After her SCAD, Polly achieved her ambition to gain an Art degree – at the age of 67!


When I retired, I was at last able to return to college to study art and, being fit and active, part of my practice involved long solo walking trips to photograph coastal areas.

However, in the summer of 2017 I had begun feeling unwell after going down with what I thought was flu, or some similar virus, on a train journey back from a family holiday in York. I really do not remember how I got back to my home in the north east of Scotland, but I subsequently took to my bed and stayed there for almost two weeks. Although recovering to a certain extent I still felt like I had some sort of post viral condition when the time came for me to return to college.

Polly's artwork

On the first day back, 12 September, I began to peel off the old tape from my studio wall ready to start painting when I felt a severe pain between my shoulder blades. I felt achy and nauseous as I had on the train, but this time I also felt an overwhelming sense of dread and, although I had no idea what was wrong with me, I knew I was very unwell.

All I could do was sit down; I could not move, call out or phone. Luckily, a tutor came into my studio, took one look at me and rang for the first aider who himself rang for an ambulance. After blood pressure, pulse, and ECG tests I was given aspirin to take, and the crew, after contacting the hospital, rushed me to Inverness.

I had had a SCAD, which had caused an Inferior STEMI heart attack. Again, I was very lucky as the consultant knew about SCAD and the work at Leicester, and my condition was managed medically. The NHS staff were amazing and took such good care of me, and I am so grateful to them for everything they did for me.

I am not the same person physically or psychologically and the journey to who I am now has not always been straightforward. However, throughout my journey I have been overwhelmed by the kindness shown not just by NHS staff, friends, and family but also by complete strangers who offered practical help when needed. The past three years have been wonderful, sharing little adventures with my children and grandchildren, and I am looking forward to experiencing many more.

Although I had to re-think my creative practice, as I no longer think it sensible to go on my little adventures alone, I have found that my new practice, especially during Covid-19 ‘lockdown’, has provided me with much needed peace, as I am able to sit and hand stitch and embroider; and I find that the steady rhythm of this type of work calms both my body and my mind.

Polly's artwork

I am drawn to work with old fabrics and analogue photographs which both have the ability to capture the traces of life. Both materials, being subject as we are, to the passing of time; to fading, ageing and eventual decay, show qualities of both resilience and fragility through their survival. The tactile nature of these materials inspires a feeling of tenderness which complements the slow meditative nature of hand stitching and embroidery.

Everyone at college; staff and students went out of their way to help me re-integrate back onto my course. They were wonderful and I cannot thank them enough.

Now I am coming up to my third anniversary and find at the age of 67 years I have not only successfully completed my BA Hons Fine Art Textiles degree, but also been awarded a First! 

I have found both a new purpose and a life after SCAD.