Across the Thames from Parliament, a team of volunteers have set up a growing memorial of hand-painted hearts. The volunteers come from a group called COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice which was co-founded by Matt Fowler. It began on March 30th, with more and more volunteers joining each day since. But what is the heartwrenching memorial for?
According to Matt Fowler, “each heart is individually hand-painted and utterly unique, just like the loved ones we’ve lost. And, like the scale of our collective loss, the memorial is going to be enormous.”
In terms of location, the group responded explaining that they did not have permission from Lambeth council, and if they’re asked to stop, they will. But the location, despite being opposite Parliament, is not meant to be “political or antagonistic”. They went on to say that they’ve “placed it at the heart of our capital so that the Government never loses sight of the personal stories at the heart of all this”.
The goal is to get the memorial up to 150,000 hearts, to match the death toll in Britain. The wall is 2m high, and when complete, volunteers estimate that it will cover 1/2 a mile of the bridge.
One volunteer, Sabrina Montgregge, a 28-year-old ICU nurse from Chelsea told The Guardian that, for her, the memorial is “about connecting with the families, reflecting on what has happened, the work of my colleagues”.
Plenty of volunteers have now worked on the memorial, whilst still making sure they follow COVID-19 guidelines. People have even gone to the memorial for others, like Yasmin Kibble, a 25-year-old who was visiting the mural for her mother following the loss of Yasmin’s uncle last year. Her mum is high risk and so staying at home, but wanted to make sure they had contributed.
The first heart was drawn last Monday, by Matt Fowler, who lost this father Ian last April to the virus. Since then it has been growing steadily and has even drawn the attention of Labour Leader Kier Starmer and shadow trade secretary, Emily Thornberry. Starmer tweeted a heartfelt message and images of the mural after his visit.
It was incredibly moving to attend the COVID Memorial Wall earlier today and to meet some of the families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.
We owe it to every single family to hear them, to hear them properly and to learn the lessons through a public inquiry. pic.twitter.com/z3UvT52rLQ
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) March 29, 2021
Since the mural began, Lambeth council has actually had talks about potentially making the installation of the hearts permanent. If not, the group has said that if they’re asked to clean the mural away, they will. They don’t wish to get arrested, they just felt the need to reflect and mourn their loved ones.
In a statement about the work of his volunteers, Matt Fowler said, “When you see all the hearts and think what each one represents, it’s absolutely frightening.”