Exhibition 'Here To Stay': documenting the impact of nurses from the Windrush Generation in light of 70 years since the birth of the NHS.
In April 2018, I was contacted Donna Mighty from the BME staff network of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust. She wanted to commission me to document an event which she was in the beginning stages of planning, as well as produce a portrait series to be exhibited in a conference room in Sandwell, October 2018. The initial event and location for the first shoot was a small gathering of nurses at a tea party - who were from the Windrush Generation- which was taking place on the 16th of June 2018.
Having considered it's relevance to my previous work with members of the Windrush generation, West Indies to West Midlands, I instantly agreed and confirmed I'd be proud to present a portrait series of (predominantly female) nurses. I was especially excited to support this project after considering that my previous work with people from Windrush Generation happened to be an all-male portrait series of West Indian war veterans, in light of the World War One centenary (2014-2018).
Closer to the date I met with the commissioning team and they announce that 270 nurses would be attending the event, so we began to strategise how to schedule portrait shoots within an already packed schedule during a day of talks, performances and hospitality. As Donna has said in meetings since: 'If you don't aim for the stars, what's the point?!' Her tenacity in envisioning and leading this project has lead to it's inevitable success - but on a much larger scale than any of us were prepared for, financially!
The Portrait Shoots
- During the first event I photographed 11 participants and recorded 8 interviews which were later transcribed to provide context for an exhibition of portraits presented as a soft-launch of the project in London during the 2nd-8th of August 2018.
- On the 20th of July I completed the second shoot on location at Birmingham Treatment Centre and City Hospital on Dudley Road, Winson Green, Birmingham.
- On the 14th of August I completed my third and final shoot of this commission by taking portraits of a selection of the nurses of a Clinical Commissioning Group in West Bromwich.
The Exhibition so far:
I'm proud to say the soft-launch of this project #HereToStay70, an exhibition of a work in progress specially curated to compliment the space provided, was visited by hundreds of people from across the world over 8 days. Many international visitors learnt about the NHS and many young people, of all ethnicities, engaged in conversations about the Windrush Generation through the exhibition of this urgent, necessary portraits to acknowledge and honour the most resilient and dignified generation of our time.
As this portrait series was originally commissioned to be exhibited in a conference room in Sandwell and due to it's expansion I need to finance the additional print, installation and transportation costs as well as my time.
Sports Banger kindly supported the hire of the East-Central London exhibition venue on Brick Lane which received phenomenal footfall, as well as cross-marketing and providing posters and flyers - all costs which we now need to raise for the upcoming exhibitions in Birmingham during September and October.
The commissioning team
(Garry Stewart: Recognize Black Heritage & Culture. L-R: Beverley Maynard and sisters Donna and Lorraine Mighty)
It's worth mentioning that the Black And Minority Ethnic networks who comissioned me are working on this voluntarily outside of their full time jobs at the NHS, University of Birmingham and other endeavours. They've been incredibly supportive professionally, practically and holistically.
Thanks to their coordination, following the preview in London, we've arranged for the exhibition to tour back to Birmingham and exhibited Medicine Gallery in central Birmingham from the 16th-29th of September. After Medicine Gallery, the exhibition will tour to Sandwell to be exhibited throughout October and tour to the University of Birmingham in October.
We're raising money to support the cost of exhibitions in Birmingham and hopefully tour back to London/ across the UK.
Myself and the commissioning team would love to extend the tour more widely and I welcome requests from across the UK to tour this exhibition. I'm open to working in partnership with likeminded organisations an continuing the portrait series beyond the original commission in the Midlands, but do need financial support to do so.
For now though, we need to recoup the cost of transporting the exhibition to London which, although unanticipated, was very successful and incredibly necessary.