Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors celebrates ten years of operating in Crawley, West Sussex this year. With other offices in Billingshurst, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint, the company maintains strong community links throughout the county. In this anniversary year in Crawley, the team are increasing activity with charities and community groups, and the St Catherine’s Hospice HeART to Heart Trail is a key part of this. Today, Community Co-Ordinator Becky shares how the company got involved with this important event.
I first learned of the HeART to Heart campaign in January 2019, and was immediately intrigued. As someone who spends a lot of time travelling throughout the county and country, I was aware of other sculpture trails which have taken place. I think they’re a great way to increase engagement with brands and for members of the public to find out more about where they live too. I’m also passionate about exercise and getting outdoors, so knowing that this trail takes place throughout the summer was a big plus for me – it’s the ideal time for us all to get out and explore, even with the unpredictability of British weather!
I put an enquiry in with St Catherine’s about sponsoring and was introduced to the Fundraising team – Hannah, Suzanne and Suzanne have been brilliant throughout the build up to the event – who explained what they would be trying to achieve, what sponsors would be able to get involved with, and how to proceed. I’ve not been involved with a project of this size previously, and it’s ambitious for the hospice, but has been very well put together in order to offer as many people as possible the chance to be involved.
Art can be such an intimidating and inaccessible concept for many people, and this event proves that it can be interactive, fun and is also hugely diverse. I love that the hearts are tactile, and that it’s ok for people to touch them – plus that so many of the designs encourage this – as many people imagine art galleries and spaces to be stuffy and formal. When the great outdoors is your gallery space, you have to be quite relaxed about how people choose to view your work!
The trail has been designed so that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and mobility levels – sculptures are clustered together, so that it’s easy to visit several in a short space of time, but not such a quick activity that it can’t be stretched out over a few days. There are also some works which are indoors, both to protect some of the more delicate works and to protect people against our variable weather. There are also going to be a variety of other free activities throughout the summer, stay tuned for further details of those…
The design we chose is the hardy type! Early in the process of becoming a sponsor, I sat down with the Fundraising team and was shown through a brochure of drawings supplied by a variety of local artists. There were several which appealed to me – including one which was designed to look like hospice cat Spike! – but the one the team instantly knew was our match was ‘Keepsake’ by Lindsay Seahorse Wright.
Becky secretly met ‘Keepsake’ before the sculpture went into hiding…
I had told the hospice team that one of our key reasons for getting involved was the tenth anniversary of our Crawley branch taking place in November 2019, and that we wanted to celebrate the occasion. I also explained that I’d learned that anniversary gifts for ten years are to be ‘tin’. The ‘Keepsake’ design mirrors not only this, but fits beautifully with what we as funeral directors do – it’s almost as though this heart was designed with us in mind!
My colleagues at Freeman Brothers and I immediately fell for the design – it’s an incredible bejewelled padlock-style, and therefore does what it says in the name, evoking lockets and other items which draw on the memories of our loved ones. There was even a lock and key incorporated within the intricate design! Added to which, it’s a design which was made to look as though it’s made of metalwork, linking in with our ‘tin’ theme. When I eventually met Lindsay, the artist who created the design, she couldn’t believe the link, and agreed that it was a perfect match.
On the original design, some of the stones Lindsay had included were red, and this was the only change that we gently requested. It’s tricky to challenge an artist’s work, but we knew that we had to ask – even if the answer was ‘no’ – in order to put the cherry on this cake: our Crawley branch is represented by blue within its logo and other artwork, so we hoped that we’d be able to have blue stones on ‘Keepsake’ to match. Thankfully, Lindsay kindly agreed straight away, and it was official – ‘Keepsake’ was to be our sponsored heart!
I was given regular updates whilst Lindsay was busy constructing ‘Keepsake’, and saw this butterfly of a sculpture emerge from a cocoon. What began as a plain, fibreglass heart morphed into a stunning mock-metalwork sculpture. Lindsay put over 100 hours into creating this beautiful piece, plastering layers on to create the curves and grooves necessary, before adding a lot of metallic paint and other embellishments. She made the key herself too, and enthusiastically bolted it on securely.
Now that the trail is live, we have the opportunity to gently encourage members of the public to do something they often find difficult – visit our offices. I’m hoping that, given the chance to come for a positive reason, people may find this easier. I speak from experience here: when I joined Freeman Brothers in October 2017, I hadn’t set foot in a funeral directors’ before. I was interviewed at a local recruitment company’s offices, so the first time I entered the building was for my first day at work! It took me about a week to realise that I’d done so calmly and without negative emotions – I was, of course, excited to be starting in a new role – and that this had made it much easier. Rather than visiting at a time of distress and associating the office with something bad or difficult, I was able to see it as a normal place to be, and I hope that others can have the chance to do the same.
We are using the campaign to support another charity we work with – Giving Back Crawley. Again, making the most of our tin theme, we are asking members of the public to donate tinned food to this brilliant organisation, in order for them to distribute the much-needed food to those who are homeless. In exchange for their efforts, those who donate will be rewarded with a goodie bag from us, as well as knowing that they have helped someone else. We will be accepting donations at our Crawley branch throughout the time that the HeART to Heart Trail is live, and look forward to receiving as many tins as possible.
I can’t wait to see members of the public enjoying ‘Keepsake’, and to visit the heart in position in Tilgate Park myself. Fingers crossed for a sunny summer, which would make the experience perfect. I’m looking forward to seeing as many photos of our chosen heart shared online as possible!
We’ll be posting more updates throughout the campaign – keep an eye on the page for further details!