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Key workers celebrated in Museums Northumberland’s new online exhibition

10/12/2020

Museums Northumberland has launched a new online exhibition celebrating the county’s key workers.

‘Hidden Heroes: Meet Northumberland’s Key Workers’, by documentary and social photographer Marge Bradshaw, tells the personal stories of ten Northumberland residents who have each provided an essential service to the county during the coronavirus pandemic.

The online exhibition gives a unique and moving insight into their lockdown experience, and how they have faced challenges and adapted to continue delivering their jobs during the crisis.

‘Hidden Heroes: Meet Northumberland’s Key Workers’ is available to view online at Hidden Heroes: Meet Northumberland’s Key Workers – Museums Northumberland and via outdoor digital screens that will be touring towns across Northumberland during December.

Photographer, Marge Bradshaw, said: “Despite stories of some key workers being regularly profiled in the news, not all critical workers have been recognised for their contribution during the crisis. Thousands of people across the country have been keeping society going in a range of different roles.

“I wanted to capture the personal stories of some of the hidden key workers living in Northumberland, particularly those in important roles that haven’t always been visible or publicly recognised.

“I really hope that this exhibition encourages people to positively reflect on the past few months, and to remember that the crisis has often brought out the best in people. Ultimately, I want people to be proud of Northumberland and those who work within it.”

Marge interviewed and photographed ten key workers for the exhibition who all work in sectors and roles deemed critical to the country’s coronavirus response.

They include Stephen Williamson, a Psychological Therapist. Stephen was due to retire on 21 March 2020 but chose to continue working to support people during the coronavirus pandemic. His job changed dramatically because of COVID-19, with the majority of his consultations carried out over the phone, rather than in person.

Stephen said: “I think a lot of people coped very well for the first couple of weeks, I think clients accepted it and managed. But as time’s gone on, they’ve struggled. We also saw a lot of referrals after the first couple of weeks from people who were actually in the care profession, people who were nurses.”

Elisa Hutchings is a Home Shopping Picker at Asda in Ashington. Elisa and her colleagues saw demand for some services triple during lockdown. Click and Collect orders reached 150 a day.

Elisa said: “There was an occasion where there was a lady stood outside who couldn’t come in the store, she was supposed to be self-isolating but she was on her own and needed to get some shopping, so I helped pick it for her.

“A couple of days later a letter was sent to the store thanking me personally for helping her and keeping my distance. It’s nice to know you made a difference on a daily basis really.”

Sharon Liddle, a Community Nurse, works mainly with elderly patients. Her workload increased during lockdown as more patients were forced to shield, meaning they were unable to visit surgeries in person. The experience made her aware of the challenges faced by the older population.

“We weren’t always welcome into people’s homes because of their anxiety – we had to approach them and speak at a distance at the front door. The elderly population can be isolated anyway, but what brought it home for me was they were totally cut off when their families couldn’t go and see them.

“It was a strange time when you were the only one on the road, it was like apocalyptic and then all of a sudden you see the Tesco van and it was a wave and a beep, just appreciating each other.”

Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “Key workers in Northumberland have had a very different lockdown experience to the majority of people living in the county. They really have been on the front line of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Using ten personal stories from key workers living in Northumberland, Marge has created an exhibition that is heart-warming, inspiring and demonstrates the power of human resilience in the face of crisis.

“The stories and images will remain in the Museums Northumberland collection as a poignant reminder of the global crisis we faced in 2020, and how it affected the lives of people living in our county.”

‘Hidden Heroes: Meet Northumberland’s Key Workers’ is available to view now at Hidden Heroes: Meet Northumberland’s Key Workers – Museums Northumberland. The outdoor digital screens will be visiting towns across Northumberland in December.