Worthing warehouse worker stars alongside England and Liverpool footballer Jordan Henderson in new Rankin exhibition celebrating 75 years of NHS charities

31 May 2023

A warehouse worker from Worthing, who says his life has been turned around thanks to a charity-funded football initiative, is starring alongside England footballer Jordan Henderson in a new exhibition from Rankin and NHS Charities Together, celebrating 75 years of NHS charities.

Matt Kennard, 38, is one of 14 NHS staff, patients and volunteers starring in ‘Love and Charity: A History of Giving in the NHS’– which celebrates the vital role charities have played throughout the health service’s history, ahead of the NHS’ 75th anniversary on 5th July. Led by NHS Charities Together, the national charity caring for the NHS, and internationally renowned photographer Rankin, all portraits will be displayed at Saatchi gallery in London from 31st May- 11th June.

Matt, who has struggled with mental health issues all his life, described ‘More than Football’ – a local mental health initiative that uses the power of football to prevent suicide and mental health crises amongst men at risk – as ‘a lifeline’. The project was funded by NHS Charities Together and Heads On, who are the official charity for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and delivered by Albion in the Community, the official charity of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.

Matt said: “Over the years, I faced a number of issues that affected my mental health. I had breakdowns in friendships and relationships, I’d been through a lot of jobs, and my wife had an accident that almost paralysed her. It all really came to light in lockdown, when I just lost myself and began spiralling. I became more and more disillusioned, to a point where I didn’t care about anything anymore.

“When I saw More Than Football, it felt like a lifeline, and from the minute I turned up I felt comfortable and accepted. The atmosphere was friendly, and everyone talked openly about how they were feeling. It’s a massive part of my life now and I can’t put a price on the difference it’s made to me. The work charities do to support the NHS, especially in local communities, is something we need to preserve, because what’s helped me could help millions of others.”

Matt – a lifelong Liverpool fan – was surprised by England player, Liverpool captain and NHS Charities Together ambassador Jordan Henderson on set. More Than Football was one of over 325 community projects funded by NHS Charities Together’s Covid-19 Urgent Appeal, which Henderson helped support via the #PlayersTogether initiative during the pandemic.

Jordan said: “Hearing from Matt was incredible, and I know there are plenty of other people who have been helped like him. It’s important to highlight the amazing work that’s going on behind the scenes with NHS Charities Together, and the ultimate goal is to try to get as many eyes on their work as possible. NHS charities help in so many different areas – and in our communities as well as in hospitals. The more eyes on it the better, because more support ultimately can save lives.”

Rachel Duke, Head of Charity at Heads On, the official charity for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Suicide is the leading cause of death for middle-aged men in the UK. We know that men can struggle to open up about their mental health and that's why Heads On is proud to have supported More Than Football, which has had a profound impact on the lives of the men it has touched.

"Through More Than Football we have seen men across Sussex open up about their mental health, often for the first time, building friendships and a network of support. We are delighted to see the project celebrated in ‘Love and Charity: A History of Giving in the NHS’ as a fantastic example of what can happen when the NHS, voluntary sector and sport come together in our local communities."

Lynsey Hermann, Head of Community Programmes at Albion at Albion in the Community, official charity of Brighton & Hove Albion, said: “We’re very aware of how much the power of football can change people’s lives and help improve wellbeing. We’re really proud of the work of our More than Football programme and how it has enabled men to come together socially, offer the opportunity to get active and build their capacity to cope with life. Thank you to NHS Charities Together and Heads On for their support in funding this important programme.”

There are over 230 NHS charities in the UK, and together they help our health service go further than would be possible with government funding alone. They fund innovative research and pioneering new technologies, accommodation and support to make hospital feel less like hospital, and extra services so more of us can access better care.

Rankin, who has photographed the likes of the Queen, David Bowie, Madonna and Kate Moss, adds: “The thing I’ve learned from all these people is how much of a massive contribution NHS charities make to the national health service. You don’t realise the scale of support that’s out there – they fund research and new technologies, accommodation and support for patients, and extra services so more of us can access better care. I used to work in the NHS but honestly had no idea, and it really has been eye opening.”

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said: “It’s been incredibly inspiring meeting Matt, and hearing his story. 75 years after the NHS was founded, charity support has never been more important, and with your help we can continue to help the NHS for generations to come. On 5 July, you can support the charity that means the most to you and celebrate 75 years of the NHS by hosting an NHS Big Tea party. We hope some of these stories show the astonishing impact one person’s generosity can have.”

‘Love and Charity: A History of Giving in the NHS’ will be exhibited at the Saatchi gallery in London from 31st May – 11th June 2023 and is free to the public.

To find out more information about how you can support your local NHS charity visit www.nhsbigtea.co.uk