“What makes Newham, Newham?”

“What was the most challenging moment during the first wave?”

“And what was your most beautiful?”

In the Autumn of 2020 I filmed 47 of Newham’s health workers, from ward clarks to the medical director, having a conversation with me. I asked each individual a series of simple questions about their experiences of the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Hello. I’m James, an artist and mental health activist. I make art about themes like mental health, and how we care for each other.

Filmed with one camera in an informal and honest way in my artist studio, I learnt about the complexity of each health professional’s experiences. The challenges they faced, the compromises forced upon them and yet the beauty in caring for their patients and each other. I heard about the reality of how these workers coped (and didn’t) and how this compares to the official narrative of ‘heroes’ we hear so much about. Their stories reveal their moral struggles, resulting in mental health challenges and frustrations, but they also speak of their resilience in team work and peer support, and their hopes for the Newham community they serve.

Designer Sascha Gilmour and I would like to share some of what I caught on camera and what I’ve learnt with you. Join us for an evening of film, storytelling and music to remember the details of a truly extraordinary time, population and place.

Content warning. Death from Covid 19, Mental Health, Racism.

Group of distressed health workers looking towards camera
Group of distressed health workers looking towards camera. Image by Richard Pelham

With contribution and a very special thank you to: Adeola Agbebiyi, Andrew Kelso, Anna Collini, Anni Khan, Arun Mahay, Ben Fraser, Catriona Rowland, Charlie Hubbett, Cath Reeve-Jones, Chris Odedun, Cliodhna Gillespie, Ellie Richards, Emma Young, Esther Murray, Ferha Saeed, Fiona Sarpong, Folasade Ajagunna, Funke (Olufunke) Bella, Giuseppe Labriola, Hafiz Syed, Hannah Prytherch, Helen Parker, Lyunade Oluwatosin Ajibola, James Napier, Jason Strelitz, Jenna Finch, Leigh-Anne Hill, Lily Dryburgh-Smith, Loveness Kamzara, Luxmimalar Velauthar, Maria Vidal, Mike Willis, Petra Francis, Pragna Katariya, Rhonda Reddington, Richa Gupta, Samuel Jerram, Sara Hiles, Sean Bourke, Shabina Hussain, Susie Beck, Vijaya Munian, Yousef Eltuhamy, Yunus Dudhwala, Zarmina Jan, Zara Zaman and Person X.

In collaboration with Dr Emma Young, Dr Cecilia Wee and Newham’s Health Workers.

Design and Performance. Sascha Gilmour.

Sound Design. Rhiannon Armstrong.

Music Performance. New YVC.

Audience Facilitation. Fox Irving.

Lead Interview Producer and Assistant Editor. Becky Sumerling.

Interview Producer. Kai-Oi Joyce Yung.

Live Event Producer. Jesse Bateson with Beki Bateson and Stratford Circus.

EXPOSURE has received support from Arts Council England, Newham Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Royal Docks Team Wellcome Collection and Gessnerallee