While we can’t make costumes and scenery, many of our skilled craftspeople are using their talents to help those who are centre stage in the Covid 19 pandemic.

The shortage of personal protective equipment in the NHS has been well-publicised, and many of our skilled staff have joined the national effort to make up the shortfall by making face shields and sewing scrubs for hospital workers.

Sewing scrubs

Hazel Coombs has made 10 sets of scrubs so far as well as washbags, ear saver headbands and face masks.

She said: “I work in Costume Hire so even though I am usually surrounded by beautiful garments made by the talented costume workrooms, we ourselves don't get time to do much sewing. We do a lot of maintenance repairs and alteration sewing but don't often get the chance to create something from start to finish so it's been nice to get behind my machine again and make.”

Three sets of folded green scrubs laid across a floor with a pink heart shaped tag on each
Three sets of scrubs ready to go out to a hospital
Photo by Hazel Coombs © The Artist Browse and license our images

It takes 4-6 hours to make a full set of scrubs, but the biggest challenge is getting the material – the increased demand has raised the price of cotton and stocks are getting low, so some people are recycling old bed sheets. Volunteers work with hubs such as Scrub Hub South Birmingham to fundraise and source materials, and to distribute the finished items.

3D printed Face shields

Design Engineer Chris Pepler is using a 3D printer lent by our workshops to manufacture parts for face shields that will go to protect key workers in hospitals and care homes.

The printer is normally used to make props and small prototype parts for shows, but for the past six weeks it has been running continuously printing shield parts, which Chris sends to a team of volunteers so they can be assembled, sterilised and distributed. The voluntary group - 3D Crowd - has requests for 600,000 face shields and has so far supplied 132,000. 

Chris Peplar wearing a protective visor bagging up face shields
Chris Pepler with the 3D printer packing up the face shield parts

It takes about two and a half hours to print all the parts for each shield and Chris has so far printed 250 of his 1,000 target. He said: “There’s still a massive shortage of PPE. A lot of people think we are over the hill but there’s a long way to go.”

Chris is fundraising to buy the PLA – biodegradable plastic material to make them. You can help him get closer to his target at Chris’s GoFundMe page.

Elsewhere in the communities around Stratford-upon-Avon there are RSC staff volunteering at foodbanks; working in Covid-19 Response teams to help older and vulnerable people; volunteering for their local councils and NHS trusts; and phone volunteers calling people in complete isolation.

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