The Blackbird Project continues to soar at Pilgrims Hospices

The Blackbird Project helps people hear their loved ones’ voices – even when they’re no longer here.

Sheena and Nick Jackaman lost their son Ben in 2017, when he was only 34 years old. He was cared for at Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury. As with many bereaved families, they realised how much they missed the sound of Ben’s voice of which they had no recent recordings.

Nick and Sheena Jackaman

They, his sister Anna, family and their friends raised funds in his memory, in order to create a legacy project that would allow grieving families to listen to the voice of their loved one, and feel comforted at any time.

From this idea, the Blackbird Project was born and co-founded with Pilgrims Hospices. The project name came from the family’s love of The Beatles track ‘Blackbird’ which Ben played for them on his guitar before he was diagnosed with cancer.

From Spring 2019, Blackbird facilitators at the hospice have been trained to work with patients to record messages, poems, thoughts, recipes, details of their favourite music or anything that the patient would like to say.

After recording, the memory messages are downloaded onto a little blackbird-shaped USB stick, and given to the person who the patient has nominated.

Sheena and Nick continue to support Pilgrims, and more recently have donated beautiful Blackbird paintings to our three hospices, and printed cards that are for sale to raise important funds for patient care and services.

They said: “Our friend Caroline Brett is a talented artist who lives in Spain. She painted the wonderful blackbirds for us as a surprise gift. Greetings cards have also been printed from the original paintings, to sell and raise funds for The Blackbird Project. We are delighted to have her support with the beautifully detailed prints; we still feel surrounded by Ben’s love. Ben was highly creative, working in graphic design, and had a gift for music. I’m sure he would be very proud of our blackbird choice, and our way of recognising the compassion and care provided by Pilgrims Hospices who took us all under their wings at the most difficult of times. We will continue to raise funds in Ben’s memory, especially to support people who are facing similar challenges in their bereavement.”

In folklore, the blackbird is the first bird to sing in the dawn chorus, and the last bird singing as night falls. Its call is distinctive and is instantly recognisable, making it a very appropriate name for the project.

Pilgrims Hospices cares for thousands of people each year, free of charge, during the most challenging time in their lives. They offer care and support in people’s own homes, in the community and in their inpatient units as well as running a 24-hour advice line.