If you’ve been to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in recent months, you might have noticed that a section of it has been cordoned off for a new development. The result was unveiled by London Mayor Sadiq Khan this week: The London Blossom Garden, a green space with 33 blossoming trees, planted in memory of more than 19,000 Londoners who have died as a result of Covid-19. The number, 33, was chosen to signify all of London’s boroughs. The location, north of the park in Newham, has significance too, as Newham was one of the boroughs worst affected by the pandemic. In May 2020, the Guardian reported that the area had the worst mortality rate in England and Wales.
The public garden is the first in a series of blossom plantings planned by the National Trust for different locations in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Alongside the trees, there are benches created from locally claimed wood, with pink and peach tones designed to echo the colours of the trees when they are in bloom. Right now, they are looking a little bare, but the garden will look very different when the blossom season begins again next spring.
Speaking about the garden’s launch, Sadiq Khan said, ‘I’m immensely proud to join some of our capital’s key workers to open the London Blossom Garden […] This new public garden is a lasting living memorial in recognition of the impact that Covid has had, and continues to have, on our city. It is a place to join together to remember the more than 19,000 Londoners who have tragically died, to reflect on our own experiences of the pandemic, to highlight how this virus has disproportionately impacted many of our communities, and to pay tribute to the ongoing efforts of our key workers.’
The opening of the memorial coincided with the launch of a new citywide bereavement programme, which is designed for Londoners who have lost loved ones to Covid, in an effort to help them navigate their grief. The Recovery Bereavement Programme is now in its first phase, beginning with a public awareness campaign led by Thrive LDN. Dr Jacqui Dyer MBE, mental-health equalities advisor for NHS England and co-lead of Thrive LDN explained that, ‘Navigating bereavement services can be difficult, even if there has been some time after experiencing a loss. There is also a significant lack of bereavement services specifically targeted to the needs of London’s minoritised communities, who have been disproportionately hit by Covid… The launch of citywide programme to support and strengthen London’s bereavement sector is crucial. We must work towards bereaved people having access to support that meets their particular needs, when they need it.’
You can find out more about the Thrive LDN campaign here.
Read our series View from the Frontline.