China Plate and Coventry University present

Humans Not Heroes

A co-created series of audio pieces made with artists and healthcare workers exploring their experiences of the Covid pandemic.

#AfterARun#BoatsOnAnOcean#HumansNotHeroes#MilesOfCorridors#RescueMission#Shadows#Stopped#Thresholds

Content warnings: These pieces contains themes of mortality and illness and is based on real life testimonies from front line NHS workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A woman wearing a disposable mask, sitting on a bus alone.

"Moving, Cathartic, A special workshop to be part of"

Healthcare Worker Participant 2020

A woman wearing headphones sits in an armchair watching a small screen attached to the wall. Behind her are shelves of books.

Humans Not Heroes

The Humans Not Heroes project began in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven cohorts of healthcare workers have worked with writers, actors, and a sound designer to co-create seven audio artworks based on their real-life experiences of working throughout the pandemic. Participants are from a variety of roles and experiences, from up and down the country.

Five artworks were launched as part of the UNMASKED: Real Stories of Nursing in Covid-19 exhibition at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Library in London, running from the 12th May – 21st October 2023; with a further two pieces being added to the collection and exhibition, which had been co-created with RCN members. The exhibition then moved to Royal College of Nursing Scotland Learning Hub in Edinburgh and was open from 4th December until 16th May 2024.

If you were unable to visit the exhibition in person, the audio pieces can be experienced online via our webpage here, or you can visit an online version of the UNMASKED exhibition here.

Boats on an Ocean and Thresholds were both made with support from Coventry Creates and featured in their 2020 and 2021 Coventry Creates online digital exhibitions. For more information, head to the Coventry Creates website here.

Humans Not Heroes as a project was shortlisted for the Student Nursing Times Awards 2021 in the Teaching Innovation of the Year category. Boats on an Ocean as a pilot was shortlisted for the Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance 2021 Collective Power Award.

In addition to the artworks, the team have also shared the processes and thoughts behind the work, including speaking at The People Place Power conference in December 2021, as well as at the University of Warwick’s Resonate Festival.

If you would like to learn more about Humans Not Heroes, please contact Susan Wareham on [email protected]

Funded by The Rayne Foundation, Coventry Creates (partnership between the University of Warwick and Coventry University) and The Churchill Fellowship. Ethical approval granted by Coventry University.

Photo © Justine Desmond

Listen Now

LISTEN ONLINE

The audio pieces are also available to listen to through this webpage. Please click here to access or scroll down the page to view the video playlist – to select an audio piece, click on the down arrow to see all 7 videos. Listening instructions are provided below – we recommend reading these before engaging with the pieces. There is also a transcript of each piece available in the ‘Downloads’ block below.

CONTENT WARNING: These pieces contain themes of mortality and illness and is based on real life testimonies from front line NHS workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Listening Instructions

These pieces are emotive and designed to be intimate listening experiences. We would recommend somewhere quiet and comfortable.

Dr Liz Sparkes (Health Psychologist) recommends the following three steps to release tension and engage with feelings of wellbeing and compassion, before/during or after your listening experience:

  1. As you settle into a comfortable seated position, notice how you are feeling exactly as you are, not trying to change it in any way. Perhaps label it.
  2. Locate where you are drawn to physically within the body. Perhaps the sensations are in one area, or possibly across several sites. Just notice.
  3. Begin to breathe into the area that draws your attention. Moving out of the mind and into the body. Now direct the breath into the area, bringing a sense of softening. Place a hand on to the heart area to encourage a soothing presence.

If, after listening to these audio recordings, you need to talk to someone about your experiences or someone you care about, there is advice and emotional support available from The Samaritans www.samaritans.org or call 116123 for free advice.

If you are a healthcare leader or manager, and want more advice on how to support your team, go to: www.supporttheworkers.org or contact us if you would like to use this resource with your healthcare team.

Boats On An Ocean

“This is the moment when everyone else will just see sunshine today, but for me, I know this is the beginning of it.”

Writer & Director | Nick Walker
Performer | Bharti Patel
Sound Designer | Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers
Created for Coventry Creates

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

Thresholds

“Today I drove to the hospital, and parked on a side street far away. Engine off. Earphones in. And walk. I keep my music playing until the last possible moment before I start my shift.”

Writer and Director | Rochi Rampal
Actor | Urielle Klein-Mekongo
Sound Designer | Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers
Created for Coventry Creates

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

Stopped

“The statue and the poet watch as a huge black bird – with a bald bony body and feathered head the size of a car – settles herself on the roof of the hospital. She shuffles about wrapping and rewrapping her tatty wings around the ugly concrete. Like she’s trying to keep it warm, keep it safe.”

Writer and Director | Caroline Horton
Actor | Tessa Parr
Sound Designer | Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

Miles of Corridors

“I’ll tell you something. I’ll tell you a story. It’s only short, in the grand scheme of things. It won’t last long, but it feels like an eternity “

Writer and Director | Rochi Rampal
Actor | Alison Belbin
Sound Designer | Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

I Love The Feeling After A Run

“I love the feeling after a run. It’s like I’ve re-entered my body. Like I’ve moved through something.”

Writer and Director | Caroline Horton
Actor | Hannah Boyde
Sound Designer | Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

Rescue Mission

“And here we are. Rupa and Carmel and Marissa and Donna and me. We hold hands. Connected like the hearts on the wall.”

Writer and Director: Rochi Rampal
Actor: Nicole Sawyerr
Sound Designer: Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators: Multidisciplinary healthcare workers

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

Shadows

Four years ago – March 2020 – we had no clue what was coming.
And Joe – you were so wee.
And the weather was so warm.
And I was fine for the longest time.

Writer and Director | Caroline Horton
Actor | Julia Taudevin
BSL performer: Carly Brownlie
Sound Designer | Char Bickley
Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers
Video Design: Jay Thomas Morton

Click here to read a transcript of the piece.

Creative Team

A black and white photograph of a persons face behind a plastic shield and glasses, dressed in full PPE.

Humans Not Heroes

Read more
  • Research Associate and Joint Project Lead | Kerry Wykes
  • Joint Fundraising Lead | Kerry Wykes
  • Research Lead | Dr Sally Pezaro
  • Writer and Director | Caroline Horton & Rochi Rampal
  • Co-creator & trainer | Nick Walker
  • Psychologist | Dr. Liz Sparkes
  • Sound Designer | Char Bickley
  • Actors | Alison Belbin, Hannah Boyde, Tessa Parr, Urielle Klein-Mekongo & Nicole Sawyerr
  • Participant Co-creators | Multidisciplinary healthcare workers
  • Producer | China Plate
  • Funded by | The Rayne Foundation & The Churchill Fellowship
  • Ethical approval granted by | Coventry University

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