Exhibition opening on the 17th April Answering the Call: Our NHS Commonwealth Nurses

At Glenside Hospital Museum we are pleased to announce our next exhibition.

at Glenside Hospital Museum

from April 17th to December 14th 2024

The history of commonwealth nurses and their contribution to the NHS is one that is often overlooked. Uncover this unseen past at Glenside Hospital through the exhibition ‘Answering the Call’ which highlights the triumphs and difficulties faced by these nurses. Using textiles, ceramics, and sculpture as well the Museum’s mental health care collections to capture their histories. This was a collaboration of ex-nurses, artists and members of the local community. Supported by Historic England.

When on the 5th of July 1948 the government took control of 2,688 hospitals there was already a shortage of staff. The 54,000 vacancies were compounded by post-war losses, low wages, and other barriers such as the marriage bar for women. The answer to this shortfall was to call on people to come to Britain. Health minister Aneurin Bevin (1945-1951), the chief architect of the NHS, planned to recruit nurses and student nurses from both Europe and the Commonwealth.

(Image: advert from Jamaican newspaper 1966.)

The exhibition uses individual histories provided by courageous nurses who travelled from Commonwealth countries to work in the newly formed NHS. A team consisting of ex-nurses, students and community members documented the experiences of these nurses and then participated in using stitch, print and sculpture to create a display of work that gives an insight into their contribution to psychiatric hospital care.

(Image: Eulinda Antonette Clarke Akalanne meeting with the priest with a group of Irish nurses 1960-1964.)



‘It was really exciting, everyone produced lots of varied work, such creative stitchers. It’s interesting how everyone has been inspired by different aspects of the stories that we collected from the NHS nurses. The stories of the courageous women who travelled so for on their own, these focused and ambition women that have fulfilled their ambitions with verve’ Anwyl Cooper-Willis

Moira Gavin produced work inspired by the oral history of Celestine Lewis ‘I think an amazing woman that worked so hard to do the best she could to provide for her children. She was kind, as kind at work as she was at home in a time when many weren’t, although she herself experienced racism herself she maintained that kindness and she took enormous pride in her work’


(Image: an example of a piece of art from the exhibition by Teresa Searle of the journey of nurse Mrs Rachel Obi. Photograph Ella Tranter)







The displays are woven into the Museum. Take a journey looking for the floral bouquet and discover insights into psychiatric nursing in the early years of the NHS. Do you know the National Health Service is the largest employer in Britain and one of the most diverse workplaces.




(Image: floral bouquet by artist Hannah Miller)


    Funded by Historic England