For over 3 months, we had danced in the freezing wind and rain and on a rare occasion some sun. Spending our time in a Dagenham car park wearing wellies and our essential ponchos’ we had learnt to make shapes with beds, encouraged children to jump and dance without falling off, cracked a few ankles with those beds, picked up the odd dance move ourselves and learnt how to stop mattresses - and on occasion children - flying off in the aforementioned wind. Terms such as doing the dusty, dusty; the nurses’ return, up-rocking and party time became essential parts of our vocabulary, though friends and families were not in on the secret of what these terms meant. I heard a child on a train recently say “ its party time” and I nearly jumped up to start the lindy hop routine!
We had learnt the moves; how to apply the make-up and do the hair, we had practised in our fabulous new costumes and had finally got the lay of the land in the inspiring Olympic stadium – technical and dress rehearsals lay behind us and this was it, our moment in the limelight, our time to perform in front of the 1 billion worldwide audience.
Nerves were heightened, particularly for those of our young co- stars who couldn’t quite grasp the 1 billion numbers, but certainly knew they didn’t want to mess up. My children – well that’s what I like to call them – Waisef and Mahamuud had given their all to the rehearsals, doing about as many as the adults and were very excited. Unfortunately the excitement had become too much for Mahamuud and he was running a fever and feeling totally rubbish on the night of the opening ceremony. With the aid of an onsite GP and a number of icepacks we got him cooler and he was determined to do the ceremony. He was really taking the patient /nurse relationship seriously.
As the 2nd verse of the national anthem rang out we moved. Rocky’s voice, the mass movement lead for the NHS, rang through our ears counting us in and encouraging the “G” of GOSH to “get there quickly – but safely”; as we came out the light effects were in full flow, tubular bells where ringing out and it was our time.
The next 15 minutes passed in a blur, performing for the audience, the camera and trying to remember every second is tough…also trying to make sure that we all hit our cues and marks and didn’t get in the way of Dalmatians, skaters, demons, child catchers and of course the Mary P’s. The nurses on spell out – had successfully delivered GOSH, NHS and the often ill- fated Crescent Moon…ohhh that pesky moon had caused more than one or two headaches. At the end of our performance the roar that went up from the crowd for us, the children and of course the institution of the NHS that we represented was astounding. We stood there and took it in, soaking up the applause and marking down our time in history when we had performed on the world stage and the world had loved it!
We were off as quickly as we came on, encouraged every step of the way to get off fast! The hi-fives and hugs were shared and then it was over and time to have a real party. Goodbyes were said, especially to the children, who were up way past their bedtime and then we were leaving the stadium, the place which, if for only a brief time, we had been able to call our own. Friendships have been formed and the whole experience from the first audition to the performance has been one I will remember for the rest of my life.