Photography by Jenny Douglas
Words by Harry Potts
The Covid-19 crisis has made us all value and appreciate the dedication and bravery of all key workers, carers and NHS heroes. A giant mural featuring Manchester Royal Infirmary nurse Debra Williams as an angel has appeared in the city’s Northern Quarter. The artwork created by acclaimed street artist Akse-P19, is a tribute to all frontline workers across Greater Manchester and the UK.
Born in North Staffordshire, Debra (41) studied to be an ODP (operating department practitioner) and qualified in 2000. She has worked at the MRI (Manchester Royal Infirmary) since 2003 as an ODP with the extended role as an “Emergency airway practitioner” (EAP) which involves responding to major trauma calls, airway management for patients in cardiac arrest and any critically ill patients that might need inter-hospital transfers or assistance with airway management.
Debra was on duty on the night of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, responding as part of the major incident process where she was based in the Emergency Room.
“Probably a massive understatement… this is a fabulous tribute to the NHS. Very humbled by it all, as we’re all just getting on with doing our jobs in this weird new world.”
“I was actually really nervous about seeing the Akse-19 painting… when I first saw it I couldn’t believe how big it was and how detailed! Truly amazed by his skills, he’s an extremely talented artist.”
THE SHOOT: Northern Quarter, Manchester
NHS tribute mural
Student reflection: Jenny Douglas
“This was the project’s first socially distanced photo shoot and I was a little nervous about how it would work out. I cycled into town to meet Debra and tutor Harry on a sunny day in a very quiet city centre. We used the giant mural as the main backdrop for the shoot and Debra was very bubbly and easy to direct. Keeping 2 metres apart was quite straightforward, by using my zoom, I managed to get close enough to capture all the shots I needed. I switched between my digital and film camera so I could add extra work to my college final major project, which is all shot on film and based around my own personal lockdown story. Debra was very supportive and even changed in to her nurses scrubs for the last portraits of the session. I was extremely pleased with my final images, they manage to capture Debra’s personality and the important message of thanks to front line workers.”