The NHS is 70 and we are planning a PARTY!

Children and staff dancing from 1952

The National Health Service is turning 70 this year and to celebrate GOSH Arts and artist Davina Drummond are planning a party!

Between May and October Davina will be working with families at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to plan the birthday celebrations and through doing so celebrate and consider the NHS of the past, present and future. The project will culminate in a birthday tea dance in October, which will bring together a community of staff and volunteers from across GOSH, invited to attend by patients and their families. The NHS is made up of people, be they patient, doctor, porter, nurse, healthcare assistant,  cleaner or administrator and this conceptual project celebrates and brings these people together to honour and champion the humanity which our NHS relies on.

Keep dancing 

GOSH Arts invited Davina to use the hospitals art collection as a starting point for the project; she chose a single painting by Romero Britto called ‘Dance of Hearts’. The painting shows four brightly coloured dancing figures surrounded by heart shaped musical notes. Research shows that exercise and social activity are central to helping people lead healthy, happy lives and participating in these activities can help both prevent and manage chronic illness. Dance is the perfect hybrid of exercise and social activity and is good for both the physical and emotional heart, which is expressed in Britto’s painting by the joyful faces of the dancers and emotive use of the heart shaped notes. Taking the painting and also our knowledge of the physical and psychological benefits of dancing[1] as a starting point Davina was inspired to use a traditional tea dance as the central point for the project.

Tea dances were very popular in the early 20th century and their popularity continued until after the Second World War. The tea dances of the Second World War era (1938-45) were organised to help keep morale up and to bring communities preoccupied with and torn apart by war back together, demonstrating the healing impact that dance can have on a community. 

The disastrous effects of the Second World War on infrastructure, communities and the political landscape meant that dramatic changes in the disjointed healthcare system in the United Kingdom were required. Coupled with the creation of an emergency medical service as part of the war effort, this allowed Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, to respond to the century long demand for a nationalised health service, and the NHS was born on the on 5 July 1948.

Design a birthday cake

Families participating in the planning of the tea dance will be invited to design a birthday cake for the NHS, make wishes for its future written on to candles for the cake and create a play list for the tea dance which will include music which spans the seven decades of the work of the NHS.  Through participating in these creative activities families will be encouraged to consider what the future of the NHS and how they can help shape it.

Both those planning and those attending the party will benefit from the known psychological and physiological benefits of participating in the arts. We have already touched on the positive effects that dance can have, but a growing body of evidence suggests that participating in the arts more generally can help reduce reliance on medication, reduce length of inpatient stays, be an effective pain reliever, increase levels of serotonin and improve people’s quality of life and overall feeling of wellbeing. 

This project not only celebrates 70 years of the NHS and the people who make it, but also encapsulates the impact that the arts can have on health outcomes both on a responsive and preventative level.

If you would like to be part of this project and help the NHS community at GOSH with the party planning please email 

#NHS70 #NHSat70


[1] Dancing has been shown to :  

  • Improve overall physical health including cardio vascular health and muscular and bone strength
  • improve motor skills resulting in better co-ordination and increased agility
  • help you grown in both confidence and self esteem
  • improve mental functioning
  • offer physical touch, which improves well-being and reduces stress and anxiety
  • help you develop social skills and make you feel party of a community
  • make you feel happy and improve your overall sense of wellbeing