into rainbows in the garden to reflect the emblem that was adopted by the NHS during the height of the pandemic
Sadly, people will only be able to visit the hospital to see the stones once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
Ms Keeling said she was overwhelmed by people’s response to the project which resulted in more than 900 stones making up the trail.
These have been divided into two groups, with about half related to the NHS being given to Friends of Richardson Hospital and the remainder going to The Witham arts centre.
She added: “I have saved about a dozen which I am hoping to put in my doorstep as a reminder.
“It is history – I am even happy to donate a few to The Bowes Museum. It will be a real shame if we lost them.”
Ms Keeling, a teacher, said the project was a shining example of things that can be done for health and mental wellbeing during a time of crisis and it had helped foster a sense of community in the town.
She said: “We as a town need to celebrate that because a lot of people went above and beyond.”