Along an inconspicuous hallway on Level C of Southampton General Hospital, now hangs a surprising new addition to the institution’s collection of artwork. The elusive street artist Banksy has paid tribute to the NHS for their role in fighting the coronavirus with an unusually small, but moving, piece called ‘Game Changer’.
Banksy’s commemorative artwork depicts a young boy lifting his nurse toy high into the air, whilst the figurines of Batman and Spider-Man are left abandoned in the bin. Mat Moyo, a nurse at Southampton hospital, marvelled “it’s got my favourite action heroes, Batman and Spiderman there, but also the nurse who’s actually flying over there with a cape and surgical mask.”
Banksy managed to maintain lockdown rules when he dropped off the package unnoticed last week. Attached to the work was a note for the hospital workers, which simply said “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
This is Banksy’s second topical artwork since lockdown began in the UK. His first piece, called ‘Rats, my wife hates it when I work from home’ was revealed in a series of images on Instagram, which showed spray-painted rodents running a mock in a bathroom, with one using a toilet roll as a treadmill.
Paula Head, Chief Executive of University Hospital Southampton NHS foundation trust later unveiled the now framed ‘Game Changer’ to her colleagues in a social-distancing ceremony. “It will be really valued by everyone in the hospital as people get a moment in their busy lives to pause, reflect and appreciate this piece of art,” remarked Head about the impact of Banksy’s striking contribution to the hospital. “It will no doubt also be a massive boost to morale for everyone who works and is cared for at our hospital.”
Senior Sister Stephanie Gurney also reflected on its meaning during the ceremony: “he’s trying to say that the superheroes, the original superheroes are on the back burner now. It’s people like key workers, nurses and healthcare professionals that are at the forefront and children are looking up to us for the good work that we’ve been doing.”
Southampton hospital has been directly affected by the crisis, with two members of staff losing their lives due to coronavirus. Mike Brown, aged 61, was a linen porter who had loyally worked at the organisation for 20 years. He died on 29 April following treatment in the hospital’s critical care unit. Child health worker, Katy Davis, was aged 38 when she also died on 21 April after testing positive for the virus. Davis’ colleagues warmly described her as a “nurse people would aspire to be like”.
“Here at Southampton, our hospital family has been directly impacted with the tragic loss of much loved and respected members of staff and friends,” commented Paula Head. “The fact that Banksy has chosen us to recognise the outstanding contribution everyone in and with the NHS is making, in unprecedented times, is a huge honour.”