Makers making a difference

Published: 12/05/2020

Staff, students and alumni of York St John are using their creative skills to help the wider community during the pandemic

Logo of covid-19 visor charity and a square image of an NHS worker wearing a visor

We’re all being asked to do our bit to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. For the majority of us, this mainly means staying at home. This isn’t the case for key workers who put themselves on the frontline for our sake. The need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for these workers has become one of the defining stories of the UK’s fight against the virus and has inspired some creative solutions from the York St John community.

Music Production Lecturer David Young has gathered together a large collective of creative workers to pool their skills and resources to make protective visors. As the virus cases in the UK began to spread at the end of March, David reached out to designers in Spain and got a blueprint for the visors. They are now being made on 3D printers across York.

Their intention is to offer a free safety visor to those working on the front line. This could be shop assistants, teachers, cleaners, care workers, transport staff, delivery drivers, anyone who is required to work with the public during the pandemic.

David said: “The community has really come together on this one, we’ve basically set up a manufacturing company in a month. We’ve now produced more than three and half thousand visors for frontline workers and are now delivering them outside of York too, to places like Leeds and Gateshead.” More information on the project and how to get involved is on the Covid-19 Visors York website.

Elsewhere, dressmakers are coming together to sew garments for NHS workers.

York St John Fine Art alumna Amber Kotrri is using her fashion company House of Zana to make scrubs. Amber said “The campaign started after seeing the amount of reports of NHS workers struggling without the scrubs and wash bags they so desperately need to stay safe. We wanted to help and give something back whilst our store is closed, and having a fashion brand we have adjusted our skills to make these essential garments. The support so far has been amazing and we have been able to make wash bags and scrubs every day for our local hospitals by purchasing fabric and accessories on a scale we couldn’t have done without donations.” If you’d like to donate, please look at Amber’s website House of Zana."

Efforts are also being made to help workers safely launder their NHS uniforms, after concerns were raised about the chance of staff bringing the virus home. Jo Halliwell and her student daughter Abbey are co-ordinating the local Bag the Bug campaign, to make laundry bags for workers. They’ve made more than 3 hundred bags in a week, boosted by a large donation of pillowcases from York St John.

Jo said: “We were basically sitting at home feeling desperate to help people when we came up with this idea, and we’re overwhelmed at how it has gone and the support that we’ve had. It was a really emotional moment when I got the first delivery of bags. Then when we deliver them and people are collecting them from you while wearing full PPE, you see where the help is going.”

Vice Chancellor of York St John University Professor Karen Bryan OBE said: “I couldn’t be prouder to see our staff, students and alumni performing such selfless and community-minded acts. We all want to help our carers and key workers, and the creative ways that our community has been stepping up to do so is heart-warming and impressive. I would like to personally thank all those who are taking the time to help others. It is a legacy that will endure long after the pandemic has ended.”

Aside from individual efforts from the York St John community, the University is working closely with City of York Council and the NHS to support various initiatives during the pandemic. York St John has temporarily handed one of its buildings over to the NHS. Peppermill Court was previously a medical facility and is now being brought back into similar use, this time for patients needing step-down care. A step-down facility is one which provides a bed space and care for someone who is well enough to leave hospital but who still needs further support. Also on offer is University accommodation for NHS staff, and space on Campus is being considered for city centre testing.

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