Procession held at beach memorial to give thanks to NHS
- Credit: Mark Atherton
Hundreds of people have visited a poignant memorial on Weston beach to reflect on the pandemic and pay tribute to the NHS.
In Memoriam, by Luke Jerram, was installed on the beach on Friday to mark the start of Arts and Health Week.
The installation of more than 100 flags, made of hospital bedsheets, is also made in tribute to the many NHS health and care workers, both on the frontline and in supporting roles, who have given such invaluable support during the crisis.
A moving torch-lit procession from Weston Hospital to the artwork was also held on Saturday night, with NHS workers, carers and volunteers taking part.
Weston Art and Health Week, which is running until September 26, has been organised by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and Culture Weston to give people time and space to reflect on the past 18 months and boost people’s health and wellbeing.
Fiona Matthews, creative director at Culture Weston, said: “People from all over the area have visited the artwork and wandered among the poignant flag installation, taking time to reflect on the past 18 months and pay tribute to our amazing NHS. From children building sandcastles within the flagpoles to groups of friends gathered at the centre and people simply looking out to sea, there is a special experience for everyone to discover.
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"The torch-lit procession on Saturday night was a particularly moving occasion as NHS workers, carers and volunteers shared stories as they walked from Weston General Hospital along the beach to In Memoriam, carrying 10 torches to represent the 10 hospitals within the UHBW Trust.
“Hundreds of people gathered around the flags, to witness the lighting of 500 fire pots illuminating the medical cross at the heart of the installation, and casting a gentle hue on the Costanzi Consort chamber choir whose stunning tones soared as the sun set. An occasion that glowed with so much meaning."
In Memoriam was originally intended to mark the launch of Culture Weston, the joining of two hospital trusts to form UHBW and the inaugural Weston Arts and Health Week in April 2020, but this could not take place.
Since then, the acclaimed artwork has been re-imagined as a contemplative response to the coronavirus pandemic and has been experienced by communities all over the UK and in Europe before coming home to Weston.
Luke Jerram said: “It feels like, as a nation, we need to come to terms with everything we’ve been through. I hope this artwork will create a framed space and moment in time for personal and shared reflection.”
The second Weston Arts and Health Week has been made possible through funding from Arts Council England, Without Walls, Quartet Community Foundation, North Somerset Council, Theatre Orchard and Culture Weston, Age UK, The Green Social Prescribing funds and Weston Hospital Charity.
Support has also been provided by Weston Town Council, Weston College, Alliance Homes, The Grand Pier, Revo Kitchen and many local businesses as well as the online contributors, including Bristol University, UWE and Arts University Bournemouth.
Mark Canniford, executive member for placemaking and economy at North Somerset Council, said: “We all know someone who’s been affected by Covid and this is a fitting tribute to all the NHS and care workers, offering a peaceful place to stop, reflect and remember as well as a marker of hope and optimism for the future.”
The Weston Arts and Health Week features 45 events including a daily programme of free creative tasters, lunchtime digital panels offering food for thought on a range of arts and health issues and teatime artists’ talks.
The festival finale will take place on Weston beach on September 26, with the first public sharing of ‘A Song for In Memoriam’, specially commissioned from local composer David Ogden for Weston Arts + Health Week and sung by members of the newly formed UHBW NHS choir.
For full details of all the events taking place, log on to cultureweston.org.uk/listings/weston-arts-health-week/