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Death Socks at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron

22 July 2022

The health board is calling to action all knitters who may be visiting this year's Eisteddfod in Tregaron. The idea is to display knitted socks of all types and colours, to decorate the health board’s stand and ignite conversations about living and dying well.

The Hywel Dda Palliative Care team in Ceredigion, the Arts in Health team and Literature Wales are bringing together an inspiring discussion panel of professionals from across the fields of arts, humanities and science. The aim of the panel discussion is for everyone to feel confident to have those important discussions about living and dying well and understanding medicine at the end of life through the arts and humanities. Contributors include a palliative care nurse, a medical scientist, a poet, a dramatist, and a spiritual leader.

Gudrun Jones from Hywel Dda’s Art Psychotherapist Oncology and Palliative care team in Ceredigion said: “End of life care relies on a partnership between us in health care and our local community. Talking about dying can be frightening. We have been overwhelmed by the public response to our request for people to knit some socks, demonstrating a readiness to engage with this important conversation. Together we can respond to the challenge and aim to live and die well in Hywel Dda.”

The National Eisteddfod this year is being held at Tregaron and the town has a long history of sock making and there are examples of what are referred to as ‘Death Socks’ from Tregaron in Ceredigion Museum.

It was once tradition, and some families continue to this day, for deceased loved ones to be laid out at home before their funeral for an opportunity for relatives, friends and neighbours visiting to view the body and pay their last respects. This led to the preparation of suitable funeralia: sheets and garments – usually a nightshirt for men, a nightdress for women, a kerchief to cover the face and stockings or socks.

The stockings that are held at Ceredigion Museum, are all hand knitted and contain the name of the intended wearer knitted around the top edge.

Due to the history of the socks in Tregaron, Hywel Dda’s Palliative Care team in Ceredigion, the Arts in Health team and Literature Wales thought it would be fitting to invite keen knitters to knit a pair of socks. The socks will then be used to help decorate the Wellbeing Stage where the teams will be taking part in a panel discussion.

Kathryn Lambert, recently appointed, Hywel Dda Arts in Health Co-ordinator added: “The arts have a powerful role to play in helping us to live and die well. There is a growing body of evidence and recognition that the arts can help us to understand what it means to be human, the arts help us to make sense of the world and our lives, can raise our spirits, soothe and comfort us when we are at our most vulnerable.”

GP Catherine Jenkins, who is also a Hywel Dda Arts in Health Co-ordinator explained the benefits of using arts in health. She added: “Arts in health gives me hope- that in increasingly pressured lives and healthcare settings we won’t forget what it is to be human. The magic of expression, creativity, love and joy. The power to transform and heal and connect. The opportunity to do things in a better way, a more human way.  It has been said that medicine keeps us alive but arts in health helps us live. Without nurturing the mind, soul, and connections to each other - as well as the body - we create the ground for ill health to grow. The evidence for this is now stark and clinicians and policy makers are staring to take notice.”

If you would like to attend, the discussion will be held on the Open Stage at the Eisteddfod in Tregaron at 2:15pm on Sunday 31 July.

If you would like to donate socks to the display you can by sending to Gudrun Jones, Ty Geraint, Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth SY23 1ER or bring them along to the Eisteddfod. Please make sure to add your name. After they have been used to decorate the stand the socks will then travel around our health board locations within the three counties to decorate wards.

For more information, please contact Gudrun Jones on or Carys Stevens on  or phone 01970635790.