Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dancing Nurses Vanquish Evil

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No self-respecting blog about nursing and culture (and possibly they number more than one) could ignore what happened on Friday night. The Olympics opening ceremony boggled eye and brain. It was an ambitious attempt to re-imagine what British things were worth celebrating without recourse to forelock-tugging, corporate branding or celebrity glitter. Some crass mouthbores slated it as socialist. As if there was some sinister bias revealed in the motto that ringed the stadium before the appearance of Tim Berners-Lee - THIS IS FOR EVERYBODY.

At the centre of the pageant was the unexpected partnering of children’s literature and the NHS as represented by 800 puff-sleeved dancing nurses and dozens of ecstatically bed-bouncing children. The dark spirits of Lord Voldemort, the Childcatcher and other fictional villains were driven back by co-operative goodness and some airborne Mary Poppinses. And they weren’t hired actors pretending to be nurses; they were actual nurses and other healthcare workers who had volunteered their own time to rehearse weekend after rainy weekend. To learn exits and entrances and jitterbug kicks for the joy or satisfaction of just taking part. Watching it was to zigzag between thinking, this is madness and this is brilliant.

The reasoning behind the juxtaposition was that J.M Barrie, author of Peter Pan, gave all the rights for the work to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, and it was fitting too that his words were read out by JK Rowling who has passed a great deal of her wealth on to projects such as a new research clinic for neurodegenerative diseases at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. Literature is good for your health.

Removing healthcare from the day-to-day and setting it in this fairytale wonderland, addressed to the whole world, allowed us to see it for a moment in a new light. I mostly consider myself immune to the emotion of national spectacles, if not downright repulsed. The Jubilee, for example, had me running for the literal hills.  Yet I found myself vulnerable to the sheer optimism and egalitarianism expressed by ceremony writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, one of the creative team behind the ceremony.

But maybe I’m coming down with a case of age-related tenderness.  I’d be interested to hear what others thought about those dancing nurses. Chuffed or queasy?

nurse performers return home post-ceremony 

1 comment:

  1. I loved the NHS scene. It was so full of joy and care. I am astonished that medical staff who frequently work long hours in difficult situations felt able to give up their leisure time to this fabulous pageant. NHS the musical is overdue.