Gratitude sculptures mark incredible contribution of NHS staff

On 27th August 2021
Categories: 2021

Gratitude in Art was launched on 20th August by Wild in Art, one of the leading producers of spectacular, mass-appeal public art events. The outdoor public art installation commemorates and celebrates the stories of our beloved key workers during this extraordinary moment in time, whilst also raising vital funds for NHS Charities Together.

The free to visit installation brings together 51 uniquely designed human form sculptures, all lovingly decorated by individual artists and sponsored by different businesses who want to acknowledge key workers and pay tribute to the NHS.

After having toured Birmingham (20th – 30th August), Manchester (3rd – 12th September) and Edinburgh (17th – 26th September), the sculptures’ last stop will be London (1st – 10th October) where they will then be auctioned on 12th October, with funds raised going to NHS Charities Together.

It is possible to book free tickets to visit the installation and register interest in the autumn auction at https://thisisgratitude.co.uk/.

In addition to the auction in October, those who visit the installation on its travels will have the opportunity to donate via a QR code on the base of the sculptures, or to donate to a local NHS charity who will be bucket collecting at the site.

Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-founder, Wild in Art, with ‘Our Heroes in Blue’

A preview evening at Birmingham Town Hall on 19th August was attended by NHS staff and charity members, artists, and sponsors, where guests enjoyed inspirational and moving speeches from:

  • Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-founder of Wild in Art,
  • Renowned artist Dame Zandra Rhodes, whose sculpture ‘Our Heroes in Blue’ features in the installation and joined the speakers on stage,
  • Naheem Ahmed, Inclusion and Diversity Manager at Wesleyan, the location sponsor for Birmingham who helped to make the event happen,
  • Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together.

Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-founder of Wild in Art, said:

“We’re delighted to be supporting NHS Charities Together. When I think of the NHS, it’s the people – it’s the nurses, it’s the doctors, it’s the staff, it’s the cooks, the cleaners, the bottle washers – everybody. So for us to be able to support NHS Charities Together, it’s us being able to support ourselves because we all need the NHS.”

Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said:

“Gratitude is a key landmark event for NHS Charities Together and we are delighted to be the beneficiary charity of the Gratitude auction. The NHS is there for each of us at our time of greatest need and we will continue to say thank you and give back to all NHS staff, volunteers and key workers who go above and beyond for us.”

Matt Mangan, Director of Philanthropy at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity, was also in attendance and said:

“Visiting the Gratitude installation and listening to some of the stories featured has been a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by so many, and the pride that we all share in our NHS. The funds raised from the auction will ensure that we can continue to support the tireless work of our NHS heroes who go above and beyond for our patients each and every day.”

The Artists

NHS Charities Together is grateful for the incredible work of the artists from across the UK who have lent their amazing talents to this installation. Here are some of the personal stories that have inspired them.   

Sue Prince, ‘The Isolation Chronicles’

Sue Prince was delighted to be asked to be involved in this installation and her sculpture ‘The Isolation Chronicles’ tells the touching stories of the frontline workers who have sacrificed so much for us. From nurses finally being able to hug, to the cleaners whose work is vital in controlling the spread of Covid.

The installation also has a personal significance for Sue, who said:

“My dad died and I can’t say thank you enough. He died of Covid, and the nurses were there, and they carried my heart through that.”

Megan Heather Evans, whose partner is an NHS worker, wanted to give something back to the public and designed two of the 51 sculptures – ‘Our Teacher Our Hero’ and ‘Rise’, pictured here. The phoenix on the front represents life coming from the ashes and the sacred heart for the NHS signifies how they have been carrying us through the pandemic.

Megan said:

“This [sculpture] was about bringing hope out of such a terrible situation. As an artist I felt helpless and my partner is an NHS worker who works for children’s mental health, so I wanted to do something to give back and this is my contribution.”

Left: Megan Heather Evans, ‘Rise’, Middle: Donna Newman, ‘Clap for Heroes’, Right: Jess Perrin, ‘We Can Be Heroes’


Donna Newman was really keen to get involved in the installation and wanted to capture the passion that everyone feels for the NHS – what they’ve done for us and the hardships that they go through every day – in her sculpture ‘Clap for Heroes’.

Donna said:

“I just felt really emotional at the time, on a Thursday night everyone came out and everyone was clapping, and it was a lovely way of paying tribute to such a worthwhile cause.”

Jess Perrin has worked with Wild in Art multiple times and was inspired by the important message of NHS Charities Together to get involved in the installation with her sculpture ‘We Can Be Heroes’.

Jess said:

“I really wanted with this sculpture to show the community being able to come back together as one and celebrating all the key workers that have got us through the pandemic.”

Supporting the NHS

Funds raised from the auction and donations will enable NHS Charities Together to be there for the NHS staff that these sculptures celebrate and thank them for all that they have done and continue to do for us.

Through its 240 NHS member charities covering the UK, grants have been awarded for projects include counselling services and helplines to help support the mental health of staff, bereavement support for families who have lost loved ones, long-Covid research, funding thousands of emergency volunteers and support in the community. Funding has also supported staff with practical needs like food, drink and a place to rest, enabling staff to continue with their vital life-saving work.

With the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS workforce, the threat of a third wave and clinics busier than ever, NHS Charities Together needs to continue to be there for the NHS and wider communities, which is why continued support from the public is so vital.

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