COVID Memorial Garden Crafts

Inspiring community connections and reflections using a LOKLik Crafter

March 2020 is a month that will forever be etched in our memories. The COVID pandemic reached such a significant level that almost every country in the world went into lockdown.

Artist’s vision for Newham COVID Memorial Garden

In Newham, the area where I live in London, a COVID Memorial Garden was created in Plaistow Park in April 2023, in memory of those who lost their lives, and to honour the front-line workers who helped during this difficult time.

Almost a year on from that opening, a Service of Reflection event was held in the garden to mark the fourth anniversary of COVID-19. I was invited to run a COVID memorial craft activity for members of the public.

artist standing next to wooden hand carved totem
Artist Matt Ponting who co-designed Newham’s COVID Memorial Garden with residents.

The session was designed by Artist Matt Ponting who co-created the memorial garden with members of the local community. I then delivered his vision, by making hanging leaves for the public to write down their reflections and memories which were then attached to hand-carved totems, which I made using a LOKLiK Crafter.

©2024, London, UK. 13th March 2024. Covid Memorial Service, Plaistow Park. PR HANDOUT ©Andrew Baker

About the Newham COVID Memorial Garden

Newham, in East London, was heavily hit by COVID-19 and experienced one of the highest rates of infection and hospitalisation across the UK with over 1000 deaths. The Covid Memorial Garden is therefore an important space for the whole community.

The main design features three hand-carved totems which have a touch trail that you can follow with your fingers, benches to sit down, reflect, pray or meditate on, along with wildflowers and fruit trees.  

tow people painting large wooden totems
Assisting artist Matt Ponting painting the totems for the COVID memorial garden

I assisted in painting the totems before they were installed.

Painting the hand-carved totems which are a key part of the memorial garden

Each totem has a meaning, reflected in its wood carving:

Symbolised by the seasonal changes of the trees. The engravings show the cycle of autumn, followed by winter, spring and summer. The touch trail is formed by tree branches, surrounded by the various leaves falling from the trees.

Symbolised by the creatures that are supported by the tree. Engravings show all the wildlife which the trees support, from bugs to birds, bats, woodpeckers to earthworms. The touch trail is formed by the falling seeds and fruits of all the trees in the glade, surrounded by the animals and birds supported by the tree.

Symbolised by the connections between and beyond the trees. Engravings show underground soil networks (mycelium) through which the trees communicate, and pollinators in the air. The touch trail is formed by the underground soil networks, surrounded by flying insects and feathers of local birds.

The launch day on 3rd April 2023 was a positive and poignant affair and was covered by BBC News. (Watch on Instagram.)

The Service of Reflection held this March, was an opportunity for local people and schools to get together, take stock, remember those who lost their lives and those who helped. It was hosted by Councillor Ann Easter, who welcomed everyone to the event. The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, Councillor Neil Wilson and Deputy Mayor James Asser spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Newham community, expressing the importance of remembering this challenging time, working together to rebuild and coming together to reflect.  Having a COVID memorial craft activity gave attendees a chance to express their feelings and memories in a special and personal way.

Using a LOKLiK Crafter for the COVID memorial garden craft activity

The concept was to create an activity that complements the park. Leaves represent growth, nature and hope and perfectly fit with the environment, so they were the ideal motif for the public to record their reflections on.

©2024, London, UK. 13th March 2024. Covid Memorial Service, Plaistow Park. PR HANDOUT ©Andrew Baker

I had to prepare over 100 leaves and I wanted them to look professional. Hand-cutting would have taken a long time. So, I turned to the help of a LOKLiK Crafter cutting machine which can cut out any shape and motif of your choice on card, and other materials.

close up of message written by mayor of newham

There are pre-designed leaf motifs in LOKLiKIdeaStudio which is the software that comes with the LOKLiK Crafter, or on the LOKLiK Workshop website, but we wanted leaves that reflected some of the trees in the park so created our own.

collection of card leaves with handwritten messages on hanging on covid memorial park totem

You can cut out any image on a LOKLiK Crafter as long as it’s saved as a SVG file so that’s how I uploaded them, with four leaves on one A4 sheet of green card.

It then took approximately one minute to cut out the leaves which looked professional and were attractive, making people want to write on them. I repeated the cutting until I had enough card leaves.

Inviting the public to write their COVID-19 pandemic reflections

cut out card leaves on table
Craft table with the leaves I cut out using a LOKLiK Crafter

I set up a table with leaves, pens and stickers and participants included local councillors, the Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz and school children. They were invited to choose a leaf, write or draw on their reflection.

Councillors and school children writing their messages for the COVID memorial garden in Newham

Some chose to decorate their leaves with stickers too. I punched holes into the leaves so they could be hung up but due the windy weather conditions, they were clipped on instead.

collection of card leaves with handwritten messages on
Totem covered in messages of remembrance

Throughout the event which included speeches, music and singing, the leaves were hung up on one of the totems creating a powerful art installation which everyone appreciated.

collection of card leaves with handwritten messages on
Close up of some of the leaves I cut out using a LOKLiK Crafter

After the event, the leaves were collected up and displayed in Plaistow Library. Those who couldn’t attend the event can go along and read the messages there. They can also add their own reflections too.

The highlight of the morning was meeting the people who came to the craft table. As well as writing down their reflections, many of them opened up and spoke to me about their experiences. I heard stories of people who lost family members and enjoyed coming to sit in the Memorial Garden to think about them.

collection of card leaves with handwritten messages on
Handwritten messages of reflection

Over the years, as the wildflowers begin to grow and the natural wood of the totems becomes more weathered, the garden will become more beautiful and it will continue to be a space that anyone is invited to visit and enjoy.

momtaz standing infront of totem with card leaves on
At the Service of Remembrance, Plaistow Park, Newham

It is an honour to be part of the Memorial Garden’s legacy and to have run a COVID memorial craft activity there.
I’m also excited to plan more ways that I can use LOKLiK products for community art and craft workshops.

Watch the official video of the COVID-19 Memorial Garden Service of Remembrance.