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November 2021

Welcome to our newsletter

‘Weather the Storm’ Opera Stream

On the evening of Friday 29th October – World Stroke Day – we hosted an online streaming of our opera ‘Weather the Storm’. The film was followed by a Q&A hosted by Lucinda Jarrett. Our ambassador Fiona was also interviewed that day on BBC Radio Berkshire, by Michelle Babs Jordan and Paul Jenner.

This opera, which was originally performed in July 2021, was a collaboration between Rosetta Life and Garsington Opera Learning and Participation Team, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Royal Berkshire NHS Trust. It was composed by Orlando Gough, with stage direction by Karen Gillingham. The libretto was written by Lucinda Jarrett and Chris Rawlence, and devised from workshops held on neuro rehabilitation wards and with stroke communities in London, Bristol, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. It also featured a cast of our Reading Ambassadors.

Congratulations to all involved – it has been wonderful to see the opera be shared with a wider audience in an inclusive and accessible way, and the feedback has been fantastic.

The opera will be online and available to watch soon – check out our next newsletter for the link!

Poems for Anthology

Reading ambassador Martyn Cooper (the ukulele player above!) is looking to put together an anthology of poetry from participants in the Brain Odysseys projects, in collaboration with Rosetta Life.

This means that we are on the look-out for contributions! So if you have written any poetry or artwork that you would like to be published in this anthology, please send it over to

We can’t wait to see all the creativity from all ambassadors come together in one publication!

The ambassadors are working with healthcare practitioners to extend their programme of arts volunteering through the stroke care pathway.

This programme of work is being led by researcher Dr Caroline Ellis-Hill as part of SHAPER.

Brain Odysseys is one of three interventions, all of which have been proven to improve patient health,
that will be trialed among larger groups of people within NHS hospitals as part of SHAPER, the world’s
largest study into the impact of arts on mental health. SHAPER – Scaling-up Health-Arts Programmes:
Implementation and Effectiveness Research – has been launched by King’s College London and UCL. The
study also encompasses arts interventions Melodies for Mums and Dance for Parkinson’s. More information about the study can be found here –

Wycombe Sessions
We are running taster sessions throughout Buckinghamshire. If you know of anyone in High Wycombe or the surrounding area who may be interested in joining these sessions, please pop us an email at

We are really looking forward to launching our new performance company in the new year!


On 4th November, Brainwaves Donegal began their very special 12-session project with the Rosetta Life family, with nine friendly, open minded and slightly nervous stroke survivors all gathered together over zoom.

They embraced the voice, movement and story gathering exercises and overcame the challenges of rural broadband, and are excited to be able to gather together in this new way to see what they might explore and create together.

The artistic work is being led by Sarah Murphy from Wall2Wall Music and Jessica Peoples from Zona Dance. The project is also supported in Donegal by Kevin Murphy of the Playhouse, who recently wrote the ‘Stroke Odysseys – Recovering Hope’ handbook alongside Lucinda Jarrett and Chris Rawlence back in 2020.

We are extremely delighted to have experienced Stroke Ambassadors Haide, Max, and Jennifer joining us for the first three online zoom sessions, to join in exercises and group conversations which helps to give both confidence to the Irish participants and permission to be themselves.

This is a ‘blended’ project with three sessions on zoom and two live sessions before Christmas, which then continues in January and February with a mix of live and Zoom sessions. This project is part of the exciting research that is looking into the benefits of building a community and engagement using a blended approach.

Your space to share art work and poetry.

Send your work to Jennie for the next newsletter at

Sing Your Story (My stroke odyssey!)

Come and sing you story

Come and be a friend… or

A stick to lean on,

A twist or a bend,

Say your truth,

Move your way.

Perform with us, have your day.

Take your journey

Mark a mark.

In theatre, hall or windy park.

Sing opera, write poems, draw or paint

Show others your new self…

However quaint.

Fiona, Reading


Our ‘Spirals’ project has culminated in the final screening of the film to friends and family, which took place on Wednesday 20th October.

Congratulations to all involved in this hybrid online/in-person project – a lot of hard work went into making this film such a success!


SHAPER, the research programme that explores how we might upscale Brain Odysseys, is well underway.

We recently had composer Jules Maxwell in one of the sessions, alongside vocalist Melanie Pappenheim and movement artist Louise Klarnett.

We have been taking inspiration from an exhibition by American abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler, and using themes of spontaneity and ‘no rules’. Some of our ambassadors went along to see the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery with Lucinda Jarrett.

These sessions lead to a performance and short tour, that culminates at Dulwich Picture Gallery on 7th February 2022.

Lil Sullivan, an award-winning artist and one of our London Ambassadors, is currently hosting an art exhibition named ‘Stations’. This pop-up gallery is being held at Unit 3 Fairfax House, Overton Road, Brixton, London and is open at 1-4pm Mondays to Fridays. Entry is free, but donations of £5 are welcome.

Ambassador Focus

Each month, we feature an ambassador in the newsletter to talk about their experiences and what Brain Odysseys means to them.

This month, we have Chris Fothergill, from Reading.

“I had my stroke during lockdown and during a heat wave. On 21st July, 2020, I was munching my breakfast toast when I had an awful headache accompanied by a strange kaleidoscope effect and a loss of movement and speech. Thankfully my wife was in the room and dialled 111, not wanting to bother the over-stretched 999 operatives! My condition was understood immediately and an ambulance arrived in minutes. Within half an hour I was in the RBH being given the vital clot busting drug and being whisked off to the Acute Stroke Unit.

After two days the nausea I was suffering from subsided and, if I really pushed myself, I was able to sit up. The physiotherapists and occupational therapists then began to step in and I learnt how to move with a frame, how to wash (on my first attempt at shaving I put my razor in my mouth – not recommended), how to problem solve, and how to make a cup of coffee. After two weeks I was considered healthy enough to be sent home and to continue my recovery there.

My stroke has taken away my fine motor skills in my right hand and has had a huge impact on my balance and movement. When I retired from classroom teaching I retrained as a Learning Specialist dealing with anything with a “dys”, but primarily dyslexia. Work had been good with a range of uptake from young children to mature adults. Much of my work was in the Fleet and Yately areas but I also worked at Reading University and at a local school. With Covid the majority became mothballed but the local school continued because of its high number of vulnerable children. With the stroke this also came to an abrupt halt. I now find handwriting impossible, my mental responses are slower, and corridors filled with rampaging teenagers a certain no-go zone.

Since the mid-70s I have coached rowing and on retirement joined Reading Rowing Club, helping out with their Junior Squad. This, too, came to a shuddering halt. Climbing over metal railings to get into coaching launches was now a distant dream and there isn’t a demand for coaches with walking frames on the tow path.

Legally you are allowed to drive one month after a stroke but I consider this to be lunacy and feel that the stroke will be blamed for any accident, regardless of the circumstances. Accordingly I put myself down with the nearest Regional Driving Assessment Centre not appreciating quite how long I would have to wait because of the various lockdowns.

Eventually I was seen and passed at the same time as the Tilehurst Stroke group began Zoom meetings and I learnt about Rosetta Life and Stroke Odyssey. Here was a group focusing on abilities, rather than disabilities, and offering social contact, laughter and a great deal of fun. A year after my stroke I was croaking and grunting in the chorus line of an opera and had made many, many new friends. No crystal ball could have seen that!”

The Bristol ambassadors are creating a dance performance about grief – a tribute to those we have lost in the pandemic. The performance will take place in March 2022. Their work is being highlighted at a dance conference in Bristol on Friday 12th November.

SHAPER Sessions

St John’s Church Waterloo, London

2pm, Tuesdays

SHAPER Performance

Dulwich Picture Gallery

7th February 2022