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Covid annual day of reflection in Balm Green Gardens

Stainless steel willow tree sculpture in paved area with gardens surrounding. Ribbons are attached to the branches of the tree
Sheffield's permanent Covid memorial, Balm Green Gardens

The first annual day of reflection to remember those lost to Covid is on Sunday 3rd March and will see a memorial event in Balm Green Gardens at the permanent Covid memorial willow tree sculpture.

The event is open to all and will begin at 12 noon with a minute’s silence, followed by a collection of speeches from Sheffield residents introduced by Councillor Tom Hunt, Leader of Sheffield City Council.

Those attending include The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, representatives from those organisations awarded small grants for Covid memorial activity in 2023, people who lost loved ones, and those people whose stories are featured in the Sheffield documentary ‘Stories from the Pandemic’.

Focussing on why it is important to hold a day like this to reflect on the impact from the height of the pandemic, the speakers will tell their own stories and share their personal reflections. This part of the event will last around an hour and at the same time a workshop will take place between 10am and 4pm in Balm Green Gardens, where people can decorate memorial leaves with their personal messages and attach them to the memorial tree.

At the end of the day, the personalised leaves will be taken down and given to the Council’s Sheffield City Archives Team, to add to the existing Covid memorial materials held in the city.

The permanent memorial sculpture was commissioned by Sheffield City Council and designed by George King of George King architects.

George said: “When we thought about Covid and how the pandemic affected so many people, the willow tree idea was powerful to us. A willow has a strong trunk which symbolises how people worked together to create the strength that was needed at such a difficult time. It is also a flexible and resilient tree, whilst also being delicate. When a storm hits, the tree bends with it. Its long branches sweep all the way to the ground and when it rains the droplets fall all the way down the branches like tears to the ground. When you stand underneath a willow tree you feel embraced and protected. It’s a very special, significant piece of art, made in Sheffield for the people of Sheffield.”

Councillor Tom Hunt, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: "The day of reflection is an opportunity to come together and remember everyone that we have lost to Covid. We invite everyone to join us in Balm Green Gardens, next to the beautiful sculpture to reflect and remember family members, friends and colleagues.

"The permanent memorial is a place where anyone can come and reflect. The pandemic was difficult for us all but we know that some people and communities were disproportionately affected by Covid. We re-iterate our commitment to making sure their voices and stories are remembered and to reducing inequalities in our city."

Notes for editors:

  • The ‘Stories from the Pandemic’ (SFTP) documentary features a wide range of stories for Sheffield residents about their experiences of the pandemic. Fragments of these stories were then inscribed into the memorial sculpture and incorporated into the design. 
  • Made by OPUS Independents, the film will be shown to an invited audience at 6pm on Friday 1st March at The Showroom and introduced by the Councillor Fran Belbin, Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council.
  • From Saturday 2nd March, the film will be available for everyone at:
  • The unique, award-winning memorial, commissioned by Sheffield City Council and designed by George King of George King Architects is a meaningful, long-lasting, and creative tribute to those who have lost their lives, those who have worked above and beyond to keep people as safe as possible and those who have been affected by Covid. Everyone has a story about Covid from the height of the pandemic.
  • Made in Sheffield out of stainless steel, the sculpture was made by Steel Line Limited, who brought George’s drawings to life and created the 4 metres by 4 metres memorial artwork over several weeks to ensure that it would be in place by 23rd March 2023, three years to the day that the first lockdown was announced.
  • The memorial is constructed using stainless steel to reflect the city’s heritage. Its design allows people to connect with it either by reading the messages it holds or by attaching temporary messages or ribbons.
  • Sitting within the planted garden, the sculpture is accessible to everyone and provides a focal point to the space for people to pay their respects, place tributes and memories and be a symbol that people from all cultures can understand and relate to.