Memorials to mark the Covid-19 pandemic have been unveiled throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
They have been placed in local crematoria and cemeteries to provide places where communities can remember loved ones lost and the efforts of those who supported people through the tough times.
Westerleigh Group, the UK’s largest independent owner and operator of crematoria and cemeteries, which hosts over 50,000 funerals a year, has unveiled the memorials at 34 locations.
The 1.5-metre-high stone obelisks each weigh 1.3 tonnes and all carry the same inscription, which reads: “This memorial has been placed to remember and recognise the lives and efforts of all affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Six different designs can be found amongst 34 obelisks as Westerleigh Group held a competition in each of its geographical regions, inviting local communities to suggest an appropriate drawing that could be etched onto the obelisks by the highly-skilled stonemasons of AK Lander in Basildon, Essex.
Six regional winners, ranging in age from 10-year-old Jake Insall in the South West Region whose design can now be found at Forest of Dean, Sedgemoor, Treswithian Downs and Westerleigh crematoria to 70-year-old retired nurse Angela Morgan-Sharpness in the South Region which includes Aylesbury Vale, North Wiltshire, Test Valley, The Vale, Wessex Vale, West Berkshire and West Wiltshire crematoria, had won the design competition.
The other winners were Camilla Fitzjohn, a 52-year-old art graduate and history lover from Harlow whose design is in the London and East Region (Barham, Basildon & District, Cam Valley, Charing, Cromer, Forest Park, New Southgate, Parndon Wood, West Suffolk and Wollensbrook crematoria); Schoolgirls Poppy Lunn from Scotland (Borders, Stirlingshire and West Lothian crematoria) and Faith Williams from Wales (Aberystwyth, Llanelli, Langstone Vale and Sirhowy Valley crematoria); and 39-year-old part-time teacher Rachel Almond in the North of England (Babworth, Gedling, Great Glen, Howe Bridge, Vale Royal and West Lancashire crematoria).
Official unveiling events were held at each of the 34 locations with families of those who have lost loved ones, NHS workers, funeral directors, local councillors and Mayors, MPs, Cabinet Ministers and crematoria staff among those attending.
Roger Mclaughlan, Chief Executive Officer of Westerleigh Group, said: “This has been over a year in the planning and organising and it has been touching to see how much these permanent memorials mean to each of the communities.
“So many people were not able to hold the funerals in the way they wanted and we felt there was a need for memorials that could become a focal point to remember these times. At the same time, we wanted people to be involved in the designs and make them special to their local communities.
“Our crematoria are all very much part of the communities they serve. People visit us at the saddest and toughest times, but we also want our crematoria to be welcoming and peaceful places that can help people in their grieving and remembrance.
“These lasting memorials will provide a tranquil place for people to commemorate and reflect; where they can seek some comfort knowing that the legacy of those affected by the pandemic is not only being recognised but will be remembered for many generations to come.”