We went to capture some press photographs of patients at St Ann’s Hospice as they experienced an element of the traditional seaside – when a former beach donkey, named Charlie came to visit.

A therapy donkey visits patients at a hospice

Photographing Charlie the donkey and patient, Geneva on a visit to St Ann’s Hospice, Manchester.

As we always say, it’s never a dull job as a commercial photographer and you get to see many interesting aspects of life at close quarter. Especially touching to see people who are nearing the end of their lives come to life and express such emotion when they are given such a nice surprise. Charlie was one of a group of donkeys who worked in Scarborough before retiring to The Donkey Sanctuary’s Manchester centre, where he is involved in assistive therapy. Now, aged 10, Charlie left best friend Pringle for a visit to staff, carers, patients and their loved ones at the hospice in Heald Green.

The visit was arranged by Manchester Health and Care Commissioning (MHCC) – a partnership between Manchester NHS clinical commissioning Group and Manchester City Council – as part of their ongoing plans to bring more personal choice in where and how people receive palliative care. It also represents the holistic and flexible nature of hospice care.

During the visit Charlie, who is known for his love of ginger biscuits, met patients and staff in the courtyard and went to bedroom windows so that everyone could see him. Day care patient Genevieve Grey, 80, was especially happy to meet Charlie.

A therapy donkey helps patients who have terminal illnesses.

“Donkeys have a natural emotional intelligence and react positively to human contact. There’s something very pure about seeing an animal in front of you. There’s no judgement and it takes a lot of people back to their childhood.”

Adele Crompton, An equine coach and coordinator who has worked at The Donkey Sanctuary in Manchester.


The PR photographs did well in the press, being picked up by Metro and ITV, amongst others.