BBC The Repair Shop: the story behind team Elijah’s Star
On BBC TV Wed 13 Oct 2021 at 20:00
(Watch the show here BBC The Repair Shop)
Painting conservator Lucia Scalisi welcomes this symbolic seascape painting into the barn. Owners Jenny and James sought solace on the Pembrokeshire seashore when they lost their baby son Elijah after only 37 days. For them, this painting of a rocky harbour and a rowing boat has come to symbolise the turbulent emotions they have encountered. Working on such a poignant painting is a huge responsibility for Lucia, but when the couple returns to see her restoration, they are utterly blown away.
“We had inherited the very tatty old painting from James’ Grandparents when Grandma Eileen died in 2018. We don’t know the painting’s full history, but we think it was probably bought by distant family and hung in their London house and then moved to the family home in Devon.”
The painting is a small oil on canvas by Irish Painter Edwin Hayes, he was a prolific painter of sea scapes. He lived from 1819-1904 – so the painting must be at least 100 years old. “There’s a date on the back of 18 something or other, but this is unreadable due to the water damage.“
When we were given the painting, it was in a very poor state of repair. The frame was broken and unhinged from the canvas. When we were offered it, we loved it immediately. Despite its water damage, mould and broken frame we loved it because of our love of the sea. It reminds us of the times we escaped to the sea after Elijah died.
What’s even more beautiful is that in the foreground is a rowing boat – which completely cements it in our mind as Elijah’s painting. The painting marks a wonderful connection between James and his Grandparents, through memories of his time staying with them by the sea, to our association with the sea as a soothing place to retreat to when Elijah died. It then links completely to the remarkable Elijah’s Star boys in the boat who are carrying Elijah’s story forward to change the future for babies we don’t yet know about.
So, how did it feel to return? We were nervous, but excited. Lucia and Dom had repaired it beautifully. It’s hard to describe….it’s the same painting, with all the same love within it, but restored with so many more tales to tell. Lucia is so talented. With the water damage gone, you can see the squall coming in off the sea, the colour is more intensely blue. We’ve always loved the way the sea in the painting is not calm, it’s choppy and unpredictable, much like our experience of grief. The golden frame lifts the light as it hits the sea on the horizon. And those remarkable rowers in the foreground stand out more than ever.
The painting and our trip to the Repair shop added a whole new chapter to Elijah’s story for us, which can be rare as the years roll by since he died. It hangs in the living room for now, we can sit and get lost in it. It reminds us daily of Elijah and this adventurous, crazy and loving new chapter.
Visiting The Repair Shop was wonderful. We’ve never been shy about talking about Elijah, we feel it’s important for us to tell his story, and to raise awareness of experiences of premature birth. In the event he didn’t live, we feel it’s right for us to tell his story for him.
From a painted canvas to the Atlantic Ocean
Team Elijah’s Star are rowing the Atlantic in support of Action Medical Research to shine a spotlight on the impact premature birth has on babies and their families and to help fund more research that can save lives.
The team have taken their name from baby Elijah, a premature but much-loved son, and brother, who was born at 25 weeks and three days, weighing 823g who sadly lived for just 37 days. With the wonderful support of Elijah’s family, we are racing in his name and will aim to row across the Atlantic in just 37 days, for every day that Elijah lived.
ELIJAH’S STORY – 37 DAYS
Elijah was born prematurely at 25 weeks weighing just 1lb 13oz. He sadly developed necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating bowel disorder that mainly strikes premature babies.
Elijah tragically died at just 37 days old. Before he died Elijah was part of a study funded by Action Medical Research trying to find a way to identify NEC in premature babies, so that it may be detected before it becomes life threatening.
Jenny, Elijah’s mum explained why they took part in the research “Elijah led a very traumatic little life. He died sleeping on my chest in the small hours – that’s when I joined the fight to stop premature birth.”
This film features the Halse family who share their story about their son Elijah, who was born too soon and led a very short life. It is a moving film so please be prepared. It is a poignant reminder to us all of the importance of research Action Medical Research is supporting to help stop premature birth and help save the lives of babies like Elijah.
YOU ARE KEY TO US TAKING PART
Put simply, without your support we cannot make this dream a reality. Our objective is to involve sponsors and contribute £200,000 to Action Medical Research.
Since beginning in 1952, Action Medical Research has been funding medical breakthroughs to help save and change the lives of babies and children.
Surprisingly, medical research tackling childhood diseases is poorly funded in the UK. Action Medical Research has a critical job to do in helping fill this gap to protect children.
The prospects for finding new cures and treatments is almost within our grasp. Right now we are funding vital research projects with many more ready to go – but we simply can’t fund them all.