A young boy holds up his favourite toy, imagining it soaring through the air. He has discarded Spiderman and Batman to a nearby bin. Instead, he’s found a new hero: a nurse.
That seminal painting by the anonymous English artist Banksy appeared in the foyer of Southampton General Hospital in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — and has since been sold to support the hospital at auction for a record-breaking £14.4 million.
Art has tapped into a powerful feeling of public gratitude for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). And it was art that underlined who we believe our real heroes to be.
Art moves people to action. That’s why in November 2020, we partnered with NHS Blood and Transplant, a digital agency called the Cantine, Talenthouse, the Design Museum, and more to launch a competition for creatives to get the message out on an issue crucial to public health.
The plan was to make some noise about donating blood — especially important for rarer blood types, so the NHS can provide life changing and life saving transfusions to patients across the country.
Every day, NHS Blood and Transplant needs 400 new donors to replace those who can no longer donate, as well as 5,000 donations of blood to make sure that hospitals have the right blood types, in the right amount, at the right time. As hospitals across the country are stretched to their limits, giving blood has never been more vital.
So we put out a call to artists across the world. Over 1,000 entries were submitted for what was called the #CreativeLifeline campaign, conceptualising a vast selection of incredible pieces that put into context the hugely important role that blood donation plays in saving lives.
And after an extensive judging process from visionaries working for an array of creative institutions including Nike, five winners have been selected. Each one will be awarded a £1,000 cash grant and a mentoring session from the campaign’s creative judging panel.
The winning artworks will also front a new advertising campaign encouraging blood donation across England.
Here are all the wonderful winning posters, drawing inspiration from iconic wartime propaganda.
They reflect the truly global face of heroism over the course of the pandemic, with artists hailing from the UK, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Peru. Head to the NHS Give Blood website for more information about how you can be a hero and donate blood.