From May 2016 to April 2017 i lived in an old Victorian hospital as part of a property guardianship scheme, called ADhoC.
I had a whole men's ward as my bedroom/studio/living space, and after a few months i moved into the huge outpatients ward due to a fellow resident moving out. It was a truly wonderful experience living there. A lot of people asked me, ''don't you find it creepy, you know, living where people died'' But in fact it was the most peaceful space i have ever lived in. Yeah there where funny sounds now and again and i sometimes saw a few shadows on the other end of the corridor and my mind got carried away thinking 'im possibly in a film akin to 28 days later', but it kept me on my toes! Plus what better place for a taxidermist to have lived.. some of the hospital equipment had been left behind and i used it in my taxidermy practice.
I even have a nurse's jacket that i sometimes wore, and on one particular day i wore it and rolled a dead badger down the corridor on top of a wheelie tea tray, much to my fellow residents amusement and bewilderment. There where also stainless steel trays, medical utensil tables, 6 moving lamps in my room and 2 hands free motion sensor sinks. It was bloody fantastic.
The summer i lived there i borrowed one of the glass/steel medical cabinets to display my taxidermy inside at my shop at the beat-herder festival. I thought it would be fine as it had been abandoned amongst the other things. Whilst at BeatHerder festival, in my shop, with said cabinet filled with dead animals with a cornucopia of hedonistic onlookers peering inside, i got a text from a fellow resident of the hospital. It said that there had been a visit from one of the NHS workers wondering where the glass cabinet was as they need to send it to another hospital. My reaction was a mixture of dread and nervous laughter.
''well the cabinet is full of taxidermy in a shed in a field full of crazy people at the moment, tell them il have it cleaned and back to them by Tuesday''.
Luckily they where very understanding.
In the outpatients ward where i lived for the latter half of my stay we had double glass doors that opened onto a patio with a apple orchard beyond that. We also had a resident Pea Hen that came to visit from time to time (female peacock) . We named her Pea Pea. I used to feed her every day so she kept coming back!
We had endless crazy parties as you can imagine, we wheeled friends around the hospital on hospital beds and wheelchairs and broke into the rooms we weren't meant to and found all kinds of weird delights.
To the right of the orchard out the back i created what we called a ''pet cemetary'' where i buried all of my animal remains and hung bones out of trees. It was hidden behind an old rusty gate with thick bushes of ivy and bramble in a secret garden-esque area with a prominent low hanging tree trunk that was perfect to sit on. In the middle of this area is where i buried the roadkill animal remains, and put special shaped rocks on each one to remind me what was buried where so that i could let the worms and beetles eat the flesh from the bone and after many months i would dig up the remains to make into jewellery.
Living at the hospital was a truly magical experience and i have many fond memories from living there! It was a fantastic studio space too!! I currently live in a flat and have a separate studio in the same town (I grew kind of attached to Clitheroe in the ribble valley)
The hospital/ex workhouse is currently being demolished :( we protected it by living there as guardians until they decided what to do with it.
i would definitely recommended the adhoc property guardianship scheme to creative people (as long as you dont mind the prospect of being kicked out at any time) its like squatting but legal, it has its ups and downs (weekly inspections- hide the dead stuff quick!) but you get to experience living in a truly unique space !
Photos by Nikita Raja
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!