Your Next Breath: A memorial to mark the containment of Covid 19 and the compassion and resilience of NHS Healthcare workers at Surgeons Hall Edinburgh

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


In October 2020 I was given the responsibility by the Royal College of Surgeons to represent through the medium of sculpture the experience of NHS healthcare workers who cared for those who were seriously ill with Covid 19. At that moment in time the significance and scale of the pandemic was stark and traumatic as many both in Scotland and across the globe had succumbed to the virus including many healthcare professionals. We met up between lockdowns to discuss the potential of the memorial and why we thought it was important to publicly represent those who worked in the covid wards. In order for me to gain a degree of understanding of their experience and with the assistance of the Royal College of Surgeons I was then able to meet a range of frontline staff online. This allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation of the physical and psychological impact of the working conditions the NHS staff.

What emerged from these dialogues was a sense that this memorial should contain a mixture of light and dark to truthfully reflect their experience.

Certain words seemed to recur through these collective testimonies and I kept them at the forefront of my mind as I developed the sculpture. They were exhaustion, reflection, resilience and compassion.

Exhaustion from the intense shifts compounded by the fact that many had contracted Covid and so were fatigued with post viral symptoms.

Reflection throughout the NHS, on working with dedication at such a globally significant moment in history.

Resilience in the face of stressful working conditions straining the emotional and physical wellbeing of staff.

Compassion, of the NHS staff who despite all the difficulties and challenges they faced continued to put themselves in harm’s way to deliver care to those in need.

The memorial outside depicts four healthcare workers in scrubs at the end of a shift on a Covid ward. They are sited close to ground level, instead of the traditional plinth, encouraging from the viewer empathy over reverence. you can move among them and return their gaze. They are a group but are isolated on their own base, the space or distance between them being such a significant and relatable experience for everyone who lived through this period.
The title “Your next breath” is taken from a short mindfulness film that I discovered online - aimed at helping healthcare workers to decompress after another stressful day. This title not only suggests the impact of the virus on the respiratory systems but also how the pandemic affects and involves us all.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2022


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