St John’s Hospice notches up its first multi-national fundraiser

A South Yorkshire hospice has notched up its first multi-national fundraiser after more than 160 artists from over 20 countries came together to give the pandemic a big brush off.

The international collaboration, inspired by freelance artist and illustrator Keith Hopewell, has swelled the coffers of Doncaster’s St John’s Hospice by £1769.65.

Doncaster-born Keith, 44, attended the town’s Hallcross Comprehensive but now lives in Bristol, where last year he hit on the idea of an artists against Coronavirus project.

He said: “When the pandemic began a lot of artists found that work had disappeared and were feeling quite demotivated. I wanted to create something to inspire them to keep creating, plus something that would make the public aware of the pandemic and how easily and fast it spread around the world.

“I called it ‘Spread Art, Not the ‘Rona’ and it really took off with artists around the globe getting involved. The aim was to use illustrations to highlight the spread and support the ‘stay home’ message.

“I uploaded to social media a daily update with new Covid characters adding to the spread. This started a following as people couldn’t wait to see which new characters appeared.”

At ‘The Peak’, on day 22 of the pandemic, the digital virus illustration had contributions from162 artists from 21 countries as far afield as Australia, Iran, Dubai, Thailand, India, Northern and Southern America and Indonesia. Professional artists, amateurs, students and children all took part.

A London art gallery called @No_toys_allowed wanted to help and organised a print of The Peak, with Keith choosing to donate all the profits to St John’s, where his mum Linda Rowe is a complementary therapist at the Day Hospice.

“Cancer has affected our lives a few times, most recently with two uncles and my mother-in-law dying two years ago, he said.

“Mum suggested the hospice as she has supported it since they helped my step dad, when he was ill. That was what made her retrain as a therapist, which made me extremely proud of her. I know what great work the staff there do.”

Hospice fundraiser Lindsey Richards, from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is our first truly multi-national donation and we are extremely grateful to Keith and everyone involved for helping to raise this tremendous amount. It will really support our work.”

Keith’s artistic talents were on show recently when Doncaster’s Corn Exchange was renovated and Doncaster Council asked him create the artwork on the hoardings around the site, in a project with local culture magazine Doncapolitan.