NHS staff are travelling from all over the country to Manchester to perform songs, poems, plays and more to show of an array of creative skills. 'Our National Health Stories' is an England-wide project with the finale in Manchester, sharing what it's like to work in the NHS in 2023.

As the Covid inquiry thunders on, with testimony from politicians and civil servants about the state of the health service, Our National Health Stories is a chance to hear from NHS staff on the ground. The event celebrates the 75th anniversary of the NHS and honours the voices of its staff with a very special one-off performance at Manchester’s Aviva Studios on Thursday 23 November 2023.

Over the last six months, thousands of NHS staff at 80 hospitals across 19 trusts, from Somerset to Newcastle, have taken part in the nationwide creative programme, telling their stories in their own words, creating artworks that reflect on what it means to be part of the NHS at this landmark moment in its history.

Read more: How the autumn statement could affect first-time buyers - from stamp duty cuts to Lifetime ISA change

Read more: Martin Lewis encourages families to have 'difficult conversation' before it's too late

The trusts include Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The stories will be showcased in a live finale performance on 23 November 2023, developed with NHS staff by a creative team led by artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah with writer Chris Bush and composer Ruth Chan, dramaturg Teunkie Van Der Sluijs and associate director Jennifer Tang. The company of actors, performing new work by Sheffield playwright Chris Bush, are Gabrielle Brooks known for Mlima's Tale, Get Up, Stand Up; Robert Lonsdale, known for Standing at the Sky's Edge, and Channel 4's hit comedy Chewing Gum; Michael Shaeffer, known for Grenfell: In The Words of the Survivors, and Bodyguard; and Naomi Wirthner, of Paradise, and Soldier Soldier.

Director Kwame Kwei-Armah says: “Our National Health Stories Live is a moment for us all to come together to support the people that support us when it matters. There are so many contributions I can't wait to share - a trolley ballet created by the porters of Addenbrokes hospital; a choir from Derby & Burton that have learned about themselves and each other through singing together; choreography from University Hospital Leicester created by medical students and patients.

"We have beautiful new music by Ruth Chan and words from Chris Bush that capture the characters and experiences that we've encountered, but Our National Health Stories comes out of the art created by the NHS every day. It's a celebration built from the ground up.”

Aviva Studios, Manchester

On the evening of Thursday 23 November NHS staff from all over England will be onstage at Aviva Studios in Manchester with a professional cast and musicians, plus faces from across the NHS. Each trust will be sharing their story - through poetry, music, dance and more - with the live audience in Manchester, plus audiences around the country via livestream at ournhstories.org.uk. The creative team are providing a framework for these stories with new writing from award-winning Sheffield playwright Chris Bush, known for Standing at the Sky’s Edge, and specially composed music by Ruth Chan.

This performance follows a day-long, nationwide relay of performances by NHS staff on hospital sites, which will be streamed online from 12 noon on 23 November. Our National Health Stories has been initiated by the National Arts in Hospital Network, a group of NHS arts managers who develop arts and cultural programmes to support staff and patient wellbeing in hospitals. It builds on the incredible work already being undertaken within the 19 participating Trusts.

The project is funded by Arts Council England and NHS Charities Together in partnership with NHS England. It has been made possible through the support and funding of the 19 participating NHS Trusts and their hospital charities.

Staff making origami hearts at Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said: "As the national charity caring for the NHS, we know art is an incredible tool for supporting staff mental health and are delighted to be involved in this initiative. Working in the NHS is a wonderful, challenging and unique experience and this project is here to help staff to reflect and to share their personal stories, while making a difference to wellbeing.

"The workforce has made the NHS what it is today and over the last 75 years have touched all our lives in some way – Our National Health Stories will be a powerful way for us to celebrate them and this amazing institution."

Rebecca Blackman, Director, Audiences & Engagement at Arts Council England said: "We are proud to support this innovative project celebrating 75 years of the NHS with Arts Council National Lottery funding. Our National Health Stories will support thousands of NHS workers to express and develop their creativity, and to tell their stories in new and impactful ways under the brilliant artistic leadership of Kwame Kwei Armah. We are grateful to the Network for Arts in Hospitals and all the partners involved in making this exciting programme a reality.

The Poetry Machine in Somerset

"There is increasing evidence that creativity and culture can play a key role in improving physical and mental health. It can be profoundly fulfilling and a source of inspiration and delight, helping us to make sense of ourselves and each other. Creativity and culture can provoke and uplift us, unite communities and bring us joy.

"We’re delighted that people from every level across the trusts involved will have the opportunity to see and hear their stories reflected and we are looking forward to seeing the benefit that this project will bring to people’s lives."

A BBC Radio 4 programme inspired by Our National Health Stories is available on BBC Sounds. The NHS at 75: Covid Memories features writing from NHS staff supported by hospital arts teams, and new poetry from emergency department nurse and poet Piers Harrison-Reid.