L-r Widd Signs employees Dan Barr, Robin Lyon, Stephen Beesley and Mark Beesley holding a selection of the packaged bands

Leading signage manufacturer Widd Signs is using its recently acquired St Helens site to support a national effort to produce more face masks for frontline NHS staff and care workers.

The company, which employs 80 people across its two sites in St Helens and Leeds, is using Foamex, a plastic-based material commonly used in the manufacturing of signs, to create hundreds of headbands for face masks using its state-of-the-art cutting machinery.

The company is supporting the St Helens Covid mask makers group, a 100-strong group of local volunteers who are drawing on their combined skills and expertise to create and provide face masks to frontline NHS staff and care workers in the North West and further afield, with over 3,500 created and distributed to date. Frontline organisations who have received the masks include Whiston Hospital, GP surgeries and care homes across the St. Helens borough.

Over the course of the last week, a team of Widd employees, led by workshop manager Steve Beesley, have created almost 600 headbands, with 439 of these made from Foamex. The team is working hard to keep up with massive demand and expects to have made well over 1,000 by the middle of next week.


Speaking of the initiative, workshop manager Steve Beesley said: “PPE shortage has been well-publicised, so when I heard that a mask makers group had been established by local residents Sonya Horton and Steven Bayliss in response to a request from local GP Dr Greg Irwin, I was determined to use my expertise and access to the relevant tools to try and help.

“I started off using my 3D printer at home to make the headbands but it was proving a little slow, so I approached my employer, Widd Signs, who were delighted to help, providing all of the key materials and access to state-of-the-art cutting machinery.

“Since then, progress has been a lot quicker and we’re hoping to have created over 1,000 headbands by the middle of next week, with these being added to the masks and distributed to the frontline workers who so badly need them at the moment.

“The reaction from those who have received them has been incredible. The scale of the PPE shortages is unbelievable, there are workers literally putting their lives on the line every day without the necessary protection. They are the heroes and me and the entire group are just grateful to have the opportunity to help them and try and repay a small part of the debt of gratitude we owe them for everything they are doing.”

Sonya Horton, one of the founders of the St Helens Covid mask makers group, said: “This has been an amazing community effort. Local residents have already donated over £2,500 to help purchase materials and a number of makers are offering their time, equipment and expertise to help make the PPE. With the additional support of Widd Signs, we have been able to produce and distribute over 3,500 face shields to our local NHS and frontline workers.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer their services or make a donation to help the group to purchase equipment to produce the PPE is encouraged to get in contact directly through the St Helens Covid Mask Makers Facebook page.