Thank You NHS: The Best Tributes From Around London

By M@ Last edited 28 months ago

Last Updated 15 February 2022

Thank You NHS: The Best Tributes From Around London
A bit of street art with Superman ripping open his shirt to reveal an NHS logo
The superhero service. Lionel Stanhope's powerful street art on Cornwall Road, Waterloo. Image Will Noble.

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.

Letters, made from many flowers, spell out I HEART NHS
Image by the author

The pandemic has been a popular subject for street artists, besides Stanhope. Here's an example we spotted in Soho, by the ubiquitous Nathan Bowen.  

Four cartoonish figures in blue masks hold up signs of support. Above it says Thanks NHS
Image by the author

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 The NHS message has, in turn, now been replaced by another oversized tag.

A rail viaduct says "Thank You NHS" in blue and white
Photo by the author... or rather the author's partner as I was busy driving.

Bridges proved a popular canvas for NHS supporting messages. Here's just one example we stumbled across near Deptford Park.

A rainbow has been painted horizontally across the side of a bridge and NHS is there in white
Photo by the author

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.

A rainbow is painted onto the steps of Cannon Street Station
Photo by Andrew Smith in the Londonist Flickr pool.

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.

An inflatable rainbow surrounded by colourful flowers, with classical buildings behind
Image by the author

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.

A rainbow NHS motif painted onto the street in front of Admiralty Arch.
Image by the author
The photographer has risked life and limb to stand in the middle of the carriageway of Parliament Square to get a shot of the road with an NHS symbol painted on
Image by the author
A town square with an ornamental lamp post in the centre and an NHS logo on the ground
Image by the author

NHS staff and other key workers were also commemorated in more permanent ways. Numerous benches can be found across town. This one can be found at Barnet Hospital, but other examples are plentiful.

A blue bench with silhouettes of healthcare workers and an air ambulance in a hospital car park
Image by the author

Update: Olga Smalskė shares another collection of NHS thank-yous from around the country.

If you've got a photo of an impressive tribute to the NHS or other key workers, please send an image to [email protected] and we'll add it to the article.