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Radiotherapy & Me

Raising awareness of radiotherapy and research through creative storytelling

Overview

Radiotherapy & Me was developed to raise awareness of radiotherapy and research taking place in Greater Manchester. Researchers and patients felt that there was low public awareness about radiotherapy compared to other treatments for cancer. Also some patients reported that they hadn’t had enough information about the treatment and possible side effects, prior to having radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy is a precise, technical and highly individualised treatment, from the outset we decided to focus on people’s personal stories as a way to make the topic more accessible for people.

Our Approach

  • We worked primarily in Oldham to link with the Christie at Oldham and to prioritise an area where there is traditionally low participation in research.
  • We partnered with Oldham Libraries which have a strong interest in health and run a wide range of inclusive creative projects.
  • To develop the project we consulted with patients who’d experienced radiotherapy, members of the public who had no experience of it and organisations that cancer support organisations. These early conversations were really important to gain understanding of people’s views and concerns as well as some myths about the treatment.
  • We also recruited two patient advisors who’d had radiotherapy to help us develop the project and decide on the creative partner to work with. The advisors were involved in the interviews and decision to select Contact.
  • We promoted the project to a wide range of community, faith and cancer organisations.
  • To bring people together at the start of the project, we ran an informal drop in event in Oldham Library which brought researchers and people together to talk about the project and we ran a creative storytelling taster session.
  • We recruited people from the event to take part in 6 creative workshops. Each workshop included practical exercises that encouraged participants to experiment with different ways of thinking and writing about their experiences.
  • People were encouraged to develop their stories in their own words, regardless of whether these were positive or negative experiences of treatment.
  • Everyone recorded their stories and created artwork for the public exhibition at Oldham Library.
  • We collaborated with our partner networks to find patients who had experienced radiotherapy and were happy to share their stories on video. These were filmed in a studio, with a direct straight to camera style to increase their impact.

I was getting involved to help other people; I hadn’t realized it was helping me.

—Workshop participant

Impact

  • 6 people took part in creative workshops, 5 people who’d had radiotherapy and one researcher. In total, they created 15 audio recordings including stories and poems. They also created visual artworks.
  • Taking part on the project had a powerful effect on participants, both in talking about things that they hadn’t spoken about before and in working with each other.
  • Four people who’d experienced radiotherapy worked with the project team to develop their stories for filming.
  • Audio and video stories have been shared at project events and more widely at Culture Cure Late at the Museum of Science and Industry and the Greater Manchester Cancer Conference (2019).
  • So far, events have reached over 700 people directly. Online the project has reached over 20,000 Twitter accounts. The stories have also been shared on Sonder Radio.
  • People who took part have gone on to take part in Vocal discussion groups and events and contribute to the development of research. They have also spoken to radiotherapy students about their experiences.
  • The stories are valued by audiences because they are honest and include difficult experiences and side effects.
  • All of the stories and films are available for partners to use and share and to encourage more conversations about radiotherapy.

The project was led by Vocal, patients and researchers from the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Centre and Contact. Our project partners were Oldham Libraries, Christie at Oldham, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Boca Films.

With thanks to partners and contributors

Ananya , Anthea, Farida, Fiz, Jackie, Julie, Karen, Nic, Tracy, Sally, Sharon, Tim, for sharing their stories. Thanks to creative activist Lara Veitch for contributing her experiences and advice.

Participants’ original material developed with theatre maker Nathaniel Hall Visual art for exhibition developed with Jessica Loveday

Thank you to all the partners and the organisations in Oldham and beyond who helped spread the word about the project including; Action Together, Asian Breast Cancer Support Group, Maggies Centre Oldham, Oldham Cancer Support Centre.