A powerful new artwork celebrating the stories of the people that make up our NHS. Our National Health Stories is an unprecedented collaboration between 19 NHS trusts across England and a creative team led by Kwame Kwei-Armah. It built upon, and shone a light on, the incredible and diverse work – often hidden from public view – of the National Arts in Hospitals Network.
In the 75th anniversary year of the National Health Service, the programme engaged thousands of NHS staff to explore, share and reflect upon what being part of the NHS means to them, what it stands for, and the impact it has had on their lives.
Each unique story was told through artwork of all different forms – music, poetry, drawings, paintings, film – developed during a six-month nationwide engagement programme by and with staff.
Our National Health Stories culminated in November 2023, with a day-long series of events in hospitals across England, curated by Kwei-Armah and the creative team, taking place as a relay across England, followed by a live show at the newly-opened Aviva Studios, home to Factory International, in Manchester. These finale events stitched together the multitude of individual stories to create a striking portrait of an organisation through its people, providing a window for all of us to powerfully explore, share and reflect upon the profound impact of the NHS on our public life.
Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE is Artistic Director of the Young Vic theatre. He was Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage (2011-18) and Artistic Director of the Festival of Black Arts and Culture, Senegal (2010), where he wrote and directed the opening ceremony at Senghor stadium. As a playwright, Kwame was the first African Caribbean to have a play produced in London’s West End (Elmina’s Kitchen). His triptych of plays was produced at the National Theatre, where he later created the online resource The Black Play Archive.
Kwame was Chancellor of the University of the Arts, London (2010-2015), is Patron of Ballet Black and The Black Cultural Archives, Chair of Warwick Arts Centre Advisory Board and a Trustee of the Tate and the Black Equity Organisation. Kwame was awarded an OBE for Services to Drama in 2011, and in 2020 listed as one of 100 Great Black Britons
Chris is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, theatre-maker and Associate Director at Sheffield Theatres. Her most recent work includes Standing at the Sky’s Edge (Sheffield Crucible/National Theatre) for which she won an Olivier Award for Best New Musical, South Bank Sky Arts Award for Best Theatre, and UK Theatre Award for Best Musical). Other career awards include the Perfect Pitch Award, a Brit Writers’ Award and the Theatre Royal Haymarket Writers’ Award.
Chris is currently developing a TV adaptation of Standing at the Sky’s Edge with Red Production Company, and she is under a TV development deal with Paramount. Her short film MARS (produced by Yungblud) premiered at London Film Festival and was recently selected for Tribeca Film Festival.
In January 2023 Chris was named by The Stage as one of the 100 most influential people in British theatre.
Jennifer is an award-winning UK and International theatre maker and stage director, specializing in making new work across multiple disciplines. Her practice spans new writing, devised work and opera, and she also has extensive experience of working with communities and young people. Jennifer trained at the University of East Anglia, the Young Vic and on the National Theatre Studio Director’s course.
Jennifer has just completed a year as Associate Director at The Young Vic Theatre. She was the resident director for Tina, The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, and the resident assistant director of Theatre Royal Plymouth / The Drum 2013-14.
Ruth is a renowned composer for film, theatre opera and concert music. She is an artist who loves working on both classical, contemporary and electronic compositions, merging cross-cultural and eclectic styles together.
Theatre and Live works credits include: Further than the Furthest Thing (Young Vic), The Doncastrian Chalk Circle (National Theatre/Cast in Doncaster), The Hatchling (The Platinum Jubilee Pageant), Mokita (Hong Kong Arts Festival), and Snow in Midsummer (Royal Shakespeare Company – nominated for The Stage Debut Award for Best Music, 2017).
Ruth was the Composer-in-Residence for Endelienta in 2016 and Artist-in-Residence for Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in 2014. She composed the soundtrack for silent film Around China With A Movie Camera (British Film Institute) and has also composed for numerous television documentaries.
Teunkie Van Der Sluijs is a Dutch-British theatre-maker, working predominantly as a director in the UK and in Europe. He is Head of Artistic Development at the Young Vic, having been Creative Associate there since 2019.
As a director, Van Der Sluijs’ work includes the trilogy Clybourne Park, Beneatha’s Place and A Raisin in the Sun at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam which was awarded the 2017 Amsterdam Award for the Arts. His work in the UK includes Hate after La Haine (Barbican, shortlisted for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award), and Women Laughing (Old Red Lion, Off West End Award Nomination for Best Director).
He also formerly worked as Resident Director for Imagine Nation on Anne: The Diaries of Anne Frank On Stage at Theater Amsterdam, HOME Manchester, the National Theatre and at the Orange Tree Theatre.
The 19 Trusts are part of the National Arts in Hospitals Network, a membership organisation made up of NHS managers and professional leads who are involved in the leadership and delivery of Arts, Heritage and Design services across NHS hospitals. The purpose of the group is to share best practice, to find solutions and offer support to those working within this field of healthcare. The organisation works together to raise the profile of the profession, improve and standardise approaches to working and to instigate innovative projects that celebrate the arts across the NHS.
The project is funded by Arts Council England, NHS Charities Together in partnership with NHS England. It has been made possible through the support in kind of the 19 participating NHS Trusts and funding from their hospital charities.