KT Tunstall, Christopher Eccleston, Adil Ray OBE, John Thomson, Shobna Gulati, Julie Hesmondhalgh among high profile volunteers voicing stories for ‘Gratitude’

Today, global art producer, Wild in Art has launched an open call for people across the UK to contribute to a national touring art installation by sharing their real-life stories and poems about key workers during the pandemic, a selection of which will be recorded by a host of well-known voices from across the UK.

The installation will reflect the stories and contributions of this unprecedented year through beautiful art and audio which will represent the UK’s nations and regions. ‘Gratitude’ will launch in Birmingham (20th – 30th August), before visiting Manchester (3rd – 12th September), Edinburgh (17th – 26th September), with the finale in London (1st – 10th October).

The chosen stories will become part of a spectacular, free to visit public art installation that will thank NHS staff and all key workers for their ongoing courage and dedication during the pandemic. Key figures voicing the stories so far include singer-songwriter KT Tunstall and actors Adil Ray OBE, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Ciarán Griffiths, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Christopher Eccleston, John Thomson and Shobna Gulati with further names to be revealed soon.

Visitors to the installation will be able to listen to stories and poems from adults and children, that pay tribute to all key workers, from doctors on the front-line to shopkeepers, carers and teachers, via the Gratitude App and via the Gratitude website. Time for quiet reflection will be built into the installation’s daily opening schedule in each location.

‘Gratitude’ is a collection of 49 uniquely painted human form sculptures, all designed by individual artists, and curated in partnership with creative ambassador Dame Zandra Rhodes. The image of key workers standing together, but apart, is one of the abiding images of this time, and Gratitude will connect people and communities, artists and businesses, NHS staff and all key workers, inviting people to come together to reflect and show their appreciation.

One of the first audio stories to be announced as part of the installation is from Matt Kelly, a Wigan Council service manager who last year penned a poem initially for his partner, a district nurse, which was shared on social media and touched millions. The poem, ‘Our Heroes’ was then brought to life on BBC Radio 5 live by one of the UK’s most prominent actors, Christopher Eccleston and will also form part of one of ‘Gratitude’s’ audio stories. On voicing the poem again for ‘Gratitude’, Christopher Eccleston said: “There was such a heartwarming response to Matt Kelly’s poem so it will be wonderful to be able to help bring the exhibition to life through his words.”

Matt Kelly said: “I am delighted that ‘Our Heroes’ will be part of this fantastic project. During this last year, our Doctors, Nurses, carers and support staff have quite literally saved us from this awful pandemic. The war like effort of the NHS and the scenes I was seeing on the news helped inspire me to write the poem at the start of the pandemic. At the time, it was a poem of hope, but one year on, it is becoming a poem of nostalgia and gratitude. This project is a fitting tribute to our wonderful heroes.”

From today, Wild in Art is calling for members of the general public, across all ages and backgrounds, to submit their stories for a chance to be included in the installation and voiced by a key figure. The submission, which should be no longer than 500 words in length, must tell a personal story about a key worker and showcase the amazing work they have done during the pandemic. It can also be a story about themselves, for example if they work as a key worker or if there is something a key worker has done for them personally that has made a difference to their life. All details and guidelines for submissions can be found on the Gratitude website.

On the project, Scottish singer-songwriter, KT Tunstall said: “I am delighted to be contributing to ‘Gratitude’, a wonderful project that will help shine a much-needed light on all of our key workers, who have worked so hard during this challenging year. It’s fantastic to see that the whole country will be represented in the installation, with contributions from artists, stories and voices from all corners of the UK.”

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