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National Covid Memorial Wall London

Sometimes when taking photos out on the street there is a sudden moment you just need to capture. For me, this shot captures a level of emotion and tells a story of the lady visiting and everyone else. Everything just worked, and I only have to snap 1 shot to make it work.

The National Covid Memorial Wall in London stands as a poignant testament to the profound impact of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. This public mural, painted by compassionate volunteers, carries the weight of immeasurable loss and serves as a heartfelt tribute to the victims. Spanning over one-third mile along the South Bank of the River Thames, opposite the regal Palace of Westminster the mural is adorned with (I believe) approximately 220,000 red and pink hearts, symbolizing each precious life claimed by COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Each heart is meticulously hand-painted, infused with an essence of uniqueness, just like the cherished individuals we have tragically lost.

The history of this stirring mural traces back to the determined efforts of the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, in collaboration with the compassionate souls at Led By Donkeys.

Volunteers devoted themselves to cleansing the wall, erasing the scars of graffiti, and then, over the course of ten emotionally charged days starting from March 29, 2021, they poured their souls into painting around 150,000 red hearts.

These hearts became vessels of remembrance, lovingly filled by bereaved families with messages and the names of their departed loved ones, an ongoing act of love that continues to this day. Though the mural began without official permission, its profound resonance and overwhelming public support shielded it from removal by the authorities, as it stands as a testament to collective grief and shared humanity. As the hearts and inscriptions have gradually faded over time, dedicated volunteers persist in the labor of love, repainting hearts with enduring masonry paint, rewriting dedications, and adding new tributes.

The reactions stirred by this poignant mural have been profound. On March 29, 2021, Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, paid a visit to this monumental artwork, hailing it as a “remarkable memorial.” He called upon Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, to personally visit the mural and engage with the grieving families affected by this unfathomable loss.

In response, Johnson did visit the wall, seeking a moment of solace and reflection. However, his visit, devoid of any meeting with bereaved families, was met with criticism from the co-founder of the group. This visit, shrouded in the cover of darkness, was perceived as a cynical and insincere gesture that inflicted further pain on those already burdened by grief.

On April 20, 2021, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, paid his respects to the wall, profoundly moved by its visual impact. He expressed, “I was unprepared for the visual force of this wall. Because it’s high, it feels like a wave of grief breaking over us.”

The future of this mural, which serves as a testament to the indomitable human spirit, remains in a state of flux. As of April 2023, it remains an unfinished work, as volunteers tirelessly continue to add hearts in accordance with the ever-mounting COVID-19 death toll in the UK.

While initial plans for the unauthorized mural included provisions for its eventual cleansing, advocates argue passionately for its preservation as an everlasting memorial, a poignant reminder of the profound loss suffered due to COVID-19.

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