Golden Hearts

by Sudha Bhuchar

dir. Kristine Landon-Smith

A poignant look at the inheritance of loss in Asian families

Raj Rani’s heart is failing.
Lila sings at the bedside to soothe Edna’s troubles.
A girl is looking for her father’s hug.
Shiv has been given a second chance and an “upgrade”.

Golden Hearts began in 2013 as a scratch performance at St George’s Hospital in Tooting to mark Art’s St George’s 10th Annual arts event in June

When Sarah Weatherall, Arts Co-ordinator, from St George’s Hospital, approached me to contribute to their Annual Arts Event, it seemed natural to me to look at the subject of ‘Asian men and their hearts’ and my family’s connection to the hospital.  

Since my beloved younger brother Ajay had died suddenly in 2009  the age of 43, and having lost my father 35 years ago in a similar way, I wanted to highlight the higher incidence of heart problems in our community, particularly among the men. I interviewed patients from the Cardiology department at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, and was also inspired by the late Consultant Cardiologist Dr Charles Pumphrey, who had treated my husband and his two brothers as well as my mother. During the weeks that I was developing the piece, this issue was further crystallized in my personal life as my mum (who suffered her first heart attack in her fifties) was admitted to St George’s A&E on 1st April 2013. As I gathered stories from strangers, her heart too was failing. The piece I ended up writing was informed by this; my mum’s last weeks and a dear friend’s recovery from cardiac arrest and weeks of uncertainty.

I was very moved by the stories everyone shared with me as well as Lila Clements’ singing at the bedside, (a St George’s innovation), and watching those fantastic encounters. I know it can be sad and poignant but there is also humour and love, a great cast and some wonderful songs. I am looking forward to the future of this piece which is still in early development.”   Sudha Bhuchar, writer

 “What the play recognised was the potential for positive cross-cultural meetings that take place in hospital wards -- with people from very different backgrounds finding themselves in quite intimate proximity…..discussing music or radio or food. Meeting each other's family.”   Samira Ahmed, journalist, writer & broadcaster

"You have something here I know a lot of Asians will connect to and others will be surprised by... The musicality of the words, the different scenarios, contrast between characters, their stories, resonant themes, so much in there that I could connect to, enjoy, be moved by." Satinder Chohan, writer Mother India

"It touches us in many ways; we witness great love and great loss, endings and new beginnings.”  
Karen Spicer, actor

 Sudha Bhuchar’s piece is a moving and thought provoking look at the inheritance of loss in her family which is mirrored in many Asian families.   A combination of fractured, fictional scenes and verbatim material played out by actors Golden Hearts is in development.  It was performed on 19th and 20th June 2013 in collaboration with Arts St George’s for their 10th Annual Arts Event at St George’s Hospital in London and on 27 March 2014 in collaboration with the British Heart Foundation at Rich Mix, London. 

“Brilliantly observed” a community GP                “Powerful with punch” Consultant Cardiologist

“Brilliant, powerful” Occupational Therapist, Senior Health


Audience feedback to the scratch performances:

“The subject is not only poignant but very relevant to so many people, making it a great theme to tackle.”  “Very honest, open, sad and funny…”            “Amazing setting – in the hospital itself – made it real.”

“I have never been so conscious of the background for people with heart trouble.”  
“Profound and thought provoking.”

 “I think it speaks to many communities, everyone. Definitely raises conscientiousness about illness”

“Using real people as source material added humour to the piece which was great.” 

Future plans for Golden hearts

In early 2016 Sudha Bhuchar was appointed ‘Artist in Residence’ at East London Genes & Health (ELGH). East London Genes & Health is the world’s largest long term community based genetic study which will analyse the genes and health of 100,000 people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin. East London boroughs, and Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in particular, have some of the highest rates of poor health in the UK and the risk of dying early from heart disease is twice as high among South Asian groups compared with the general population. Tower Hamlets and Newham have the lowest life expectancy of all London Boroughs. Sudha’s family’s personal experience of the legacy of heart disease is mirrored in the communities in East London, who are the subject of ELGH’s study.

Golden hearts will be developed through an autobiographical lens and shared stories and song gathered through research and engagement work in the Asian Community in East London and Birmingham. Community contacts will be made through ELGH and Rich mix in London and Birmingham Rep and personal contacts in Birmingham. Sudha is also forging a growing group of potential relationships including King’s Cultural Institute, Barts Hospital, Queen Mary’s University, St George’s Hospital and British Heart Foundation, whose sudden devastation campaign Sudha has contributed to. British Heart Foundation supports medical research into heart disease in the Asian communities. Professor, Carlo Di Mario, Consultant in Interventional Cardiology will also be involved

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