Colchester League of Hospital & Community Friends helped a stunning artwork come to fruition with its donation of £1,000.00 towards the cost of the new installation, which was unveiled at Colchester General Hospital on Tuesday 7th March.

The spectacular 20ft long wall mosaic was designed by Colchester-based sculptor and mosaic artist Anne Schwegmann-Fielding to recognise the act of altruism and kindness that is organ donation and it incorporates the following poem by Wivenhoe poet and musician Martin Newell, who took his inspiration from a book containing thank you letters from donor recipients to donor families:

The River of Life (The Gift of Life)

First and foremost, thanks to you
who brought the day back into view
Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters
all familiar with these waters
Willows grown beside their banks
Deliver you eternal thanks

We, who’d rather stay than go
We, who knew the ebb and flow:
Friend and lover, husband, wife
Across this river known as life
We, you never knew you’d save
Here, renewed by all you gave
Sparkling in these waters now
Thanks are not enough, somehow.

Among the guests at the unveiling ceremony were members of the family of a local organ donor and several people whose lives have been transformed by transplant surgery.

The Organ Donation Committee at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust commissioned the artwork, which is called The Gift of Life, in order to recognise and acknowledge the kindness of many individuals and their families in donating organs for the benefit of others, as well as promoting and raising awareness of organ donation.

Based on the Essex coastline with its rivers and estuaries, The Gift of Life is made from fragments from hundreds of items of crockery as well as jewellery, buttons and beach glass donated by people from all over north east Essex.

Anne chose the coastline as symbolic of the river of life; the ebb and flow of the tide, like breathing, is about giving and receiving – which exactly what organ donation is. The artwork incorporates some of the features and wildlife of north east Essex, including a seagull, hare, avocet, heron and two brent geese.

“It has been a wonderful project to be a part of,” said Anne, whose involvement in the project inspired her to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. “At times, humbling, when I heard stories of generosity from donor families so ‘thank you’ was very much the message I wanted the poem to put across.

“The mosaic belongs to the people of north east Essex. Their contributions, the individual plates and jewellery they have given, make it personal and unique to Colchester General Hospital.

“The location of the work means it’s one of the first things you see when entering the hospital and one of the last things when you leave, so it was crucial that it should connect with people, welcome them on arrival and be uplifting at an often emotional time.”

From design to installation, it took Anne five months to complete her mosaic, which she created on 11 panels, working in her studio on three panels at a time. She described the public response to an appeal to donate materials as “overwhelming” – more than 30 large boxes of items were collected.

Once selected, each plate was carefully cut by hand to a particular shape and arranged to fit. Details, such as NHS plates, local souvenir crockery and items of jewellery, can all be seen on closer inspection and Martin Newell’s poem of handmade letters weaves through the river spelling out a thank you message to all donor families.

Join the NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23. Make sure you tell your family about your decision.

Details from the mosaic can be seen below

The Gift of Life - boat

The Gift of Life - hare