Bereaved call for UK Covid memorial to be preserved

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Few memorials require restoration before they are complete, but that is the reality facing the bereaved who care for the national Covid memorial wall opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.

Armed with pots of crimson masonry paint, they have started refreshing the wall of more than 150,000 hearts, many of which are already fading in the sun and rain. They also have the sad task of adding 5,000 more, to catch up with the still-rising death toll. Like the pandemic, there is no end in sight. But soon, sections could be preserved using a specialist lacquer that has previously been deployed to protect street art by Banksy to create a memorial that could stand for years to come.

The idea of the team of bereaved, who meet each Friday, is to brighten faded hearts, trace over messages that have become almost indecipherable, and where people have spread their tribute across several hearts, confine it to just one. Then the lacquer would be overlaid. Talks are under way with a firm in Lichfield about how the sealant could work.

The restoration is a sensitive task. Most people on the group’s online forum supported adding fresh paint, but a few did not, believing that it should fade. The restorers are carefully turning a work that has the ephemeral dynamism of graffiti into a permanent memorial.

In June, 200 MPs, peers and city mayors urged Boris Johnson to make the wall “a, if not the, permanent memorial to the victims of the pandemic”.

Photo: A volunteer paints hearts on the wall along the embankment opposite parliament as part of the National Covid Memorial Wall in London, Britain. Volunteers, some who have lost loved ones during the pandemic, are painting red hearts on the wall in remembrance to those who lost their lives to Covid-19. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

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