Get in touch

Nightingale Unsung Heroes

Nightingale Unsung Heroes

These are the unsung stories of people working behind the scenes at NHS Nightingale, from cleaners to engineers.

 Deborah Rolph, Event Manager
Deborah Rolph has been an Event Manager at Harrogate Convention Centre for 22 years. She was called back to work after the venue received the news that they’d been chosen to be a Nightingale hospital. Her normal job is handling logistics for clients’ events and exhibitions, from health and safety and security to quotes for services like IT. She worked 12-hour shifts solidly over the first two-weeks, liaising with the military, NHS and over 300 contractors offering general assistance, helping them navigate the space - the equivalent of four football pitches. She said she felt honoured to work with them, and it was an ‘absolute privilege’ and that the transformation, which took three weeks, is ‘amazing’.
Mary Stalker, Event Manager
Mary Stalker is an Event Manager whose normal job involves running the entertainment acts at Harrogate Convention Centre. A mother with two young children aged five and eight, Mary has been doing quite a few evening and night shifts to balance child-care, as the venue was open 24/7 for the Nightingale hospital build. She said the construction guys who worked through the night were, in her eyes, the ‘unsung heroes’. Mary said she was proud to help in any way she could as it required a huge team effort.
Andrew Lane, Venues Manager
As a former solider, Andrew Lane is well-placed in his role as Venues Manager at Harrogate Convention Centre to keep a cool head during its transformation into a hospital. He joined HBC in 2003, moving to the convention centre in 2007. He’s responsible for everything from security, health and safety, to front of house and housekeeping. After getting the call, Andrew worked 10 to 12-hour days over 19 days on the bounce before taking a day off. Venue staff were used in a variety of functions, including stewarding and security. He and his team provided solutions to queries with their in-depth site and utility knowledge. Andrew said it was an amazing achievement in such a small period of time, and walking around the clinical space, you wouldn’t know it was at one time an exhibition hall. Thanks to his outlook from being a soldier, the challenge is one he rose to - just part of his job.
Ali Astal, IT Manager
Ali Astal has been IT Manager at Harrogate Convention Centre for 14 years. He has been incredibly busy during the Nightingale transformation dealing with five IT and cabling companies, advising them of the most efficient methods to run cables and feeds, ensuring link-ups to Harrogate District Hospital. Ali managed the entire network from scratch, knowing the building inside out, he advised on everything from CCTV to back-up plans for power cuts. He says such a job would take months, but they did it in 12 days, working round the clock. Ali plans to take his first day off after 27 days this week before returning to work. Messages of thanks to Ali from contractors said they couldn’t ‘thank him enough’ and they ‘could not have got to where we are’ without his help. Ali said everyone was brilliant to work with, without exception, and he was pleased to help when people on the frontline are risking their lives. He said, we are all together and we work together, and we fight this disease together.
Allan Clark, Technical Planner
With over 30 years’ experience at Harrogate Convention Centre, Allan was well-placed to help the transition into a Nightingale hospital, from printing out site plans to supporting the construction team. His day job is normally the AV, stage set-up, rigging and tech side of events. He said all who worked on the hospital build were single-minded and driven to achieve the new hospital build as quickly as possible; they worked as a team. People have said to him that his involvement will be something he and his family will remember and be proud of in years to come. His response is everyone should be proud, if they can say they stayed at home, which would help ensure the surge hospital is never needed. He is proud to work at a venue, which has hosted many medical conferences, to it now actually being adapted to deliver a medical service. As his daughter is studying to be a doctor in Glasgow, he’s looking forward to seeing her, and the rest of his family, once lockdown is over.
Paulina Wach, Cleaning Services Manager
Paulina has been working at Harrogate Convention Centre for eight years, starting in catering before becoming manager of the cleaning department in 2015. For a normal event, she can oversee around 50 cleaners, working 24/7 behind the scenes to ensure everything is tip top. With the Nightingale transformation, Paulina and her team helped prepare the spaces for the construction workers, as well as clean the administrative areas. With around 600 people on site, keeping the site hygienic was of course, crucial. Paulina worked two and a half weeks straight. She said it was crazy and tense in the venue as everything built up, but she was incredibly happy and proud to be part of it. Her mum, who is 51 this year, came over from Poland to be part of the cleaning team. Both were scared about the virus, and the thought of the venue being turned into a hospital was a hard one. Her mum, a naturally happy person, helped keep spirts going and boosted morale. The whole experience Paulina said was emotional, and made the team closer and stronger. Now her mum has gone home; Paulina’s team is still working in two 12-hour shifts. She said once the virus is over, she plans to visit all her family in Poland, including her nana and her dad, who she says, keeps saying how proud he is.
Wayne Trott, Building Services Manager
Wayne manages refurbishment projects and general maintenance compliance at Harrogate Convention Centre. It’s a huge job generally, and the Nightingale refurbishment saw Wayne at one point put in a 26-hour shift, with his foot on the gas until the hospital was complete. He worked closely with HBC engineer, Graham Wadsworth, to assist in the cohesion of the project. Not an easy task, as the structure of the NHS is similar to a local council - with many different departments - working alongside external contractors. Wayne also ensured they didn’t drill into anything they shouldn’t. He said it was amazing to see everyone working collectively, with 250 contractors operating throughout the day and 150 at night, who all needed looking after on a complicated site. Normally in a shirt and tie behind a desk, it was a chance for him to get ‘back to the basics’ of engineering. He may not have shaved for three weeks, but he feels the fast achievement in response to Covid-19 stands up to any seen in Russia or China. Wayne sees this time as a fitting extension of Harrogate’s role in World War One, when the town converted buildings into hospitals to treat injured soldiers.
Darren Peters, Business Development Manager
Darren Peters is a Business Development Manager at Harrogate Convention Centre, where he’s worked for two and a half years. He assisted with show-rounds of the building for NHS staff and contractors, acting as an information point. He said the experience brought the Convention team closer. The ‘full team effort’ left him inspired by women including Deborah, who had worked at the centre for over 20 years, and by the current Director, Paula Lorimer, for leading from the ground and being ‘inspirational’. Darren said it was emotional seeing the NHS conducting dummy trolley runs with paramedics. He said it has changed his outlook not to take anything for granted.
Graham Wadsworth, Principle Engineer
Graham works for Harrogate Borough Council with responsibility of overseeing new developments and major refurbishment works on public buildings, including Harrogate Convention Centre. Before construction began, he was called to the venue for a confidential site visit by the NHS, the Army and with the Director of Harrogate Convention Centre, Paula Lorimer, as they ascertained the capability of the site and its services. Two days later, everybody moved forward towards the conversion. Graham liaised with contract management teams and consultants to get them pointed in the right direction around the adaptation. Without the luxury of time, it was a minefield of information and planning as some 600 staff began work – merging clinical, building and engineering objectives. It was, Graham said, a tremendous effort by all to co-ordinate such a large-scale project in such a short time. His contribution is something he is proud of, to play a role for a bigger cause. He feels the venue will have a strong legacy for continuing to serve the town, and Yorkshire.
Kevin Bacon, Site Manager (Security)
Kevin has worked as security manager at the venue for 14 years, but has a lifetime in the security industry; he was in the military for 19 years and is a retired police officer. He oversees the entire site, from patrolling to monitoring building maintenance. Harrogate Convention Centre is a huge site, and Kevin was there to assist from day one of the Nightingale project. Like many staff, he worked long shifts and a straight nine days as his knowledge of the site was invaluable to the construction workers who needed to access various locations. With his background in the military, he met the challenge in his stride, with his training to adapt and overcome to get the job done. He said he is proud of all those who worked collectively to make it happen so speedily. His hope is however, that there won’t be a surge of course, so the hospital won’t be needed. Once the virus is gone, Kevin said he’s conscious of how crucial it is that the venue returns back to life with vibrant conferences and exhibitions, for the sake of the local economy – it may take a while, he said – but we will adapt and overcome.

Website and Digital Marketing by Extreme