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the vacuum cleaner



“What makes Newham, Newham?”

“What was the most challenging moment during the first wave?”

“And what was your most beautiful?”

In autumn of 2020, the vacuum cleaner invited 47 Newham health workers into his artist studio and filmed conversations with them about their experiences of the Covid 19 pandemic. Frank and tender conversations bring into focus the complexity of each health professional’s experiences; the challenges they faced and the compromises forced upon them. Their stories reveal moral struggles resulting in mental health challenges and frustrations and how this compares to the official narrative of ‘heroes’. They speak of resilience, peer support, and hopes for the community they serve.

“Quietly devasting”

★★★★, The Stage

With contribution and a very special thank you to: Adeola Agbebiyi, Andrew Kelso, Anna Collini, Anni Khan, Arun Mahay, Ben Fraser, Catriona Rowland, Charlie Hubbett, Cath Reeve-Jones, Chris Odedun, Cliodhna Gillespie, Ellie Richards, Emma Young, Esther Murray, Ferha Saeed, Fiona Sarpong, Folasade Ajagunna, Funke (Olufunke) Bella, Giuseppe Labriola, Hafiz Syed, Hannah Prytherch, Helen Parker, Lyunade Oluwatosin Ajibola, James Napier, Jason Strelitz, Jenna Finch, Leigh-Anne Hill, Lily Dryburgh-Smith, Loveness Kamzara, Luxmimalar Velauthar, Maria Vidal, Mike Willis, Petra Francis, Pragna Katariya, Rhonda Reddington, Richa Gupta, Samuel Jerram, Sara Hiles, Sean Bourke, Shabina Hussain, Susie Beck, Vijaya Munian, Yousef Eltuhamy, Yunus Dudhwala, Zarmina Jan, Zara Zaman and Person X.

In collaboration with Dr Emma YoungDr Cecilia Wee and Newham’s Health Workers.

Design and Performance. Sascha Gilmour.

Sound Design. Rhiannon Armstrong.

Music Performance. New YVC.

Audience Facilitation. Fox Irving.

Lead Interview Producer and Assistant Editor. Becky Sumerling.

Interview Producer. Kai-Oi Joyce Yung.

Live Event Producer. Jesse Bateson with Beki Bateson and Stratford Circus.

EXPOSURE has received support from Arts Council EnglandNewham CouncilPaul Hamlyn FoundationThe Royal Docks Team Wellcome Collection and Gessnerallee

Artist website: the vacuum cleaner

If you would like get in touch about this work, please contact Hannah Slimmon, International Development Manager.


NHS workers stand facing towards the camera. They wear blue scrubs and tired expressions.
the vacuum cleaner, EXPOSURE. Photo by Richard Pelham