Kwame Kwei-Armah leads Our National Health Stories, putting the words and voices of NHS staff on stage and online to mark 75 years of the NHS.
• Our National Health Stories launches today, an unprecedented national programme of artistic work made by staff in hospital settings
• Led by Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, a stellar creative team will curate and respond to work created by thousands of NHS staff from 19 hospital trusts across England
• Finale performance in November will be a day-long, nationwide relay, live in hospitals and streamed at ournhstories.org.uk
Our National Health Stories launches today, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NHS with a major programme of artistic work created in collaboration with 19 NHS Trusts across England including University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The project is funded by Arts Council England and NHS Charities Together in partnership with NHS England. It has been made possible through the support and funding of the 19 participating NHS Trusts and their hospital charities.
Artwork of all different forms - music, poetry, drawings, paintings, writing - is being created by and with staff in more than 80 hospitals across the country. Our National Health Stories will engage thousands of NHS staff to tell their stories, to share what being part of the NHS means to them and the impact it has had on their lives.
The project will culminate in a live finale event in November 2023, developed by a creative team led by Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah with writer Chris Bush and composer Ruth Chan, with dramaturg Teunkie Van Der Sluijs and assistant director Jennifer Tang. In a day-long, nationwide relay, the work created by NHS staff will be performed on hospital sites and streamed online, providing a unique window into the experience of working for our national health service at a time when we need it more than ever.
Audiences across the country and beyond will be able to watch the finale event in November streamed at ournhstories.org.uk. Follow social channels to find out how to watch local performances live and in person in hospitals in November.
Our National Health Stories has been initiated by the National Arts in Hospital Network, a group of arts managers that support arts and culture in hospital settings, and will build on the incredible work already being done within the 19 participating Trusts.
The stories presented in November will be gathered through workshops and engagement programmes with thousands of NHS staff from May - November 2023. They will be woven together into a live performance by the creative team, creating a striking portrait of an organisation through its people.
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director, Our National Health Stories said: ‘It's important to tell stories of the NHS from the inside. Often we talk about the NHS as one huge monolith, but actually, it’s people who make the institution. I want to hear their voices, I want to hear their stories, to hear how they have negotiated the last few years. I want to help articulate that particular dedication to service and care. The creative team for this project are the NHS workers themselves, and the art will come from the ground up.’
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said: ‘As the national charity caring for the NHS, we know art is an incredible tool for supporting staff mental health and are delighted to be involved in this initiative. Working in the NHS is a wonderful, challenging and unique experience and this project is here to help staff to reflect and to share their personal stories, while making a difference to wellbeing. The workforce has made the NHS what it is today and over the last 75 years have touched all our lives in some way – Our National Health Stories will be a powerful way for us to celebrate them and this amazing institution.’
Rebecca Blackman, Director, Audiences & Engagement at Arts Council England said: ‘We are proud to support this innovative project celebrating 75 years of the NHS with Arts Council National Lottery funding. Our National Health Stories will support thousands of NHS workers to express and develop their creativity, and to tell their stories in new and impactful ways under the brilliant artistic leadership of Kwame Kwei Armah. We are grateful to the Network for Arts in Hospitals and all the partners involved in making this exciting programme a reality.
There is increasing evidence that creativity and culture can play a key role in improving physical and mental health. It can be profoundly fulfilling and a source of inspiration and delight, helping us to make sense of ourselves and each other. Creativity and culture can provoke and uplift us, unite communities and bring us joy.
We’re delighted that people from every level across the trusts involved will have the opportunity to see and hear their stories reflected and we are looking forward to seeing the benefit that this project will bring to people’s lives.’
A BBC Radio 4 programme inspired by Our National Health Stories will be broadcast on 4th and 5th July. The NHS at 75: Covid Memories features writing from NHS staff supported by hospital arts teams, and new poetry from emergency department nurse and poet Piers Harrison-Reid.