As the birthplace of the NHS, and very proud of it, Manchester is set to celebrate the health service’s massive 75th anniversary in style. Honouring 75 years of the NHS with a powerful and moving performance, Our National Health Stories Live, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, is a celebration of NHS staff – in their own words.
Over the last six months, thousands of NHS staff at 80 hospitals across 19 Trusts, from Somerset to Newcastle, have taken part in a nationwide creative programme, telling their stories in their own words, creating artworks that reflect on what it means to be part of the NHS at this landmark moment in its history.
These stories will be showcased in a live finale performance on November 23 at Manchester’s Aviva Studios, developed with NHS staff by a creative team led by Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah with writer Chris Bush and composer Ruth Chan, dramaturg Teunkie Van Der Sluijs and associate director Jennifer Tang.
Director Kwame Kwei-Armah said: “Our National Health Stories Live is a moment for us all to come together to support the people that support us when it matters. There are so many contributions I can’t wait to share – a trolley ballet created by the porters of Addenbrokes hospital; a choir from Derby & Burton that have learned about themselves and each other through singing together; choreography from University Hospital Leicester created by medical students and patients.
“We have beautiful new music by Ruth Chan and words from Chris Bush that capture the characters and experiences that we’ve encountered, but Our National Health Stories comes out of the art created by the NHS every day. It’s a celebration built from the ground up.”
On the evening of Thursday 23 November NHS staff from all over England will be onstage at Aviva Studios with a professional cast and musicians, plus faces from across the NHS. Each trust will be sharing their story – through poetry, music, dance and more – with the live audience in Manchester, plus audiences around the country via livestream here. This performance follows a day-long, nationwide relay of performances by NHS staff on hospital sites, which will be streamed online from 12 noon on 23 November.
Our National Health Stories has been initiated by the National Arts in Hospital Network, a group of NHS arts managers who develop arts and cultural programmes to support staff and patient wellbeing in hospitals. It builds on the incredible work already being undertaken within the 19 participating Trusts, and the event is funded by Arts Council England and NHS Charities Together.
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.”
Tickets to the in-person Manchester NHS 75th anniversary event are free, and you can find out how to attend via the Our National Health Stories Instagram page. A BBC Radio 4 programme inspired by Our National Health Stories is also available on BBC Sounds.