Photographs of life on the NHS frontline in pandemic now on display in Wigan

A sobering photography collection by a hospital worker, which shows life on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic, can be seen in Wigan for the first time.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 10:02 am

Keen photographer Petro Bekker captured the harsh reality of what happened on Wigan Infirmary’s intensive care unit during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak.

She had been working as clinical informatics manager for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL), but responded to a call for help and returned to her former role as an ICU sister to care for patients.

Petro used her passion for photography to document what was happening and those emotive images are now on display in Wigan for the first time.

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Petro Bekker with one of her photographs

The collection, named Behind Closed Doors, is being shown at Wigan Life Centre and is open for people to see what life was really like on the frontline during the pandemic.

Wigan Council formally unveiled the exhibition at a small viewing with Petro, Coun Yvonne Klieve, Mayor of Wigan, Coun Chris Ready and representatives from the hospitals trust and charity MancSpirit, which organised it.

Petro said: “It is my absolute pleasure and honour to have had the opportunity to capture the emotions of the fantastic, resilient, multi-professional team working every day, every shift in an intensive care unit.

“I hope it gives those visiting the exhibition more insight of what went on behind closed doors during the height of the pandemic.”

One of Petro Bekker's photographs in the exhibition

The Behind Closed Doors exhibition was first shown at Manchester Central Library over the summer, as part of the MancSpirit Caring For Our Carers programme, highlighting the incredible acts of support and kindness shown by the people of Greater Manchester during major crises, such as the pandemic and the Manchester Arena bombing.

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Coun Ready, cabinet member for communities and culture at the council, said: “We’ve heard a lot about the overwhelming pressure the NHS has faced and the intense nature of the frontline throughout the pandemic, but this photography collection embraces the sobering reality of what our fantastic NHS has had to cope with.

“The photographs are raw, displaying significant emotion and the support colleagues gave and continue to give each other.

Sonia Halliwell, director of customer transformation at Wigan Council, Mayor of Wigan Coun Yvonne Klieve, co-founder of MancSpirit Paul Ludden, photographer Petro Bekker and ICU matron Sheena Wright at the exhibition

“It gives us – the people they’re protecting – a glimpse into a world we don’t usually have the opportunity to see.

“I’m grateful to Petro for capturing these moments and to MancSpirit for making the exhibitions in Manchester and Wigan possible.”

Silas Nicholls, WWL’s chief executive, said: “Our patients, our staff and the wider public have faced enormous challenges over the past 18 months, but the way everyone has pulled together to support each other only adds to that sense of pride already felt within the Wigan borough.

“The teamwork and togetherness on show in the photos represents the experience, not only within our intensive care unit, but across all of our trust services. It’s important for our staff to be able to share their experiences in ways like this and I’m grateful to Petro and her colleagues for capturing such a unique perspective of the pandemic.

“I would like to thank Wigan Council and MancSpirit for helping Petro to bring the exhibition back to the Wigan borough for more people to see.”

The photographs will be on display throughout October, before being included in Wigan and Leigh Archives’ Covid Archive so there is a permanent historical record of Petro’s work.

To view the collection, visit the mezzanine at Wigan Life Centre between 10am and 2pm on weekdays.

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