COVID-19: Literary festival event to mark anniversary of first lockdown

Gavin Francis and Rachel Clarke

Gavin Francis and Rachel Clarke will be taking part in Cambridge Literary Festival's online event A Year on the NHS Frontline. - Credit: Thomas S.G. Farnetti | Wellcome / Dan Lucas

As we approach the first lockdown one year on, a literary festival is hosting a special online event with two healthcare workers at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus.

Cambridge Literary Festival will mark the first anniversary of lockdown with Rachel Clarke and Gavin Francis.

They will be taking part in A Year on the NHS Frontline on Tuesday, March 23 at 7pm.

Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke.

Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke will be taking part in Cambridge Literary Festival online event to mark the anniversary of lockdown. - Credit: Dan Lucas

Marking one year since the UK was plunged into a lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke and GP Gavin Francis share their experiences of tragedy, frustration, courage and kindness from the frontline.

Festival director Cathy Moore said: "I felt it incredibly important to mark the anniversary of the UK going into lockdown.

"The pandemic has had a profound effect on all of us but at the heart has been the frontline workers in the NHS.

"Rachel and Gavin are both wonderful advocates and writers, it will be a privilege to host this event. We owe them so much."

Gavin Francis

GP Gavin Francis. - Credit: Thomas S.G. Farnetti | Wellcome

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A year on from when UK residents first went into lockdown, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested we could see it off in 12 weeks, our society is still plagued by the virus.

Now more than ever it is vital that we listen to voices from the frontline of the pandemic.

Rachel Clarke’s latest book, Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic, provides an unflinching account of a health service at absolute breaking point during the UK’s first wave.

The cover of Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke

The cover of Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke - Credit: Rachel Clarke

As a palliative care doctor, Rachel describes her frustration and argues that government ineptitude is responsible for much of the UK's COVID chaos.

Former television journalist Rachel will be joined by GP Gavin Francis, who similarly authored his book Intensive Care: A GP, A Community, and COVID-19 across nine months of caring for a society in crisis.  

Working in both urban and rural areas, Francis gives an intimate account of the devastating effects of the pandemic with GP surgeries struggling to cope with the surge in mental health crises across age demographics.

The cover of book Intensive Care A GP, a Community and COVID-19 by Gavin Francis

The cover of book Intensive Care A GP, a Community and COVID-19 by Gavin Francis - Credit: Gavin Francis

Francis has worked across four continents as a surgeon, emergency physician, medical officer with the British Antarctic Survey, and latterly as a GP.

He has described the pandemic response of 2020 as the most intense period of his 20-year career in medicine.

Join these extraordinary healthcare workers online as they give the pandemic the scrutiny and reflection it demands, as well as celebrating the staggering human capacity for bravery, compassion, and endurance of those on the frontline.

Cambridge Literary Festival has been running since 2003 and presents two festivals each year plus one-off events.

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