A University of Chester student wants to create two special books to honour, celebrate and remember the NHS frontline workers who have lost their lives while serving the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gillian Seale, who is studying for a master degree in psychology at the university, would like to incorporate elements of the lives of real NHS workers in the books.
An adult version would be a multi-biographical book, highlighting the lives of individual NHS frontline workers.
The children’s book would be a fictionalised story aimed at five-ten-year-olds with a ‘superheroes’ theme and would include references to real people who had lost their lives.
She hopes both books will provide a lasting legacy to those people she describes as ‘NHS heroes’.
“We have shown our appreciation to NHS workers by clapping every week and creating these books would be a way of celebrating the lives of those who have died as a result of coronavirus and also recognising those who have put their lives at risk,” said Gillian, an author and illustrator who runs her own company Tailored Yarn.
“These books will preserve memories by capturing the NHS superheroes’ names and the depths of their heroics, to inspire people in the future.
“The non-fiction book will capture real life stories, including the motivations of the individuals, the personal perspectives from family and staff and also the patients they saved. Every affected family and hospital across the United Kingdom will be offered a free printed copy of the book, subject to funding.
“The fictional book will use the roles and jobs of real NHS workers in a story setting to help communicate to children what has happened and why these people are heroes.
“We hope to print both books if we get enough funding. We have set up a page on Just Giving to raise money. If this is successful, we can distribute the books to individual supporters, libraries, bookshops, schools and hospitals.
“If we get part funded then the children’s book could be created as a physical book and perhaps the adult book could be made available free on Kindle.”
She now hopes families of NHS frontline workers who have died from Covid-19 will get in touch with her so she can start a conversation with them about how to bring their stories to light in a sensitive way.
“We would talk them through the process and we would also approach the relevant NHS trust as well. Clearly everyone would have to be in agreement and happy to go ahead before specific people and elements of their lives were mentioned in the book.
“Any profits and money raised in excess of the book production costs will go to the selected charities of our NHS Superhero families.”
The concept of the NHS book fits in with the ‘Bespoke Bereavement Books’ she creates to provide comfort and healing to young children who are struggling on a journey through grief.
“Bespoke bereavement books are a unique way of capturing family memories in a fictional children’s story, which are carefully and individually tailored to each individual,” said Gillian, 37, who lives at West Kirby on the Wirral.
“It’s similar to the popular idea of memory boxes, where we store objects reminding us of a lost loved one. Each fictional story will contain characters and places which are familiar and overflow with family memories, achievements, quirky habits, hopes, and dreams.
“Interesting details will be woven together with colourful threads of each individual’s unique family history and delicately embroidered with parental wisdom.
“When someone dies, as adults we have a lifetime’s worth of memories to hang on to. As children we have fewer memories and they tend to fade. If a child has a book which has real elements of a parent’s life woven into it then conversations with other family members about the person who has died are more likely to arise naturally.”
People can choose an existing story and have Gillian adapt it or can come up with a completely fresh story which Gillian writes and illustrates with watercolours. A questionnaire is sent out so people can tell Gillian some personal details of the loved-one that could be incorporated into the story.
The books are, in effect, created free of charge, funded either by donations, through Gillian’s work as an illustrator and doing art workshops in schools, or through crowdfunding initiatives.
Gillian, a single mum with three children, was born in Scotland and moved to the Wirral 15 years ago. She studied mathematics at St Andrew’s University and spent some years as an accountant.
She entered a business ideas competition run by the University of Chester and, as a prize winner, was awarded a grant that allowed her to start her Tailored Yarn company. Now the university has nominated her for the finals of The Santander Entrepreneur Awards, which are due to be announced in London later this year.
Her first children’s story, Postpixie Missing in Action, was inspired by the experiences of a friend who has muscular dystrophy. The pixie in the story has magical powers that allow her to move swiftly and deliver the post, but the magic is fading. The book celebrates the pixie’s abilities and other characters in the book help her work out what she can do as she acknowledges her disability.
“The idea is that it will help to teach children empathy and about the importance of confidence and perseverance,” said Gillian.
The book is available through Amazon or Gillian’s website tailoredyarn.com
Any family member considering asking Gillian to include details of an NHS worker who has died as a result of coronavirus in her proposed book can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org The Just Giving page which is raising funds for the two NHS books is https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nhs-heros-books For more information about the NHS books project go to the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/108918877479423/posts/108921847479126/
Pictured - A watercolour of Gillian Seale's in praise of NHS workers.