Glasgow’s Sick Kids: Time, Texture, Decay

A creative photographic essay by Alice Hill-Woods.

texture, decay, empty space, abandoned space, nostalgia, proximity, temporality

An old hospital stands atop a hill. At dusk, it overlooks the writhing light-beams of cars merging towards familiar routes, the fish-tank architecture of private student halls and a favoured Spanish restaurant. The looming building that used to be the Queen Mother’s Maternity Hospital was opened in 1964, with Yorkhill’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children opened in 1972. Today, its exterior is looped with warnings and devices used to instil a sense that this building is untouchably deceased. I am interested in the way that it performs, its affective power somehow increasing through its losses. This is not to say that the hospital is completely unused – since 2015, when the children’s facilities were moved south, a section of the building became West Glasgow Ambulatory Care Hospital for outpatients and minor injuries, but its vitality somehow lessened alongside its role. Could anyone be nostalgic for a hospital? 

If a body is a shape of varying inferences – and a community is a network of these shapes – then a hospital is a repository of exponential meaning. This doesn’t change when those buildings that make up a hospital are vacated. Medical histories resound in subtle aftermath, textures of rubble and fox geranium. I glimpse my reflection and my body dissects: there is a spectral skin behind a door – a thousand spectral skins, stuck somewhere in time. I consider the skin of the hospital itself: window sashes peeling, ecchymosis-blue, snapped wires as broken capillaries, rough walls that come alive under temporary light. Even though access is limited, the doors remain like obituaries, bidding perpetual farewell to ghostly moving channels of love and health and illness and duty.

All images (c) Alice Hill-Woods

Alice Hill-Woods has a first-class MA (Hons) degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow. She was recently awarded a Wellcome Trust studentship to complete an MA in Medical History and Humanities (2020/2021) at the University of York. Her poetry has been published, or is forthcoming from, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, the Poetry Society, Gargouille Literary Journal, Speculative Books, SPAM zine, adjacent pineapple, Streetcake Magazine and others. Her critical writing has appeared in the Polyphony, SPAM zine and others, and her research interests span trauma studies, ecocriticism, avant-garde literature and contemporary autopathographies.

The ‘Sensing Spaces of Healthcare’ project and ‘Senses and Modern Health/care Environment’ network are hosts for authors’ material. All views expressed in the above are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the project, network, funders or affiliates. The responsibility for clearing rights to publish images or quote sources lies with the authors. All copyright remains with authors, and unauthorised reproduction is prohibited in line with copyright law.