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Graeme Browning

graeme

An Australian who worked as a drag performer in Sydney for 22 years before moving to the UK in 2010, Graeme lives with his husband in Brighton and works as a manager at The Duke’s at Komedia, in North Laine. 

However, when the UK entered its first lockdown in March 2020, the cinema closed, re-opening briefly in October only to shut again, leaving the 55-year-old on furlough. 

“I was keen to help out somewhere, and when I heard about the need for volunteers for the vaccine hubs, I signed up immediately,” says Graeme. “I’m a volunteer co-ordinator at The Brighton Centre, helping guide the public through the vaccination process. 

“I’ve only been volunteering with the Trust since the centre opened, but it’s something I've wanted to do for a while. Since moving to the UK I have grown to appreciate and love the NHS, so I am happy I could be a part of this historic rollout.” 

Graeme works at weekends with about 50 volunteers across four shifts. He helps induct new volunteers and assists with covering breaks and communicating with the NHS operations team to ensure the volunteer stewards are located where they are needed. 

“The volunteers and staff working at the centre come from such vastly different backgrounds,” says Graeme. “I was surprised to find out one of the volunteers assisting with the waiting area - where people can sit down after their vaccine - is a judge, another is a vet, another cabin crew. 

“Some people are still working full time and volunteering in their spare time, while others are retired or furloughed, like myself. It’s funny how a high-vis vest puts us all on a level playing field. 

“It’s been such a wonderful experience getting to know all the volunteers and knowing you’re a part of this incredible task,” says Graeme. “It’s also been extremely gratifying chatting with the public. Some people haven’t been out in months but have been so grateful for the work being done. 

“Everyone is so impressed with how organised it is. When they enter the main auditorium, many tell us about the last time they were at The Brighton Centre, what the entertainment was, and how different it looks with queues and vaccine pods. I often joke that we should have the NHS choir doing shows for them while they wait!” 

Graeme says he is one of many people “who have been quite afraid over the last 12 months”. 

“With every lockdown and the second wave, I felt getting COVID-19 was a matter of when not if,” he says. “I think it is clear that getting the vaccine is really relieving that fear. Everyone is so pleased to get it and so thankful for the amazing way the NHS has pulled all this together. They constantly tell me how fantastic the NHS is, and I wholeheartedly agree. 

“This last year has been so frightening for so many, but the vaccine is such a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I will definitely continue to volunteer with the NHS when the vaccine rollout is over. It has just confirmed for me how much we need to fight for our NHS and protect it at all cost.”