The #BehindClosedDoors exhibition takes place from 9th to 21st August at the iconic Manchester Central Library and is being organised by Greater Manchester’s Mental Wellbeing Charity, MancSpirit.

The photographs were taken by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts’ Clinical Informatics Manager and passionate photographer, Petro Bekker, who volunteered to go back and work in the Intensive Care Unit at the beginning of the pandemic.

Petro Bekker said:

“In March 2020 COVID hit us. NHS staff with ICU training were being asked to go back and support their colleagues and with 15 years’ experience I didn’t hesitate to go back although it was a very scary prospect. Reality hit me. I can only describe it as a war where we could not see the enemy. Everything happened at a rapid pace and I had no doubt in my mind to return immediately to help my ICU Colleagues on the frontline.”

So Petro re-joined her colleagues, where she had previously been a Senior Sister working on ICU. This was a vast difference from her new role in Informatics but relying on her wealth of experience working as a Nurse in South Africa since 1987, and continuing her career emigrating to the UK in 1999, she knew that she had a lot to offer in patient care but her trusty camera went with her.

Petro continued: “When the first wave hit us it was so overwhelming that it was impossible to capture anything. However, when the second wave came, as a keen Photographer, I knew that I had to document this journey as it was history in the making. I could not miss the opportunity to record it for future generations.”

So Petro was given permission during her breaks and in her own time to take photographs within the ICU. Her colleagues fully supported her and found a great deal of pride and solace in the photographs and are incredibly excited that they will be showcased in this unique and inspiring exhibition. 

Paul Ludden, co-founder of MancSpirit, said:

“This is an opportunity for people to experience the emotion, friendship and dedication that most would never see in a busy Intensive Care Unit dealing with something they had never experienced before. It is an important snapshot of our social history and it is essential for me that people have the opportunity to see it for themselves.”


The exhibition came about when Petro joined in with the MancSpirit #OurWigan festival in May following a request from the Charity for grassroots groups, local creatives and community hero’s to send in submissions for inclusion throughout the week. The photo’s were shared through social media and there was an amazing response. So much so, that Petro and Sheena Wright, the ICU Matron, were invited on to MancSpirit’s podcast, That Great Manc Pod, and this rapidly became the most downloaded episode, even charting in the Hong Kong podcast charts!

The MancSpirit festivals are funded by GMCA Culture and this exhibition is one of the legacy projects that have given people from Greater Manchester a unique opportunity to showcase their creativity and promote their local area. Encouraging creativity to inspire positive mental wellbeing is central to the work of the MancSpirit Charity.

Paul added: “Through MancMade and MancSpirit I give creative talent an opportunity to showcase and develop their work. I wanted to give Petro, who has a real passion and talent for photography a platform through developing this exhibition and a huge ‘Thank you’ to her and her amazing colleagues in the NHS.”

Damian Carr, co-founder of MancSprit, said:

“As a proud Mancunian whose partner is a Ward Manager in a local hospital it is really important to me that we continue to show our love and admiration of those people that put their lives on the line to protect and support us.”

The #BehingClosedDoors exhibition is part of the MancSpirit #CaringForOurCarers programme that reinvigorates the incredible acts of support and kindness shown by the people of Greater Manchester during major crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Manchester bombing at the Manchester Evening News Arena.

Damian added: “The people of Greater Manchester are the greatest people in the world and when something serious happens we take action and do what we can to help. But soon after everyone goes back to their own lives and that community energy, togetherness and love dissipates. Through MancSpirit we harness that unique Greater Mancunian energy and inspire a wider sense of family and connection that improves how everyone feels”. 

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is supporting the exhibition, and Deputy Chief Executive Mary Fleming said:

“This is a very real and raw example of the harsh reality of ICU during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges our amazing teams faced and rose to and the emotions that caring for the sickest of patients brought out of our staff. I speak on behalf of the entire WWL family when I say thank you to everyone who works for the Trust for going the extra mile every day. This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to show people the dedication shown, and pressure faced during one of the most testing times for the NHS and our Trust.”

Paul and Damian insist that the exhibition is just a snapshot of the amazing people doing great things across Greater Manchester and they will be organising a continuing programme of exhibitions, events, film and podcasts. They are both determined that the #CaringForOurCarers programme will extend to projects supporting our Police, Firefighters, Prison Officers, Healthcare and many other people who are the carers within society. They are currently organising the next festival in Bury which is entitled #OurBury, and will run in October.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here