Meet Call the Midwife's new St John Ambulance volunteer

BBC One hit show Call the Midwife's new St John Ambulance volunteer character

There’s a new face at Nonnatus House, in the form of Delia, a nurse from the Royal London, who also happens to be a St John Ambulance volunteer. Delia, a friend of Patsy, appears in the second episode to teach the cubs and scouts first aid.

St John Ambulance was a little different back then compared to today – which is clear straight away from Delia’s starched, grey uniform!

Call the Midwife is a popular drama set in a nunnery and midwifery unit in Poplar in the 1960s. The show, which is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, follows a group of nuns, nurses and midwives who work in the community. The fourth season is currently airing on Sunday evenings on BBC One.

St John Ambulance caught up with Kate Lamb, who plays Delia, to find out what it’s like to play a St John Ambulance volunteer in the 1960s.

What's it like playing a St John Ambulance volunteer in the 1960s?

Really humbling, actually. It’s quite a brave thing to do – to be responsible for that first-on-the-scene care and attention. Wearing the uniform and the badge made me conscious of the amazing service volunteers provide and what the organisation represents.

What can you tell us about your character?

Delia’s a nurse at the London Hospital during the day but by night she fights crime! No, she doesn’t, that’s a lie, but she does volunteer for St John Ambulance which is arguably just as exciting and important. She’s quite a daring person I think and enjoys the change of pace that volunteering offers from work on the ward.

What did the role make you think about first aid and its importance?

I’ve always valued the importance of first aid; I’ve done several courses because I know it’s something that needs to be kept fresh if you’re going to be able to rely on it in an emergency situation. It’s quite interesting how some approaches have changed between the 1960s and now though: Delia would get some odd looks if she tried some of the old fashioned techniques today. What is obvious across the decades, however, is that first aid isn't just sticking on a plaster or giving someone a blanket - it can be the difference between life and death. Modern first aiders have got all this brilliant equipment now from oxygen to defibrillators - they can make a huge difference in an emergency.

Organisations like St John Ambulance are a familiar sight at big events and football matches, where they keep hundreds of thousands of people safe every year; you hope they won’t be needed but it’s such a comfort that they’re there. Playing Delia made me realise I should probably refresh my own first aid abilities - everyone can have the skills to save a life because first aid is actually so easy to learn, and I've actually just downloaded the St John Ambulance app so I can brush up when I’m on the train! Everyone should download it so they can have life saving knowledge at their fingertips.

BBC One hit show Call the Midwife St John Ambulance volunteer character

What do you enjoy most about playing Delia on the show?

Spending time with such a great group of women – the characters and the actresses. We always have a great laugh on set and, if truth be told, most of my scenes involved cakes, chips or ice-cream, so multiple takes of that stuff was quite fun! Oh, I also have a fabulous beehive hairstyle that’s a joy to behold.

Were you familiar with St John Ambulance before joining Call the Midwife?

Yes, I think my first first aid course was run by St John Ambulance when I was in training for my Duke of Edinburgh Award at school. A friend’s dad was also an ambulance volunteer so I’ve always known about them.

What do you think of St John Ambulance in the 21st century compared to the 1960s?

There’s obviously so much more that volunteers can now offer in terms of emergency treatment, that was just impossible or not even understood in the 1960s. Before the NHS was founded the St John Ambulance Brigade helped people in their homes and offered quite a different service to the emergency aid it’s known for now. They’ve always been the promoters of first aid knowledge and that must have saved countless lives across the country.

What do you think of the uniform back then compared to the uniform now?

Well today’s uniform looks a lot more comfortable! I felt pretty smart in my dress, sensible shoes and tri-corn hat though.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! Is there anything you'd like to say to the 40,000 volunteers in St John Ambulance 2015?

Keep up the great work – I feel humbled to represent such an important and long-serving organisation.

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