Cardiff remembers: Landmarks to be lit yellow for Covid victims

Covid commemoration to be broadcast this evening

LANDMARKS across Cardiff are due to be lit yellow this evening, as the city marks one year of Covid lockdown.

Buildings including Cardiff Castle, City Hall, the Principality Stadium and the Senedd will be illuminated in memory of the dead, following a campaign by “Covid-19 Families Wales”, a Facebook group for families bereaved by the virus.

Andrea Williams, an organiser within the group, said that the colour yellow was chosen in reference to the tradition of tying a yellow ribbon around a tree when waiting for a loved one to return from war. She believes that this date should become an annual day of remembrance.

Of the anniversary today, she says: “We should reflect on the fact that these are loved ones we have lost, they are not just numbers and statistics reported on the news – they are real people who have loved, and are loved, and the impact on those left without them.”

Andrea lost her husband Mark Williams, 58, to Covid in April last year. She says that he was fit and healthy before contracting the virus.

Yellow ribbons have appeared in locations across the city

At 5:15pm this evening the Welsh Government will hold a “National Coronavirus Commemorative Event” in tribute to the dead, which will feature a poem written for the occasion by National Poet of Wales Ifor ap Glyn.

The event will be broadcast live on BBC One Wales and S4C.

Speaking yesterday, Mark Drakeford said: “Over the last 12 months, the pandemic has turned all our lives upside down.

“Too many families have lost loved ones and close friends and so many people haven’t had a chance to say goodbye because of all the changes coronavirus has meant to our lives.

“It’s really important we have an opportunity to come together to reflect on the last year and to unite to support each other through this tough time.”

The City Remembers

According to the Office for National Statistics, 1,160 people in the Cardiff and Vale area have died with coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Outside Cardiff Castle, a heart-shaped bed of yellow violas has been planted in memory of those who have died, and yellow ribbons have appeared in locations across the city.

The day has given residents a chance to pause and reflect on the past year. We asked some Cardiffians about their memories of lockdown, and what’s got them through it.

This Tuesday marks the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown. Do you remember what you were up to at that point last year, and how you felt?

Nikki, 56, a home carer:

“I remember the conversation with my sister, saying that I felt it was something more than they were telling us. How wrong I was!

“I thought that because they were asking people to stay indoors and at home, that we were under threat of a chemical war – very fertile imagination!

“I did feel anxious. Although everyone was being told to stay at home, work from home, it was impossible for me to do so.

“The uncertainty of how the virus was transmitted concerned me, as I was going from house to house and potentially carrying germs with me.”

Emelie Hayman, 28, bar worker:

“I was very anxious – I’m a hypochondriac at the best of times.

“I had a two year-old, and I was four months pregnant, and working full-time in a bar I was obviously mixing with a lot of people.

“My mother, who is disabled and high-risk, usually had my eldest on the weekend when I worked nights.

“I was scared about the health of my children and my mother, and that I wouldn’t be able to get child care and have to give up work.”

Frankie Rose-Taylor, 28, a communications officer and performance artist from London:

“I remember it felt like it came from nowhere.

“I think it really hit me when the temp contract I was in at the time suddenly decided it wasn’t safe and let me go.

“There was that sense the day before the announcement that it was going to happen, and my boyfriend put a couple of pairs of pants and his uni books in a rucksack and got on a train from London here, as we figured it might be nice if we were together.”

What has lockdown looked like for you?

Nikki:

“I’ve worked every day throughout lockdown – Lost five weeks’ annual leave, and not one single day off.

“This has been due to me not wanting to introduce new personal assistants into some very vulnerable households. My work load went through the roof, not just paid but voluntary too.

“I enjoy my work so it’s no hardship but I am looking forward to some downtime in May. I’m having my second jab today, so I feel there’s light at the end of my tunnel at least.”

Emelie:

“At the time of the first lockdown, other than the children, all I could think about was my great-grandma. How alone she would be feeling. I’d ring her every day on my little walk.

“The most challenging thing wasn’t being kept at home, but not having midwives examine me during my pregnancy. I had phone calls instead.

“On my actual appointments, I had to go alone. This was terrifying.

“Thankfully everything was okay, but I couldn’t help but work myself up. I kept thinking I’d find out something was wrong and I would have to be alone for that news.”

Frankie-Rose:

“When the lockdown started it was almost exciting in a morbid way. It was so alien from anything that had happened before. I think that got old quite quickly.

“After I was let go from my temp job, I was in a bit of a panic about what to do for money. I heard a rumour that if you went into a Tesco with a CV they’d hire you on the spot because they were so overwhelmed with applications.

“I did and it worked, until they realised they’d taken on too many staff and I had to go. After that I was on Universal Credit and doing okay.

“When my boyfriend decided to officially move in, I got kicked off benefits.

“Although I’m moaning, I realise how privileged I am. I live in a safe, warm, cheap house with a garden, my partner, my best friend and our adorable, if rather naughty, cat. But I do miss my family who live back in London.”

Has lockdown and the pandemic taught you anything?

Nikki:

“I feel we’ve all learnt a lot this past year. The one thing that I have noticed, though, is that the focus has been on the kids and the oldies seem to have been forgotten in the mainstream media.

“That’s possibly just because my focus is them, not the little ones. I don’t know.

“The community certainly seems to have pulled together more though, not so much lately, but certainly during the first lockdown”

Emelie:

“It has taught me that the companies we often go above and beyond for, don’t care about us.

“At first my place of work, they didn’t furlough many staff. Instead, they let them go. We fought tooth and nail for almost all of our department to be put on the furlough scheme.

“I felt I had job which didn’t care about my financial security. I was convinced I’d lose my maternity leave.

“I was planning on going back to work pretty quickly after having my second daughter, but now I’ve decided to take the full time off. Financially, though, I’m worse off on maternity leave than furlough.”

Frankie-Rose:

“It has taught me how much I need people around me, and how lucky I am for the people I have. On a less serious note though, it has taught me how to hustle, and the little things you can do to make money – Extra work, selling clothes online, market research.

“I like to think the world as a whole has learned something, about looking after each other, about access and how going digital has improved that, but I do think as soon as the world is back to normal it will be business as usual.”

What’s kept you going?

Nikki:

“I’m a positive person anyway, but may have struggled occasionally to stay that way. Wine helps!”

Emelie:

“I don’t have a choice.”

Frankie-Rose:

“The knowledge that we’re doing this to save other people.

“The kindness I’ve seen from people, spending their time trying to help others, from the neighbour who put notes around our block offering to get groceries, to the incredible activists in my union fighting to help people, to the care packages I get from my mum.”

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