Interview with Sinead Feeney of The Purbeck Workshop Wool

We are all vulnerable, it is the nature of our precarious existence, but some are more vulnerable than others. When Paul Feeney, a radiographer at Poole hospital, was diagnosed as having a malignant growth in the bowel he needed a project to help him focus and cope with the treatment. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy in his battle against this genetic aggressive disease (Lynch syndrome).  It was while on treatment Paul found great benefit from attending craft activities and social events. This was especially true at the Lewis Manning Hospice workshops in Poole, as it provided respite from the day-to-day hospital appointments and therapy, whilst also allowing him to take his mind off the daily worries and fears that cancer brings. But from Wool it was a long way to go. In the summer of 2013, Paul was given the all-clear but the cancer aggressively returned in January 2014.  In October 2014, Paul’s health had deteriorated as his cancer become terminal and he started palliative care.  It was during this stage that Paul was inspired to create the Purbeck Workshop, to support people whose lives had also been touched from cancer within the Dorset area.

He dreamt of a little drop in centre where he and others could dabble in woodwork, perhaps even learn a bit of watercolour (despite finding drawing a stick man challenging) and just make a few things for fun. Helped by his wife Sinead, another radiographer, and long standing friend Anna (who despite living in Essex took Paul’s ‘crazy idea’ on board) they all looked around, found a little unit near the railway line, and set about getting it ready. They did it in less than a month in October 2014. He appointed four Trustees, and selected the 30 November 2014 as the grand opening date.  Despite being in palliative care and with limited mobility, Paul visited the workshop often during this stage, overseeing the transformation into the friendly and creative space it is today.  The team worked tirelessly day and night to ensure the workshop would be ready in time.

Paul passed away just a week before they could open, aged 35. But his dream did not die with him, thanks to the two very determined ladies. After lots of tears and even more hard work they got together a little team of volunteers and recruited participants who were suffering from or had been affected by a cancerous illness. They are soon to celebrate their 2nd anniversary with a ‘Walk in the Forest’ art exhibition on Sunday 27th November.

Sinead is still key to the running of the unit whilst also managing to continue as a radiographer at Dorchester Hospital and bring up her two young children. In 2015 they were awarded an official charity registration number 1161110.  They also collaborated with Macmillan and were recognized as a viable support and are now listed on the Macmillan Cancer Support Website for Dorset and Somerset. The gift shop generates a small income They have a very informative website:

For the last two years the workshop has participated in Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW) getting over 200 visitors in 2015 and just a few less in 2016. We hope to give them more publicity in 2017 using perhaps a local trail and exposure on PAW Facebook and twitter feeds. One of our PAW artists Martha de Chazal has agreed to run regular painting sessions and Judy Tate plans to run some pastel workshops. Currently the list of activities is very impressive including astronomy, wood turning, woodwork, felt work, knitting, flower arranging, scrapbooking, air dried clay modelling, and even sessions of Tai Chi. All of these sessions are free. To keep the workshop viable, they need not just more volunteers to offer workshops but more participants. If you know of anyone who might benefit, please encourage them to go along.