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COVID memorial at Hope Fields to have virtual unveiling

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A living memorial at Thrybergh Country Park in Rotherham, to honour both the victims of COVID-19 and those who fought the virus, is to be unveiled online this week, on Saturday 27 March 2021.

Hope Fields, which overlooks the lake at Thrybergh Country Park, has been created in consultation with communities from across the borough as a tribute not only to people who lost their lives, but also to those who were part of the emergency response and recovery effort – from key workers to volunteers and communities.

This week marks one year since the first national COVID-19 lockdown was announced. With social distancing and wide-ranging restrictions still in place, the ceremony to unveil Hope Fields this weekend has been pre-recorded and will be broadcast on Facebook, allowing residents to take part from the safety of their own homes. 

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The online event will include performances by the Sangeet Choir and Rotherham Symphony Orchestra, prayers from faith leaders, and films showing the sympathetic transformation of the site – which has been designed to ensure the existing biodiversity is protected and enhanced.  

The Mayor of Rotherham, Councillor Jenny Andrews will also plant and dedicate a tree as part of the proceedings and people will get their first sight of the original art installation that has been commissioned as a focal point for Hope Fields. Created by local artist, sculptor, and stonemason Dan Jones, the installation will sit at the top of Hope Fields overlooking Thrybergh lake.

Rotherham Council’s Head of Creative Programming and Engagement, Leanne Buchan, said: “In planning Hope Fields we talked to a range of people – including bereaved families, key workers, faith leaders and local residents – to ensure it will provide a much-needed calm and contemplative space.

“This special place will be open for many years to come, and given that restrictions are still place and the park already receives a lot of visitors, particularly at weekends, we ask that initially people join us online to remember those we have lost, and to honour the resilience, kindness and strength that our key workers, volunteers and communities have shown.”

The site will include a pond and wetland, community orchard, interactive play activities and a new bird hide.

Throughout April the beautiful ‘Flock’ art installation, created by Planet Art, will be at Hope Fields. Initially commissioned for Wentworth Woodhouse as part of the WE Great Place programme, the installation is made up of more than 5,000 wooden birds – decorated by local residents and schools – to depict the stories and emotions of life in lockdown.

Sarah McLeod, CEO of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust said: “We’re delighted to be supporting this beautiful and important project for Rotherham. The last year has been tough for so many people and ‘Flock’ really celebrates the resilience within communities that got people through it, and highlights how important green spaces and nature were to so many. It’s wonderful for Flock to be included as part of this memorial and for those stories to be shared with new audiences.”

One of the main aims of Hope Fields is for it to be inclusive for all, and feedback from bereaved families, counselling services and faith leaders has been used to ensure it will be a place that meets peoples different needs.

Leanne added: “COVID-19 caused many types of loss, and the memorial needed to inclusively recognise the indirect toll of the pandemic alongside the lives lost to the virus. Many people raised concerns that their loved one might not be included because COVID-19 wasn’t the official cause of death. Others said seeing a loved one’s name on a public memorial would be upsetting and stop Hope Fields being a place where they and their family could heal and look to the future.

“Visitors will therefore have the chance to write their own personal tribute on a yellow heart – the symbol of the national Love for the Lost campaign – and hang this in a quiet wooded area at the field’s entrance. The hearts will be made from rice paper that naturally degrades over time without any risk of harm to wildlife.”

Hope Fields is the culmination of Rotherham Together – a programme of activities exploring the themes of Joy, Gratitude and Hope. Rotherham Council commissioned the programme in July 2020 to provide opportunities for communities to come together safely to support one another, and to thank its residents, communities, volunteers and key workers.

Hope Fields has been created through the generous support of partners including Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust (funded by Natural England), South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company, Thrybergh and Dalton Parish Council, Ravenfield Parish Council, Bramley Parish Council and the hard work of volunteers from organisations including Rotherham Metro Ramblers, Engie, Mears and Rotherham Council. Art Works, Dan Jones, Coralie Turpin and Jason Thomson have all created installations for Hope Fields.

The online unveiling ceremony will be posted online from 10am on Saturday 27 March 2021 on the Rotherham Council Events Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RMBCEvents 

Images: RMBC

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Tom Austen
Tom grew up in Aston, Rotherham and studied Human Geography at Nottingham Trent University before developing a passion for promoting Rotherham and a nose for a good story.

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