Bill and NHS Lothian staff

23 June, 2023

Artist Bill Drummond loans artwork to the Western General Hospital

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Staff, patients and visitors at the Western General Hospital welcomed conceptual artist, Bill Drummond, on Tuesday 13 June to officially commence the loan of his ‘The Boy Friends’ Painting’ for the next year. As part of the event, guests also heard the artist speak about the inspiration for and background to the work.

Bill created The Boy Friends’ Painting to support local Portobello poet and author, Michael Pedersen’s memoir, Boy Friends

Bill created The Boy Friends’ Painting to support local Portobello poet and author, Michael Pedersen’s memoir, Boy Friends, about losing a friend before their time. In 2018, Michael lost his cherished friend, Scott Hutchison, to suicide. Scott was the genius singer song writer of Frightened Rabbit, whose back catalogue has influenced music makers for years and touched the lives of music lovers all over the world.

Michael asked Bill to do a painting for the launch of the book and he created a large 190 x 130cm canvas with the text “The Boy Friends’ Painting”. He has invited others to paint some of the painting and then, on the back of the canvas, add the name of the person they have lost too soon. By doing so, they become immortalised as part of Bill Drummond’s art for evermore.

Dr Catherine Quinn, Consultant, Medicine of the Elderly and POPS at the Western General, became aware of the painting while attending the Boy Friends book launch in The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. She said:

When Bill invited people to offer to take the painting for a year to use it wherever they thought it may improve the wellbeing of others, a few other hospital consultants and I thought this would be such an amazing piece to have at the Western General. Bill was really keen on the idea of it being displayed where patients, staff and visitors could view it and hopefully gain some benefit from interacting with it, so has gifted it to us for a year.

“We are delighted that he made a special visit to Edinburgh this week to explain the background to the painting and invite others to be part of this journey celebrating the lives of the friends we loved and lost. During its time with us, the canvas is likely to change significantly, but that’s part of the aim.”

The team at the Western General is working with NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts team to support the display and sharing of the work. Susan Grant, Tonic Arts Manager, said:

This is such a generous gesture by artist Bill Drummond. Loans and events like this really help to reinforce how important art and creativity are in healthcare settings. Art can help take you out of yourself, sometimes providing relief and distraction from what is happening to you; sometimes providing a therapeutic process. What may seem like the simple act of contributing the name of a loved one to a piece of art can help honour a memory and can help in some small way towards healing. That’s the beauty of art, it can support so many people in such a variety of ways.”

Bill Drummond said;

I’m very pleased, it sounds pretentious, but I’m honoured to have the painting at the Western General with the NHS being under so much pressure.”

Bill Drummond has had a prodigious and eclectic art career that, since 1976, has taken on a multitude of forms including writing and performing music (he’s a founding member of the KLF), managing bands (Echo and the Bunnymen), running record labels, forming art foundations, writing, publishing, lecturing, and painting. He has supported countless other artists in their creative journeys.

Michael Pederson wrote the very moving Boy Friends book as a means of confronting the bewildering process of grief. What starts as a love letter to his best friend, becomes a celebration of friendship and an exploration of the gap that is left when someone you love leaves this world before their time.

The painting will be displayed in the Anne Ferguson café area of the Western General Hospital.

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