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Dying to talk – Guy’s and St Thomas’ has joined forces with VAULT Festival

A creative partnership between a leading NHS organisation and a major London arts festival is encouraging people to feel more comfortable talking about death.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has joined forces with VAULT Festival – London’s biggest, boldest and bravest arts and entertainment festival. Together, they hope to open up conversations around death, dying and grief by curating a programme of shows based around the subject called ‘Let’s Talk @ VAULT Festival’.

The collaboration is part of an initiative being led by Guy’s and St Thomas’ called ‘Let’s talk: Transforming end of life care conversations’. Its aim is to improve the experience of patients, carers, staff and the general public in talking about and preparing for death, both in hospital and in the wider community.

By discussing options at an early stage, for example in relation to what treatment to provide and where somebody would like to die, appropriate plans can be put in place.

Kimberley St John, a palliative care nurse and the transforming end of life care lead at Guy’s and St Thomas’, says: “We know that having a conversation about death is not an easy thing to do, particularly when it involves someone close to us. But by doing so, we can help make sure that the end of someone’s life is managed in the best way possible for them and their relatives.

“We wanted to partner with VAULT Festival to demonstrate that it is not just doctors and nurses that can help people think about death. The arts are a fantastic way of providing different perspectives on what remains a very difficult subject.

“Some shows will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. All will get you thinking. Death affects us all, so we should talk about it.”

Becky Brown, Head of Producing and Programme Management for VAULT Festival says: “Across our programme this year, we noticed a common theme arising with artists making shows centered around the subject of death or dying and how we cope with it. When Kimberley approached us from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust it felt like a perfect fit.

“We are thrilled to be running the pilot programme of ‘Let’s Talk @ VAULT Festival’ as a new platform to continue to change the way we as a culture deal with death.”

As part of their ‘Let’s Talk’ work, the Trust has also worked with the Royal College of Physicians to develop a training programme for junior doctors. ‘The Second Conversation’ is designed to support discussions around end of life care.

VAULT Festival runs from Wednesday 23 January to Sunday 17 March in venues throughout Waterloo. Find out more and buy tickets for ‘Let’s Talk @VAULT Festival’ at https://vaultfestival.com/lets-talk/

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