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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 22:55 GMT 23:55 UK
'I can't remember creating my art'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Health Reporter

William Fairbank
William says art helped him recover

When William Fairbank sees the beautifully carved sculptures in Lincoln Cathedral he is rightly proud because they are his work.

But despite them representing seven years of his life William, who suffered a brain injury in a serious car accident, has no memory of making them.

"I go into the cathedral and you look at these sculptures which are amazing and I know I have made them. But then the moment I leave I forget them."

He has no short-term memory, and suffered extensive injuries, but says that art proved his salvation.

'Occupational therapy'

William had always been busy. He was a cabinet maker and boat builder with his own business and found the long periods of inactivity after his accident extremely frustrating.

"I had to do something, I had to work and I started work on the Forest Stations (based on the Stations of the Cross). I just made one at a time.

The head injury has given me amazing insight into how to see things. To have the idea and to be able to express it in sculpture is an enormous relief
William Fairbank

"It was occupational therapy. It was terribly interesting.

"You have got to finish it or you can't live with yourself."

He says art has allowed his brain to digest ideas and free up his mind for more.

"I could not do my job because I had no short-term memory. I use art to release me of an idea.

"That is why it is important - if somebody is terribly angry they can get that down in paint and then they are not angry any more.

"The phone would ring and I would go to answer it and forget what I was supposed to be doing. I could not remember to go and visit people.

Art's benefits

But he said: "The head injury has given me amazing insight into how to see things. To have the idea and to be able to express it in sculpture is an enormous relief.

He says organisations like the National Network for the Arts in Health (NNAH) is vital in allowing people like himself to explore their health through their art.

"There is nothing else like it," he says.

"When you are in hospital, there is somebody who does occupational therapy with you, but when you come out of the other end, the NHS has nothing for you.

"But this head injury is for life."

One of a series of works
Forest Station Number 6

Dr Rosalia Staricoff, who specialises in art and its effect on recovery, said her research showed there were positive benefits.

"Art in every form could be a therapeutic factor in a self-care basis," she said.

She recalled an experiment studying patients going in for day surgery for a gynaecological procedure. One group were exposed to art and music the other group had nothing. The results had been very marked, she said.

"There was significance effect on the blood pressure and heart rate and in the consumption of oxygen," she said.

"Art is also beneficial in mental health as it induces well being and triggers memory, diminishes aggression and has a beneficial affect on behaviour."

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