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UCSD students bring artistic creativity to the International Head and Neck Cancer Conference 

The worlds of art and science collided when students from the University Centre South Devon attended the prestigious International Head and Neck Cancer Conference for a live and reactive art opportunity. 

Illustration and Film students were invited to collaborate with the emotive two-day event, held at the Grand Hotel in Torquay, and their creative brief was ‘to transform your sensorial experience into an original piece of art that encapsulates the atmosphere and essence of the event as you saw it’, using a range of media such as coloured pencils, paints, found objects and clay. 

The International Head and Neck Cancer Conference is in its 8th year, and is attended by health professionals, patients, survivors, sponsors, and speakers, to raise a greater awareness of ways to improve the journey of the head and neck cancer patient and caregiver. The event showcases both inspirational stories and hard-hitting topics, and gave the UCSD art students plenty of inspiration to produce powerful artistic works. 

Jacob and Lily, who are studying FdA in Contemporary Arts Practice, chat to conference guest Batman!

Students from all areas of artistic study, from film and illustration to contemporary art and media production, had the opportunity to capture events live on the day, in various media and forms, inspired by the presentations and the medical imagery on display. 

Illustration students visually encapsulated each speech and presentation through their live and impromptu figure sketching and portraiture using both traditional and digital media.  

Those studying Contemporary Arts showcased their talents by exhibiting paintings and mixed media work reflecting on their process of artistically interpreting patients’ experiences. 

Katie Whitehead, 23, is studying Contemporary Arts Practice, and she found it a very worthwhile opportunity. She said: ”Attending this conference was a very moving and educational experience. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to make art in response to the journeys of the strong individuals that were affected. The Swallows Head and Neck Cancer Charity is an amazing and inspiring support group.” 

Pawel Szymanski, Programme Co-ordinator of Art and Design at South Devon College, with students Ella, Marie, Beeke, Katie, and Susan, together with special guest Batman!

The Film students captured interviews with guest speakers and delegates, and the Media Production students documented the events through video, interviews and photography. 

Pawel Szymanski, Programme Co-ordinator of Art and Design at South Devon College, said: “The students had to use their observations and experiences at the conference as creative inspiration to capture a key moment, emotion, or interaction through unique artistic expression. Their artwork will offer a subjective, interpretive portrayal of what they took away from their time at the conference.”  

Over the course of the two days, the students engaged with renowned medical experts including surgeons, radiologists and pathologists, and even an AI speech therapist from Google, and were able to bring some artistic creativity to the otherwise scientific medical event. 

Their resulting creations will be featured in the commemorative book/ ebook, along with student profiles, offering global exposure for their work, whilst spreading awareness and compassion for attendees from around the globe.  

Mr Phillip Reece, ENT/Head and Neck Consultant at Torbay Hospital and Honorary Consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, was Conference President, with Fahida Rehman-Manby, Lead Head and Neck/Thyroid Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Sam Gregory, Macmillan Speech and Language Therapist, as joint Presidents. 

Celebrity speakers included Tommy Walsh, from TV gardening show ‘Ground Force’, and Devon-based chef Michael Caines. 

Pawel Szymanski said: “Our gifted students were absolutely elated for the opportunity to create stunning art and vivid illustrations at the conference, deriving inspiration from the presentations and their compelling subject matter. Their work captivated significant interest from the attendees.” 

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