Published on: 6 August 2019
People of all ages from across the borough, including healthcare staff, contributed thoughts and ideas which helped to shape the work, called ‘Seventy’. Some of those involved were at the ceremony when it was officially unveiled - just over 70 years after the founding of the NHS on July 5th 1948.
The piece, by artist Bethan Maddocks, was commissioned by South Tyneside Council and the Cultural Spring, in partnership with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
The large work, which hangs in the main hospital corridor, is an intricate papercut - cut from a single piece of white paper – with a coloured collage underneath helping to highlight the detail.
The design looks at first glance like an anatomical study but, in fact, the organs represent key stories, places and events related to the NHS, generally, and in South Tyneside in particular.
The spine is made up of 14 vertebrae which detail a timeline from 1948 to 2018, documenting events in social and health development over the 70 years of the NHS. The left lung transforms into a map of South Shields, which includes the green spaces that are used by local residents for sport, leisure and personal healthcare. Running through the ribs are papercut medical instruments and equipment. The heart turns into the hospital.
Ken Bremner, Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am proud and delighted that we now have this permanent tribute to the long and remarkable history of our NHS. It is touching to think that each time patients, visitors and staff walk past it, they will be reminded of the significance of the NHS, which has done so much for the health and wellbeing of our nation and of our local communities.”
The Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Independence and Wellbeing, Councillor Tracey Dixon, said: "The NHS plays such a pivotal role in the lives of our residents that we wanted to deliver a permanent and fitting tribute to mark its 70th anniversary.
"I am pleased that we have been able to draw on the creativity of our communities for this inspiring work of art which captures how important and valued the NHS is both on a national scale and here in South Tyneside.
“I am sure people will enjoy this thought-provoking artwork in its South Tyneside home for very many years to come."
Gratitude, innovation, sustainability, birth to end of life care and unity were just some of the key themes to emerge when local residents were invited to share their views of the NHS with the artist.
Bethan Maddocks said: “I am very proud to have created a work that celebrates the great institution of the NHS; its achievements, advancements and the commitment that has made the NHS what it is over the last 70 years. Working with participants ranging in age from 17 to 70-plus helped to ground the work in the experiences, hopes and concerns of the local residents. The work celebrates the body of the NHS and the many staff on every level who make up the health service and includes patients, too, to acknowledge that we are all responsible for caring for the NHS, as it cares for us.”