BBC Arts has commissioned a new series of Extraordinary Portraits from Chatterbox for BBC One and BBC iPlayer, presented by comedian, actor, musician and author Bill Bailey.

The series will pay tribute to NHS heroes, marking the 75th Anniversary of the NHS with a series of specially commissioned portraits.

This six-part series explores the art of portrait making, as Bill Bailey pairs up some of the most inspiring NHS staff with leading British artists. The series will  “discover the stories of compassionate doctors, inspiring nurses, dedicated porters, passionate paramedics and cleaners who go above and beyond to help the people they care for. Their work, lives and personalities are captured for posterity in a new collection of compelling portraits.”

Bill Bailey says: “It’s been a real privilege to be part of the new series of Extraordinary Portraits. Hearing the incredible stories of the staff who work in the NHS, and watching the brilliant range of featured artists at work has been a fantastic experience. I can’t wait for viewers to see ordinary, yet extraordinary individuals immortalised in portraiture, particularly on the 75th anniversary of the NHS.”

Suzy Klein, Head of BBC Arts, says: “Extraordinary Portraits has already established itself as a favourite with audiences, keen to see which modern British heroes are going to be immortalised in paint. Now, with Bill Bailey at the helm, we celebrate the inspiring people of the NHS who take us from cradle to grave, but whose inner lives we rarely see anything of. Capturing the spirit and soul of this outstanding group of people has been a privilege and we are so proud of the stunning artworks – sculptures, paintings and photography – that have come out of this series.”

Nav Raman, Executive Producer and Co-founder of Chatterbox Media, says: “Bill was a natural choice as host. He is someone who connects with the artists and subjects; not only is he an artist himself, but both his parents spent their lives working for the NHS. His empathy and warmth toward the NHS employees we’re celebrating makes this a very exciting series – we are thrilled to be working with him.”

Extraordinary Portraits is a Chatterbox Media production for BBC One and BBC iPlayer. The Executive Producers are Nav Raman and Ali Quirk and it was commissioned by Emma Cahusac for BBC One and BBC Arts.

Artists and Sitters details

Jemisha Maadhavji & Grace

Painter Jemisha Maadhavji in matched with inspirational junior doctor, Grace. Known for her vibrant portraits, detailed with carefully curated prints and colours, 26 year-old figurative artist Jemisha is inspired by subjects who don’t fit conventional social labels. Which makes her the perfect artist to capture Grace, who despite sustaining a life altering spinal cord injury at 22, continued her medical studies and is now a practising Junior Doctor in a busy London A&E department.

Adebanji Alade & The Edwards Family

President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Adebanji Alade takes on the gargantuan challenge of painting the whole Edwards family. Adebanji is no stranger to creating epic works of art, but here he is tested to the limit. Six people from three generations, spanning sixty years of dedicated service in the NHS. With a strong work ethic and an even stronger family bond, Adebanji strives to capture The Edwards’ enduring commitment to caring for people, which is almost as long standing as the NHS itself.

Nick Elphick & Martin

Monumental sculptor Nick Elphick takes on the challenge of depicting inspirational surgeon Martin. Martin is a Trauma Surgeon at one of London’s busiest hospitals, treating an average of two stabbings a day, and two shootings a week. A statistic made even more shocking because most of his patients are still children. But it is Martin’s work outside the theatre that’s making the biggest difference. Sculptor Nick Elphick works in a variety of mediums, and scales, but always with the same aim – not just to replicate the human form, but to express a deeper meaning within his pieces, but will he be able to encapsulate something of this multi-faceted surgeon?

Mark Draisey & Holly

Classicist painter Mark Draisey is matched this week with porter, Holly who joined Torbay Hospital in Devon during the pandemic. Transporting vital documents, samples, and people around the hospital, Holly walks the equivalent of three marathons in a week. Holly’s change of career was her way of giving back to the service that saved her daughter Renae’s life, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour at just 8 years old. She is paired with award winning artist Mark Draisey who also had a change of a career when in 2016 he reignited his love for portrait art after a 30-year career as a caricaturist and illustrator. Meeting Holly and family, Mark wrestles with how to portray and do justice to Holly and Renae’s incredible story.

Brock Elbank & Araf

Acclaimed photographer Brock Elbank is paired with Scotland’s first Asian paramedic, and Queens Ambulance medal winner, Araf. When he is not saving lives on the road, Araf works with local mosques and Gurdwaras, equipping them with first aid knowledge and providing a bridge between communities. Attempting to capture this remarkable man is photographic artist Brock Elbank. Brock began his career in high-end fashion, but his love of celebrating those people who often go unrecognised in society has led him down a very different path.

Belinda Eaton & Jules

End of Life Care Nurse Jules is matched with magical realist painter Belinda Eaton. Jules has made it her life’s mission to make people’s last days as pleasant as possible. Arranging everything from ‘taste for pleasure’ sessions, to last-minute marriages. Outside of work she runs ‘Grief Cafes’, to help staff come to terms with their own bereavements. This would all seem quite dark if it wasn’t for the fact that she radiates positivity. Belinda’s refusal to be tied to reality, or to perspective, gives her paintings a dreamlike quality. But how will she depict someone who’s working life is spent on threshold between life and death?

Jon Creamer

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