Award-winning artist Deborah Harrison has created a visual legacy to the life of Fannie Storr, the first Director of Nursing Education in Gloucestershire. The Hand of Fannie Storr is an alabaster sculpture sensitively evoking the care Storr provided to others throughout her life before passing away in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, aged 88.
The sculpture will be officially unveiled at Evensong on Thursday 6 July and will be displayed in the Cloister until 1 September. It will then take up residence at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital following a crowdfunding campaign by the Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity as part of its project to transform hospital spaces. It first drew the attention of Deborah Lee, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and a firm friend of Storr’s in her later years, when it was exhibited at the 168th Annual Open Exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, in 2021.
Gloucester-based artist Deborah Harrison was also a friend of Storr’s and received her permission personally to create a sculpture based on her hand when visiting her during her declining health.
Using the direct carving method, stone sculptor Harrison works intuitively by hand to reveal artworks from within the rock, following the grain, form and colour to create compelling pieces designed to prompt deep connection for the viewer.
Rendered in brown alabaster with intricately exposed veins, lines and wrinkles and gently outstretched fingers, The Hand of Fannie Storr is a tactile piece that pays tribute to a unique spirit who touched many lives. Following a dedicated career in nursing, Storr remained closely connected with Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in retirement as both Governor and Volunteer Chaplain, a testament to her deeply held faith.
‘It was an emotional piece,’ describes Harrison, whose perceptive approach allows her to detect movement and personality within the medium she works with. ‘This hand bears the lines of time, experience and strength.’ Described by another friend as having ‘extraordinary strength and zest for life, great honesty and courage, and a wealth of tenderness and warmth’ Storr died of natural causes at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.
‘What saddened me most was she died without the presence of her friends and only had a very small funeral after a life of giving so much,’ explains Harrison. The Hand of Fannie Storr is a way of redressing the balance, sharing an extraordinary life with Cathedral visitors before the sculpture moves to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital where it is intended to have a positive impact on patient and staff wellbeing.
Storr’s active career in nursing spanned over three decades, seeing her rise through the ranks at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, and eventually becoming a nurse tutor there. Her desire to nurture and share knowledge with others, which would see her move to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital as Senior Nurse Tutor before becoming the county’s first Director of Nursing Education, echoes her very first job as an assistant teacher in an infant school before embarking on a medical career.
She was delighted to be chosen to be part of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012 as a representative for Gloucestershire, sailing on board the steam yacht Sabrina and passing St Thomas’ Hospital. Storr’s midwifery training and time spent delivering babies in both hospital and patient’s homes in South London in the 1950s also meant she was interviewed by the BBC’s ‘Call the Midwife’ team about her experiences.
The Hand of Fannie Storr is being exhibited in Gloucester Cathedral's ‘The Hand that Cared’ installation for the NHS’ 75th anniversary celebrations. For more information on artist Deborah Harrison visit www.debsharrison-sculptor.co.uk or for details of Gloucestershire Hospitals’ art in hospitals projects visit the Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity website.