Celebrating Collaboration and Resilience: The PRINCIPLE PANORAMIC Art Exhibition

16 April 2024

Trinity College has hosted a symposium and art exhibition celebrating the collaboration behind Oxford’s groundbreaking COVID-19 trials led by Professorial Fellow Christopher Butler.

The PRINCIPLE and PANORAMIC trials led out of the University of Oxford in collaboration with universities, general practices, clinical research networks, the NHS, and many voluntary, religious, and community organisations UK-wide. These trials, in response to the pandemic, set a global trial recruitment benchmark for a community-based trial in speed and scale.

On Monday 15 April Trinity College hosted the PRINCIPLE PANORAMIC Celebratory Symposium, which outlined the collaborations, methodology and working practices that made the trials successful. It featured a keynote address by Jonathan Van-Tam, who was UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The symposium included the opening of the PANORAMIC PRINCIPLE art exhibition, a collection of portraits by artist Tanya Poole celebrating the resilience and collaboration behind the trials, honouring the diverse participants, researchers, and health and care professionals who transformed lives.

Professor Christopher Butler is Professorial Fellow at Trinity College and led the trials based in Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health and Sciences (NDPCHS) Clinical Trials Unit (CTU). He says: ‘We have taken the unique creative step of commissioning an Artist in Residence to honour the resilience and collaborative efforts of running the PRINCIPLE and PANORAMIC trials amidst the global adversity of COVID-19. 

‘Inclusivity and diversity were at the forefront of these trials, ensuring representative findings for the entire UK population. NDPCHS, determined to honour these achievements, commissioned artist Tanya Poole to create a body of work commemorating this success and serving as an archive for these ground-breaking studies.’

The exhibition features a series of portraits of trial managers, GPs, community leaders, pharmacists, nurses, doctors, faith and religious group representatives, influencers, and trial participants. Facilitated by Professors Christopher Butler and Mahendra Patel, artist Tanya Poole spent time at NDPCHS Clinical Trials Unit (CTU), meeting the medical professionals and professional support staff who made these trials a success. She travelled across the UK, hearing first-hand about the trials’ significance, challenges, and triumphs from various stakeholders involved in the trials. 

The exhibition was opened with a talk by Trinity’s Professorial Fellow Geoffrey Batchen of Oxford’s Faculty of Art History. He noted: ‘Tanya Poole’s exhibition demonstrates what an artist can bring to a large-scale medical project. Deploying her considerable skills to paint a suite of portraits, she has turned the processes of medical science into a visible phenomenon, and she does so while reminding us of the basic humanity of this kind of science. She shows us that the people working away behind the scenes to bring a pandemic under control are just like us, a diverse community of singular characters; some earnest, some amusing, all dedicated to serving their fellow citizens.

‘Hopefully, this collaboration of science and art can act as a model for future projects. It would be wonderful if a small percentage of major science budgets were allocated to an artistic collaborator of one sort or another. It would help bring science to a broader community, and involve artists in the work of science (as it once was, throughout the nineteenth century).’