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June 22, 2023

Bolton NHS staff COVID stories to be told through special music performance

The real life stories of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust staff during the height of the COVID pandemic are to be told in a special performance as the NHS marks a major milestone.

‘Healing Tales’ will recount the experiences of what life was like for staff on the frontline, and those working behind-the-scenes, as the world suddenly changed and the health service faced its biggest challenge in almost 75 years.

Having worked with music composer Alan Williams for the past six months, NHS staff have turned their stories into a music ensemble that will feature recorded voices from their accounts.

Lucy Bates, Critical Care Consultant at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said:

Revisiting and sharing my experiences for this project has felt cathartic but it also opened up a lot of emotions.

“Some of them were upsetting as we remembered the lives lost and how difficult lockdown was for so many people.

“Other emotions were more positive, such as the overwhelming sense of pride I felt for the team I worked with and everything good that we managed to achieve. We have to remind ourselves that we did saves lives and kept families together.

“I look forward to seeing the performance and sharing these experiences with the audience through music, dance and art.

The premiere performance takes place at the New Adelphi Theatre in Salford on Thursday 20 July 2023, the same month the NHS marks its 75th anniversary of delivering healthcare and innovation for communities across the country.

Neal Ashurst, who worked as an Anaesthetic Team Leader at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust during the pandemic, said:

It’s been very therapeutic to have taken part in a piece that will be there forever and one that tells such an important story about what life was like.

“I’ve found it incredibly emotive to listen to the music that’s been composed and I hope people will find it thought-provoking.

For some staff it’s the first time they have revisited detailed accounts of the challenges they faced and the remarkable resilience that kept healthcare teams in Bolton together and caring for patients.

‘The emotions of what we went through’

Abby Jones, Consultant Anaesthetist at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, worked in both Theatres and ICU through COVID:

We’ve never really come together to talk about how things were for all of us, from work life to home life, and the impact that it had on us as professionals and our families at home.

“It will be eye-opening for people who didn’t work in the NHS and experienced what happened first-hand, as the piece conveys the emotions of what staff, patients and families went through.

“It’s so special how Alan has weaved our individual stories together through music, dance and art.

The performance is inspired by the famous music composer Igor Stravinsky, who wrote ‘A Soldier’s Tale’ at the height of the flu pandemic in 1919 to tell the story of a soldier returning home from war.

Marking a ‘momentous milestone’

Alan Williams, Composer and Professor of Collaborative Composition at the University of Salford, said:

As the NHS marks such a momentous milestone, it felt like the appropriate time to tell the stories of staff who worked through what will likely be one of the most difficult periods of time many of us will ever experience.

“This project is nothing like I have ever done before. Throughout I’ve felt a very strong sense of responsibility to get this right because the stories I have heard are very raw for those telling them.

“I remember walking out the hospital after some of the initial interviews and feeling a sense of needing to put everything I can into conveying the stories of what our healthcare workers went through.

“All of the staff who have taken part have contributed to the composition to make sure the music interacts with and accurately tells their stories.

The performance will be given by the Latitude Ensemble, conducted by Chris Clark, and will be accompanied by live drawing and dance interpretations.

Creating a lasting legacy

Proceeds from the event will be donated to Our Bolton NHS Charity to benefits patients, service-users and their loved ones, meaning the project will have a lasting and very special legacy.

Sarah Skinner, Charity Manager at Our Bolton NHS Charity, also took part in the sessions:

No matter where we were during the pandemic, there’s no doubt the impact will be felt for a long time for so many of us.

“I experienced a lot of different emotions throughout the pandemic, but an important part of my work was to support our colleagues using the incredibly generous donations from the public and grant funding to put wellbeing provisions in place.

“Hearing the raw experiences of my frontline colleagues has been eye-opening, and at times gut-wrenching, but Alan has created the space for us to be honest and vulnerable. It’s been both humbling and emotional to take part.

Tickets for ‘Healing Tales’ can be purchased online on the New Adelphi Theatre website.

Event info

When: Thursday 20 July 2023, 7.30pm
Where: New Adelphi Theatre, Salford
Tickets: £3 – £10 + booking fee

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