On a chilly yet sunny day in April members and student members of the MAA descended on Liverpool and made their way towards the Liverpool Medical Institute (LMI), home of one of the oldest medical societies in the world. Situated on the corner of Hope Street and Mount Pleasant, the old Victorian LMI, built in 1837, seemed almost protective of the Catholic Cathedral standing opposite, similar in shape and yet built some 130 years later.
After receiving our goody bags and catching up briefly with old friends over lunch we were escorted into the Victorian Lecture Theatre, clearly steeped in history and witness to many medical discussions and debates throughout the years. An afternoon of interesting presentations was about to begin.
Capturing the seasons throughout the year from the elegance and beauty of blossom in the spring through to the vibrant colours and nostalgia of the autumn we were treated to a selection of watercolours and oil pastels completed during Jenny Halstead’s time as artist-in-residence at the Harris Garden, University of Reading. Jenny showed a selection of watercolours and pastel drawings which truly reflect not only transformation through the seasons but also the garden as a perfect setting for rest and relaxation. Jenny’s book of illustrations from her time spent in the Harris Garden is now available at www.tworiverspress.com.
We were then taken from the English garden into a very different setting, that of Far Eastern Prisoner of War Camps, between 1942 and 1945. Based on the diaries of her late father, Meg Parkes gave a fascinating insight into life in the camps using sketches prepared by artists at the request of medical officers. Survival depended not only on psychological benefits gained from faith, humour and the staging of concert parties, but also on the ingenuity of resident servicemen who developed medical devices using limited resources available.
Bringing us back to the present day our next speaker, Rhodri Walters, a medical artist and doctor, gave an interesting insight into the visual documentation used in patients’ medical records. Rhodri was able to demystify those signs, symbols and diagrams that lurk in our medical records and even mentioned that back in the late 19th century surgeons had to undergo training in drawing techniques at the Liverpool Medical Institute.
Robert Stephenson, a Postgraduate Student in Musculoskeletal Biology at the University of Liverpool revealed some of his latest research using Contrast Enhanced Micro-CT detailing the anatomy of a rabbit’s heart. He demonstrated with the help of Amira software, that we should rethink the way we illustrate the Purkinje network in the left ventricular cavity as it is more like an intricate network of spider web like structures. This incredible software analyses scanned data and produces images of three dimensional fibre orientation and shows areas of the tissue virtually, at any angle, using the ‘volume rendering’ technique. We all agreed that it would be fascinating to see the same images using a human heart and we look forward to correcting all the anatomy textbooks, using this new research, sometime in the near future!
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in the Second World War, Philip Ferguson-Jones brought an original uniform that had belonged to Sgt Frank South. He was a medic at the D Day landings where he heroically dealt with the horrific injuries at the battle on the beach that day. A mere three months training provided him with the skills to save lives. The talk finished by comparing uniform and equipment, belonging to the veteran soldier with that of the current Army medics.
Finally, Robert Connolly treated us to a slide show of photographs illustrating his research into the uses and designs of Chastity belts. The earliest example was from 1405. They were supposedly, worn by wives, when her husband went off to battle but it was explained that the health implications could have been fatal and so this is probably untrue. Nevertheless, we saw a range of beautifully ornate designs and some with a key…(!) followed by a male chastity belt which made a few of the male members of the audience wince… Many were surprised by the canine version from 1920’s America when pedigrees were given much importance.
The evening commenced at the Hope Street Hotel on the balcony of the Fifth which had panoramic views where, we watched the sun setting over a cloudless Liverpool and gazed across to the Welsh mountains whilst sipping champagne. The glass walls of the restaurant provided far-reaching views, which was an unexpected backdrop for our annual dinner in the centre of town.
After a delightful meal, Philip Ball, the chairman introduced us all to the after dinner speaker Dr. Kevin Jones, Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust who entertained us all with the hilarious stories of his various exploits throughout his medical career. This was followed by the presentation of well deserved awards to five students; Rhodri Walters, Mark Roughly, Helen Day, Ann Holden and Natalie Pearson who had successfully completed their MSc in ??????????? at Dundee University and the Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Art from the Medical Artist’s Education Trust. After the presentation of these awards, the Dr. Robert Whitaker Award was presented to Ann Holden for the best piece of student work presented at assessment. The evening ended with two richly deserved MAA fellowships being bestowed upon Joanna Cameron and Denise Smith for their hard work and dedication to the MAA throughout the years.
The following morning after late night drinks in the hotel bar, we gathered to take a short walk to the city centre and the magnificent, neo-classical St George’s Hall where our tour guide Stephen greeted us. The tour began with a walk around the cavernous old Victorian prison cells where Stephen told is about some of the awful punishments which were dealt out from the Civil Court rooms just above the cells bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘take him down!’. The court rooms were still in use up until just a few years ago but are used and can be recognized from the many TV soaps or court room dramas which are often filmed there.
Leaving the beautiful but intimidating court rooms behind us, we walked through to the breath taking concert hall. Unfortunately the Minton tiles were covered up to protect them from the many visitors it receives each year but we were able to see parts of it through special glass port holes in the protective flooring.
Above the vast tiled floor there are 12 niches in which stand some Victorian and Edwardian sculptures of the most prominent city luminaries such as William Roscoe, George Stephenson and William Gladstone with a recent addition and the first woman to be honoured in the hall, pioneering health campaigner Kitty Wilkinson. Derry-born Kitty, dubbed ‘saint of the slums’, allowed her Liverpool home to be used as a wash-house during cholera epidemics in the 1830s. She opened the first public washhouse in the country, in Upper Frederick Street in 1842, and had a role in teaching people that cholera was linked to dirty water and cleanliness was a weapon against disease.
Sir Charles Cockerell was largely responsible for the interior decoration of the hall and also designed the stunning, elliptical Small Concert Room which is the most lavishly decorated room in the hall and is often known as the Golden Concert Room. It was a regular favourite of Queen Victoria on her many visits to the city and also of Charles Dickens who often hosting many public readings there.
After short coffee break and much needed respite, we headed just across the road the one of Liverpool’s most popular and oldest art galleries; The Walker to view some of the treasures on view.
A really successful conference was enjoyed by all and thanks must go to Ruth Eaves who went to great lengths to make all the arrangements and see to our every need, with help from Denise Smith and Philip Ferguson-Jones.