Hearts. Rainbows. Thank-yous. The tributes have been an uplifting and ever-present feature of the pandemic.
The NHS came under enormous pressure during the Covid crisis. Frontline staff risked, and sometimes lost, their lives or health in the battle to save others. Political and organisational failures made the situation even worse.
Early on, the thank-yous appeared. Hearts were daubed on tarmac. We clapped for carers each Thursday. Every other window was decorated with a child-drawn rainbow. In my block of flats, one kid even shared their gratitude for the bin collectors.
And then there were the larger tributes, like Lionel Stanhope's now iconic mural of an NHS superhero, painted in April 2020 at the behest of Network Rail. It is not alone...
Nearby, this colourful tribute to the NHS can be found outside St Thomas's Hospital on the South Bank. It was created by floral designers Early Hours.
By far the most noticed message must be this one on the rail bridge that carries the Chiltern Main Line over the M25, between junctions 16 and 17 clockwise. This is the famous viaduct that, for years, carried the slogan "Give Peas a Chance", until it was rendered mushy by a tagger in 2018. The NHS message has, in turn, now been replaced by another oversized tag.
Bridges proved a popular canvas for NHS supporting messages. Here's just one example we stumbled across near Deptford Park.
Of course, rainbows were a common motif in such tributes. Countless examples could be found across town. One prominent example was appended to the steps of Cannon Street station in 2021.
Meanwhile, visitors to Covent Garden — though much depleted in number — could enjoy this inflatable tribute during the summer of 2020. The 10 metre-long rainbow was filled with helium so that it could float over the market.
Hearts, too, were a common symbol of love, loss and memory — most notably on the National Covid Memorial Wall along the South Bank. NHS heart stencils could be found on many major roads. The following three examples were taken at Admiralty Arch, Parliament Square and down south in Mitcham.
Update: Olga Smalskė shares another collection of NHS thank-yous from around the country.
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