Volunteer is work of art

Alan Popplewell Trafalgar plinth art

On Tuesday 14 July St John Ambulance Hertfordshire member, Alan Popplewell, will become a walking, talking work of art, by stepping onto the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, and demonstrating first aid to the crowd, as part of Antony Gormley’s ‘One and Other’ project.

The fourth plinth

The so-called ‘empty plinth’ has been as such ever since it was built in 1841 by Sir Charles Barry who intended to display an equestrian statue on top of it before funds ran out and the statue could not be completed. Finally, nearly 170 years on, the plinth is about to be turned into an exciting artistic experiment.

For 100 days from 6 July, 24 hours a day, without a break, one person every hour will have the opportunity to make the plinth their own and Alan has jumped at this as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of first aid and the work of St John Ambulance to the public. Alan’s moment in the spotlight is at 11am on Tuesday 14 July and everyone is encouraged to join him and learn.

‘It’s members like Alan, who go the extra step, who are what St John Ambulance is all about.’

Brian Wingate
CEO SJA Hertfordshire


Demonstrating to the masses

As the nation’s leading first aid provider, St John Ambulance aims to teach as many people as possible vital first aid skills and raise awareness of the need for such skills nationwide. Those taking part in the ‘One and Other’ project can take whatever they can carry up onto the plinth and Alan will be using his chance to demonstrate the cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) technique.

‘When I first read details of the plinth project I was excited by Antony Gormley’s vision to explore the idea of Britishness,’ said Alan.

No contest

‘Having been offered a place on the plinth it wasn’t difficult to decide how to use my 60 minutes in the spotlight since St John Ambulance has been an essential part of my life for over 20 years and is a quintessential part of British life. I’ve enjoyed every moment of that time and welcome this opportunity to try to convey my enthusiasm to a wider audience, while hopefully sharing some useful information on basic first aid and life-saving techniques.’

Initiated by the sculptor most famous for the Angel of the North, the project is ambitious to say the least. Applicants were invited to apply from all over the country and will be represented proportionally having been chosen by region. Alan is among one of the lucky 334 from the South East of England to be taking part.

The importance of volunteers

Brian Wingate, County Executive Officer of St John Ambulance Hertfordshire said, ‘We are delighted that Alan has been selected to take part in this exciting project. First aid is such an essential skill and Alan’s commitment to the aims of St John Ambulance is fantastic.

‘Sometimes people hear the word ‘volunteer’ and don’t realise that all our volunteers are highly trained and professional -  they’re good at what they do, and what they do is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of thousands of people a year in their local communities,’ continued Brian.

‘It’s members like Alan, who go the extra step, who are what St John Ambulance is all about.’

Alan has been a member of St John Ambulance for 22 years and has been on hand to provide first aid at events ranging from concerts at Knebworth House, and Watford Football Club matches to national events such as the London Marathon, Notting Hill Carnival and the Queen’s Jubilee.

‘One and Other’ will be screened live, 24 hours a day on Sky Arts online, and on the One and Other website.