Message in a Bottle:

Covid-19 Lockdown Inspired

Creative Writing and Visual Arts Workshops

The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret is a medical museum located in the heart of London Bridge. Tucked in the attic of an 18th century church once connected with Old St Thomas’ Hospital, it was originally used to dry and cure herbs for medicines and to store them from 1703 to 1822. In 1822 the space was transformed to accommodate the operating theatre for the women’s wards and as a new teaching space for medical students.

In our capacity as a medical museum and taking into consideration the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought so much uncertainty to our daily lives, we are facilitating a community arts project to record these lived experiences.

Our free online visual arts and writing workshops offer exciting new ways to explore and connect with the museum and its collections while lockdown restrictions prevent physical access.  

Individuals and families are invited to come together to explore how their experiences of Covid-19 might be visualised and articulated through the written word and the visual arts (photography and video) over 4 short online facilitated sessions. Since limited spaces are available (25 each), we request that each family unit/group/individual choose either the creative writing workshops or the visual arts workshops. It is our hope that those who commit to the workshops will be able to attend all four to get the most out of the guided creative process. Allocation of spaces will be given on a first come, first serve basis.

The artworks and texts created will form an important historical record of this challenging time in the history of public health.

An exciting exhibition will be developed to celebrate the reopening of the museum (when lockdown restrictions are lifted following all Covid-19 safety guidelines) with the title “Message in a Bottle: Covid-19 Lockdown Inspired Creative Writing and Visual Arts Exhibition”.

Workshops and entry to the exhibition will be free to all participants. All contributions will be acknowledged in the exhibition and across our online platforms (anonymity may be requested in advance).

To sign up please, e-mail and state whether you would like to be a part of the Creative Writers Workshops or the Visual Arts Workshops [just one]. Deadline to sign up is 5 March 2021.    

Creative Writing Workshops

These workshops are about letting the audience’s creativity lead the way, generating new and exciting writing in their own unique style. During the workshops, Laurie Bolger will take the audience through fast paced writing exercises to boost mindfulness. All you need is a pen and paper and somewhere chilled to sit and let your imagination do its thing.

The Workshops:

  • 12pm -Saturday 6th March Workshop 1: An Intro to the Museum & Project with a short intro to Creative Writing and Laurie Bolger.
  • 12pm -Saturday 13th March Workshop 2: An Introduction to Creative Life Writing linking to the museum where appropriate but mainly to get people going.
  • 12pm -Saturday 20th March Workshop 3: A Session linked exclusively to the museum, its artefacts, and themes of the project.
  • 2pm Saturday 27th March Workshop 4: A Collaborative Sharing open to both groups.

What you will need:

  • All workshops will take place over Zoom/Teams (access to broadband required).
  • Pen and paper or any other writing equipment of your choice.

The workshop leader:

Laurie Bolger is a London based writer currently touring her debut poetry collection ‘Box Rooms.’ Her work has featured at Glastonbury Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, for Sky Arts, various BBC platforms and for TATE. Laurie has been running creative writing workshops for the past decade allowing people to celebrate their own unique voices and individuality.

T: @lauriebolger

Visual Arts Workshops

These workshops will encourage participants to experiment with photography and video to visualise and record the spaces, landscapes, objects and rituals which have shaped their experiences of Covid-19 over the last year.

Inspired by artefacts and anecdotes from the museum’s collection, we will explore how personal stories and imagery might be transformed into compelling projections – to animate the historic cabinets and vessels of the Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret with poignant experiences of the current pandemic.

The Workshops:

  • 2pm -Saturday 6th March Workshop 1:   Intro to the Museum & Visual Arts Project from The Photonic Excitors (Charlie Murphy & Robin Bussell).
  • 2pm -Saturday 13th March Workshop 2:   Inspirations, prompts & examples of visual storytelling and connections to the museum’s collection to support you in capturing spaces, landscapes, objects and rituals through photography/ still images.
  • 2pm -Saturday 20th March Workshop 3:  Inspirations, prompts & examples of visual storytelling and connections to museum’s collection to support you in capturing spaces, landscapes, objects and rituals through short (max 1 min) video vignettes. 
  • 2pm -Saturday 27th March Workshop 4:   Discussion & sharing of artworks & texts (both groups) with examples of how artworks and texts will be projected  inside different features of the museum.

What you will need:

  • All workshops will take place on Zoom/Teams (access to broadband required).
  • Photography & video may be captured on any kind of mobile device with a camera or DLSR.
  • Artworks contribute via WeTransfer.

Workshop leaders:

The Photonic Excitors

Charlie Murphy is an interdisciplinary artist & educator working with glass, light, kinetic tools, performance, photography and video.  Robin Bussell works as an R&D engineer for a company developing advanced technologies and communication interfaces for the emergency services sector. As collaborative team, The Photonic Excitors, Robin & Charlie, are developing award winning interdisciplinary projects for The Lowry, International SEA (BR41N.IO Hackathon), Kings College London & Barnsley Museum’s Cooper Gallery: and

Instagram: @thephotonicexcitors  @brainsinadish

An exhibition of artworks and written texts will take place at The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret. The exhibition will celebrate the reopening of the museum (date tbc). It will be free to participants and the public on that day alone (and following our Covid19 safety measures).
Community Arts Project