The campaign to create a national memorial for Covid victims

PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 May 2020

Ashley Cooper

Ashley Cooper

not Archant

A Lakeland photographer has launched an appeal for a permanent memorial to NHS staff who have died during the lockdown.

Zoe Cooper is a Ward Housekeeper on the Gynaecology ward in Burnley HospitalZoe Cooper is a Ward Housekeeper on the Gynaecology ward in Burnley Hospital

They’re the people on the front line of the battle against Coronavirus, the people working round the clock to help others. Many of them have been plucked early from their studies and thrust into extraordinary circumstances they could never have been prepared for. Others have swapped their safe and peaceful retirement for a return to hospitals and health centres during the biggest crisis the National Health Service has faced.

There has been a huge outpouring of gratitude to the doctors, nurses, porters, carers, receptionists and all their colleagues throughout the service ever since the scale of the virus here became apparent.

Thousands are on their doorsteps every Thursday evening applauding the selflessness of the people putting themselves at risk to care for others. And, as you’ll read elswhere in this magazine, businesses and inviduals have used the lockdown to help fill the shortfall in essential protective equipment.

Since the crisis began more than 100 members of the National Health Service across the country have died from the virus since the lockdown began and a Lake District photographer has launched a million-pound appeal for a national memorial to remember them.

Ashley's younger sister Stephanie Burgess is a speech therapist in IlkleyAshley's younger sister Stephanie Burgess is a speech therapist in Ilkley

Award-winning photographer Ashley Cooper, who is the son of a nurse and has two sisters working for the NHS, has started a crowd-funding campaign for a place where all affected families can go to grieve and to feel pride in the sacrifice their loved ones made.

Ashley, who lives in Ambleside and exhibits his work at the Heaton Cooper Gallery in Grasmere, says: ‘I care that we value the sacrifices our NHS staff and carers are making.

‘As a child of the early 1960s I grew up listening to tales of heroism and bravery of those who fought in the Battle of Britain. People who were prepared to put their own lives on the line to protect our people and country. At the end of the war, memorials were erected and every year we go to them to remember them and to pay our respects.

‘We are still in the middle of this awful crisis and sadly many more will die yet. I do not want them to be forgotten. I want the country to erect a fitting, national memorial to all those who died from the virus in the line of duty and make our heroes proud.

‘If it’s a national memorial, I guess London is the obvious place for it, but I don’t know exactly where would be best. We’d need to talk to the Mayor of London when we reach to fundraising target. In terms of what it would look like, I’d want input from the affected families about what they would like to see.’

Ashley spent many years touring the world photographing the impact of climate change, and his subsequent book, Images from a Warming Planet, is essential reading for environmental campaigners.

And he adds: ‘Today we face a different kind of crisis. Our doctors, nurses, carers and all staff in the NHS bravely go into work each day, knowing they are potentially endangering their own lives. Often they are forced to treat Covid patients with inadequate PPE. They work in horrendous conditions for long hours with the utmost care for their patients. Tragically many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice and died from this dreadful virus.

‘They could have stayed at home, but they chose instead to put themselves willingly on the front line to care for and protect our loved ones.’

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