Out-of-work theatre and event staff volunteering to help the NHS cope during the coronavirus crisis have already delivered thousands of walkie-talkie radios and items of PPE to hospitals across the country, and have built temporary intensive care units and testing centres.
People Powered, a volunteer-led initiative set up last month by lighting designers, is working with NHS Trusts to provide assistance in a range of areas, from infrastructure that will support the increased number of patients and complexity of treating Covid-19, to boosting the health service’s strained supply chain and improving staff welfare.
In addition to working across England, People Powered is working in Scotland and the idea has spread as far as Australia.
More than 3,000 walkie-talkies have been sourced by People Powered members and delivered to hospitals and midwifery units across the country.
By allowing staff to communicate across different areas of the hospital without physically moving in and out of Covid-19 treatment areas, they reduce the amount of PPE needed.
People Powered has also delivered hundreds of visors and shoe covers to hospitals in the East of England.
Tour buses are being redeployed as staff rest areas at hospitals including Lewisham in south London, while triage and isolation units have been constructed at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, with plans to build more in High Wycombe, Kingston and Birmingham.
The group has also arranged for 30 iPads to be gifted to maternity units at Chelsea and Queen Mary hospitals in London to allow patients to stay in contact with friends and family.
Volunteers have set up a free shop for staff at the Royal Free Hospital in London for NHS workers to pick up essentials and fresh food, while a caterer for music tours has supplied fridges and freezers to facilitate the creation of a food bank for Basingstoke and Winchester hospital staff.
NHS Trusts needing support can use People Powered’s website to be connected to engineers, electricians, plumbers and drivers, as well as logistics specialists and project managers.
People Powered’s co-founder Jono Kenyon, a lighting designer, said the group currently has around 160 logged jobs, and is taking on more every day, including assisting with the creation of new coronavirus testing centres.
More than 1,000 volunteers have signed up to be on its database, with an additional list of suppliers offering to help.
"There is clearly not going to be any work for us for a significant period of time, so setting this up was a question of: how do you make the best of the situation? This was something a few of us identified as being something we thought we could help with," he said.
"There is an acknowledgement towards the sensitivity required to work in an environment that isn’t our natural home, and if you work in the events industry you’re quite used to going into places that are not your day-to-day working environment with an air of sensitivity, understanding and care that is quite applicable to the situation we’re in," Kenyon added, stressing that volunteers work within required protocols around hygiene, safety and distancing.
Volunteers include people who have worked as production and logistics managers at event companies such as Secret Cinema and site coordinators for Glastonbury and Bestival, as well as West End lighting designers and technicians from venues including the Roundhouse.