Singing Midwives

From the maternity unit to the Royal Albert Hall is not the normal career path for a midwife. But for four working nurses at one of London’s busiest hospitals their musical dreams are about to become reality as they swap ward life for the spotlight.

‘The Nurses’ have landed a major recording contract and are on the verge of releasing their first single If You Can.

Just as singing sensation The Soldiers became a chart-topping success. The quartet, from the Whittington Hospital in north London, hope to prove sisters can also do it for themselves. Midwives Andrea Darke, Jo Austin and Gaynor Wood and cardiac nurse Sharon Robinson, 38, came up with the idea to record a single last year to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer in its centenary year 2011.

As Jo, 38, explained: “We love singing and we’ve performed together before at the hospital. This seemed like a great opportunity and as well as enjoying every minute we hope to highlight some issues too.”

Now they have their first album Guiding You out in March and a string of concerts lined up including the Royal Albert Hall in May and potentially the London Palladium in November. Baby London caught up with hospital midwife Andrea, the youngest in the group at 29, to find out how it all began.

She said: “Gaynor and Jo have sung for years in a folk group and they heard me singing one night at work. Then someone heard Sharon singing at a wedding and our love of music brought us together. We performed for a few things at the hospital. But we wanted to do something for charity and we knew it was the Macmillan Cancer centenary this year. We have all known someone directly or indirectly affected by cancer.”

They began recording the album last August after signing with record label Rhino, part of Warner Music Group. Twelve of the fifteen tracks are covers chosen by the nurses including such hits as Wind Beneath My Wings and Angel.  However, there are three new songs written specially for the group. One of which, If You Can, will be their first single released in February.

“We chose all the songs together. We wanted something which was uplifting but songs which also really make you think,” said Andrea.

Since recording the album, The Nurses have been caught up in a whirlwind of interviews, publicity shots and television appearances. But they remain firmly grounded by their nursing jobs and have no plans to change careers at present.

Andrea said: “It’s been such an amazing experience because it’s so far removed from what we do every day. But being a midwife is what I am committed to.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Gaynor, 39, who said: “For me being a nurse and a midwife is not just a job, it’s a way of life and is part of my identity. I work with some amazing people who really make a difference to women’s lives and improve the outcomes for their babies.”

A point poignantly proved by Jo, who in the middle of a recent photoshoot had to answer an alarm call from the ward.

The Nurses producer and manager Jason Nolan said: “A lady was haemorrhaging and Jo rushed off to help. “Jo saved a woman’s life that day and then calmly came back to carry on with us.
She took it in her stride, but we were in awe.”

Guiding You will be out on March 14 with 25 pence from each sale going to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Photo by Suzan Moore.