Covid memorial campaign

The Herald

It was a question asked as Scotland was beginning to emerge from the first national lockdown, how do we remember Covid and its impact?

In an article by journalist Deborah Anderson in The Herald, a Glasgow minister began that conversation and through his role recognised communities needed to come together to heal. It led to The Herald launching a campaign to create Scotland’s Covid memorial. A public fund was set up following an initial £5000 donation from a company in memory of Jim Russell, from Glasgow, who died from Covid in May 2020. Glasgow City Council stepped forward with the offer of a home for the memorial in Glasgow’s Pollok Country Park and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed the campaign saying it would ensure a ‘fitting and lasting tributes to every life lost to COVID-19 and other illnesses during the pandemic.’ A dedicated Memorial Steering Group was set up to guide the project to ensure that the memories and hopes of a nation would help shape the memorial and led to greenspace Scotland, a charity and social enterprise which promotes green networks and spaces, becoming involved. Working with its chief executive Julie Procter, an advisory panel was set up which recommended the appointment of artist and poet Alec Finlay. Mr Finlay was commissioned to create Scotland’s Covid Memorial and his vision has led to the I remember memorial in Pollok Country Park. In May 2022, we opened the first phase of the memorial which is series of tree supports which form a memorial walk. The aspiration is that there will eventually be more supports created for satellite locations across Scotland. A public fund raised almost £250,000 with contributions from bereaved families and those who were affected by the pandemic. It saw people take on mountain challenges and charity walks. We told their stories on our platforms, both in print and online, with powerful features and videos which ran on our website and social media channels. We collected their memories to record in a book with passages also read by actor Robert Carlyle for an online audio book. The impact of the campaign and subsequent memorial was tangible – it gave them a voice, a place to heal and a place to remember. The campaign also received generous donations from the Scottish Government, The Hunter Foundation, City Charitable Trust, The Watson Foundation, and the Freemasons of Glasgow. Making the decision to launch a campaign, at a time when we were still living with Covid and families were suffering, might have been viewed as just too soon. However, Deputy First Minister John Swinney reflected in his remarks at the opening of the National Covid Memorial, saying the concept of the memorial “will help us through the recovery.” Perhaps it was that support and solidarity from the dozens of people connected to the campaign that helped to drive it forward and deliver one of the most important public memorials in Scotland for decades.