My newfound Tony Benn obsession has got me thinking anew about the “most dangerous” Labour man in Parliament before him: the Welsh politician and founder of the National Health Service, Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960).
And thinking of Bevan reminded me that I still hadn’t got round to blogging about actor Michael Sheen’s brilliant speech at an NHS march earlier this year. The rally, by no accident, was held on St David’s Day (Sunday 1 March) in Tredegar, the birthplace of Bevan.
Never mind “once more unto the breach”, this is one of the most rousing calls to arms I’ve ever heard and, without doubt, one of the most impressive and important performances of Sheen’s career. (Has he considered a second career in politics, I wonder? He should – I’ll step in in Tony Benn’s absence to encourage him.)
“This is about what we believe as a nation and what is worth fighting for. Too many people have worked too long and too hard for us to give away what they have achieved and be left with so very little.”
The full transcript of Sheen’s speech is here, but do watch the video too. This performance was not for the cameras, of course – there were no major press there and this shaky YouTube video was taken on a mobile. Sheen was speaking, in the best spirit of Benn and Bevan, to the people and for the people. And, despite the pouring rain, the people were spellbound. I wish I could have been there.
If you, like me, believe that the NHS – and reversing the worst offences of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 – is an important issue in this election, do watch … and read on.
I’ve collected additional resources below, including, bringing us back to theatre, more on the two big plays about the NHS premiered over the past 18 months. Last summer, Out of Joint’s This May Hurt a Bit, and its accompanying education pack (below), played a bit part in focusing my attention on the issues at hand. I went out and joined the National Health Action Party on the back of it
I haven’t yet had a chance to catch Michael Wynne’s verbatim contribution Who Cares, the result of 18 months’ of interviews and research, but I hope to soon. It’s on at the Royal Court until 16 May 2015.
MICHAEL SHEEN & HIS HERO
Michael Sheen Defends NHS against ‘Bland’ Politicians
The actor Michael Sheen, best known for playing Tony Blair in a series of TV dramas and award-winning film, The Queen, has delivered a passionate defence of the NHS against “bland” politicians.
Great Lives: Aneurin Bevan
Bevan, of course, was anything but bland. And Sheen isn’t the only one who reveres him. Neil Kinnock, also born in Tredegar, picked Bevan as his choice for this excellent BBC Radio 4 series. Listen!
THIS YEAR’S BIG NHS PLAY
WHO CARES – running at the Royal Court until 16 May
The NHS belongs to us. And, in the run-up to the Election, it has emerged as a key issue. The Royal Court responds with Michael Wynne’s new verbatim play, staged in promenade around the theatre.
OBSERVER REVIEW: FOUR STARS
How do you dramatise a subject like the NHS? In this 90-minute play, Michael Wynne opts for a verbatim approach that offers a mass of data and multiple perspectives. A timely, clear-sighted appraisal.
TIMES REVIEW: FOUR STARS
Just in time for the election, the Royal Court has come up with this enlightening glimpse inside the NHS. The playwright Michael Wynne spent 18 months talking to NHS workers to write it.
INTERVIEW: PLAYWRIGHT MICHAEL WYNNE
Wynne hopes his new play addresses something entirely basic, that goes back to the aspirations of Bevan: namely, the paramount human value of being looked after from cradle to grave, no matter what.
LAST YEAR’S BIG NHS PLAY
THIS MAY HURT A BIT – Out of Joint
Stella Feehily’s play didn’t work theatrically for many critics, but it galvanised me from the moment that Bevan’s founding speech opened the show. This excellent education pack should be read by all.
NATIONAL HEALTH ACTION PARTY
After seeing This May Hurt a Bit, I started making monthly donations to the National Health Action Party, which actively campaigns to save the NHS from further privatisation.
NHA Mission: Patients not profits
NHA is party formed by doctors, nurses, paramedics and others who’ve come together to defend and improve the NHS. We want a society built on compassion and decency, not fear and self-interest.
NHA Candidates in the General Election
Unfortunately, there is no NHA candidate in my constituency but check here if one of the 12 standing may be in your area. And find out exactly what they stand for.