Lessons in life saving from the fourth plinth

First aid volunteers at football

On Tuesday 14 July at 11am St John Ambulance Hertfordshire member, Alan Popplewell, became a work of art with a difference by demonstrating first aid to around 200 people from the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, as part of Antony Gormley’s ‘One & Other’ project.

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 importance of first aid nationwide. Those taking part in the ‘One & Other’ project can take whatever they can carry up onto the plinth and Alan chose to take a manikin known as Resusci-anne. He used his hour in the spotlight to demonstrate techniques such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the recovery position.

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.

Alan Popplewell
St John Ambulance volunteer and fourth plinth volunteer

60 minutes in the spotlight

‘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.

‘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.

‘It was a fantastic experience. I wasn’t sure how many people would be watching or paying attention but I was pleased – and a little bit nervous - by the turnout. Hopefully I’ve helped spread the message of the importance of first aid and everyone has learnt something useful today. It really is a wonderful project; it’s not every day you get to learn something practical from a work of art and feel part of something special.’

People of all ages took part including a group of school children from Westminster Academy and adults like Carolyn Parker from Richmond, who was on her way to visit the National Portrait Gallery. She said: ‘It’s a very good idea. I just thought there would be someone standing up there like a statue but it was participatory and he was very clear.’

Members who go the extra step

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