Prof Dr James B Richardson died suddenly while on holiday in India with his wife Shona in February 2018.

Professor of Orthopaedics at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt (RJAH) Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, proud and much loved father and grandfather, James’ devastating loss was deeply felt by all his family, friends, colleagues and patients.

Prof Wagih El Masri, Emeritus Consultant Surgeon in Spinal Injuries at the RJAH, recently said of James: “As well as being a skilled orthopaedic surgeon, Prof Richardson had energy, charisma and a brilliant curious brain that never stopped exploring effective treatments that are less invasive than major surgery. He was well read and had personable, approachable and patient attributes that enabled him to attract support from colleagues as well as communicate and collaborate with basic scientists, researchers and patients.

“His perseverance was rewarded by the approval of his ACI to be used clinically.”

Wagih’s short, simple, abbreviated phrase “ACI” probably represents James’ most significant medical achievement.

In October 2017, only months before his untimely death, James had been able to announce at the 11th annual Oswestry Cartilage Symposium that after more than 20 years of trials and research by his team at the RJAH, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) had finally approved the autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) procedure for articular cartilage defect to be funded by the NHS.

This procedure may be thought of most simply as stem cell treatment to repair arthritic knee joints.

Wanting to create something lasting in her husband’s memory, Shona invited Crowdfunding donations to be made to Oswestry’s Orthopaedic Institute and/or the Oswestry charity Designs in Mind, a working art studio supporting people living with mental health challenges; both important causes to James.

Working with Shona and others, Designs in Mind Studio Manager Bridie Dunbabin developed the idea of creating a piece of artwork to bring attention to both body and mind whilst transforming an unused and unloved space at the RJAH to inspire, stimulate and relax staff, patients and visitors alike.

Taking the stem cell research completed by James at the RJAH as their inspiration, the team began organising the design and construction of five glass panels, each nearly 1.5m tall, featuring unique hand screen printed designs and set in oak blocks to create the installation in an outside garden space at the RJAH.

An application to the Mary Hignett Bequest Fund, administered by Oswestry Rotary Club, to fund the materials required for the project was approved in December 2019 and the process began.

Within months the unforeseen coronavirus pandemic struck, the Designs in Mind doors were closed and the studio faced a creative challenge.

Workshops where Designs in Mind members examined the ways that they could represent stem cells using techniques such as crochet, embroidery, paper cutting and screen printing on glass had to go virtual.

Bridie took some of her classes online, recording weekly workshops from the Designs in Mind studio to inspire and, as importantly, connect people and the work progressed slowly with Bridie starting to be able to plan the screen printing of the selected designs.

The enamel paints, squeegees, screens, glass plates, the pebbles for the flooring, wall paint and oak blocks were ordered, the glass screens printed and finished in the kiln.

Moving forward to 2021, as the pandemic began to ease, Bridie had the task of completing the installation and transforming the selected courtyard at the RJAH.

Recorded here in photos by Aaron Child of Painted Life, Bridie is pleased with the final result although the public celebration will have to wait for a while.

“We have been able to create an area of peace and mindfulness in a busy hospital where everyone who comes to the RJAH can take a moment out of their day to reflect on the issues that affect them and consider our images inspired by Prof Richardson’s groundbreaking work.”

Oswestry Rotary Club President David Griggs also expressed his delight: “We are honoured to have been entrusted with the legacy from local author, teacher and naturalist Mary Hignett to spend in line with her wishes in the areas of sports and arts.  It is particularly rewarding when we can help such a variety of people with a single application.

“When applications to the fund close in September each year, we may be able to help a silver band, a cricket club, amateur dramatic group, an embroidery group or ‘something’ we have not yet encountered by looking after Mary’s bequest as best as we can.”

The final words should be left to Wagih: “Prof Richardson made a difference to patients, clinical practice and the NHS.”  What a wonderful eulogy to remember him by and fittingly celebrated by the Designs in Mind installation.

Go and see it!

Professor Richardson (courtesy of the RJAH)

Designs in Mind installation (courtesy of Painted Life)

Work in progress sketch (DiM)

Work in progress sketch (DiM)