I was working as a project producer for Anystage Creative – an international theatre and events company. We were in the midst of proposals for Dubai Expo 2020. The scale of Dubai’s Expo was going to be huge, an event surpassing even the original in Hyde Park, offering opportunities for the theatre and events industry on a global scale. Prior to this I had completed large scale projects in Mumbai and Bangkok.
I heard through some friends about People Powered. People Powered is a collective of freelancers from across the entertainment and live event industries who came together to help the NHS and other frontline services after their diaries emptied because of the coronavirus.The organisation was started by two lighting designers, Katharine Williams and Jono Kenyon, who wrote an open letter to the NHS about how we could help relieve pressure on services and aid with flattening the curve.
The importance of a calm space for NHS really came to the fore at the height pandemic – where staff were dealing with unimaginable stress. Our job was to help convert a designated space into a room where staff could take a moment, a cup of coffee and a biscuit. My job consisted of working out what we could do without having been in the room as the only time we enter the building is to do the install. Usually we are asked to provide specific furniture, lighting, soft furnishing, tea & coffee making facilities, artwork – and any other treats we can get hold of like plants, fake flowers, hand cream etc. There has never been a budget, so time is spent being creative and sourcing it all for free.
It is hugely satisfying. Like the buzz you get from opening night – I love handing over the ‘Wellbeing Room’ to the staff to use. The biggest challenge was understanding the institution of the NHS and its relationship with the wellbeing of its own staff. It is very emotional; as an individual I want to help as much as I can, but it can be overwhelming. As the pandemic is easing ever so slightly, I believe the NHS now needs to support the mental health of their workers – they’ve been through hell – and it’s not going to end as they reopen ‘normal’ services and attempt to catch up.