←Back to Collaborations

First Aid Kit for the Mind

The First Aid Kit for the Mind was a collaboration between Julia Darling and Artist Emma Holliday.

‘More and more it seems that poetry is being promoted as first aid. There are poems to keep you sane, poems to help you stay alive, anti war poems, survival poetry. I have certainly used poetry as a way of understanding my own experience of cancer. Actually, it would have been very strange to have not had a creative outlet while I was having all that treatment. Where would all my worries and fears have gone?’

Diary 1 May 2003.

Project information

Julia started the ‘waiting room’ project for which she selected poems and excerpts of prose suitable for display in the ‘miserable places in hospitals’: the waiting rooms, toilets, cubicles and isolation units.

This became one of Julia’s legacies as, although she did see the First Aid Kit for the Mind and The Rebellious Stamp exhibition, she didn’t make it to the public launch and it was Emma who took on the project.  These collaborations with artist Emma Holliday were initially inspired by hospital advice leaflets which Julia felt didn’t take the patient’s point of view into account.

The First Aid Kit for the Mind was about redressing the balance, filled with inspirational and entertaining items including beautiful poetry postcards and a stamp saying, ‘I know my body better than you do.’

The Rebellious Stamp exhibition toured waiting rooms around the country with 16 paintings and 11 poems, including those from her fearless collection Apology of Absence, written as her fellow poet and editor Jo Shapcott observed ‘at the height of her powers’.
More information is available on both projects on Emma’s website.


The poems included were:

  • My Old Friend Hospital
  • Days of Terrible Tiredness
  • Indelible, Miraculous
  • Nurses
  • How To Behave with the Ill
  • How To Deal With Terrible News
  • Recipe For a Curative Soup
  • How To Negotiate Hospital Corridors
  • How To Frighten Cancer
  • How To Paint Your Self Portrait
  • How To Deal With Tired People When You Visit Them in Hospital

All the poems can now be found in the collection Indelible, Miraculous.