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Manchester to host spectacular public art installation to thank NHS staff and key workers

Gratitude is a free exhibition brought to you by the people behind the award-winning Bee in the City

Manchester is one of four cities chosen to host a spectacular public art installation to thank NHS staff and key workers for their courage and dedication during the pandemic.

Gratitude is a free exhibition brought to you by Wild in Art, the people behind the award-winning art trail, Bee in the City, which created a huge buzz in the city in the summer of 2018. But instead of bees, it will consist of 51 human sculptures by artists from across the country.

Visitors to the installation will be able to listen to stories and poems about key workers brought to life by a host of well-known voices via the Gratitude App and website. They include local actors Christopher Eccleston, Julie Hesmondhalgh, John Thomson, Ciaran Griffiths, and Shobna Gulati and other high profile figures including KT Tunstall, Hugh Bonneville, Sarah Parish, and Norman Cook.

From touching tributes to doctors and staff at a children’s hospital to a light-hearted story about a dedicated deputy head teacher striving to keep her pupils happy, a railway worker who has gone above and beyond his duties to keep people safe on their daily commutes, to a powerful poem about our NHS heroes, visitors will be taken on a journey of quiet reflection whilst they contemplate the stunning artwork.

Local artists whose work will be on display include Lei-Mai LeMaow with her sculpture Lockdown, which tells two different stories of lockdown; Guy McKinley with Double Bubble, Toil and Trouble, a sculpture which explores his 5 year old child’s experience of the pandemic and how it differed to his own childhood; Hammo with his sculpture Faces of Lockdown which depicts a collection of personalities from the last year; and Jodie Silverman with Creative Resilience, which pays tribute to the performing arts industry.

Zandra Rhodes ©Scott Kershaw Photography

Other designers and artists hailing from Manchester include Fernandes Makes with her sculpture Take Care of Each Other and Grow, which is inspired by hobbies and the new things we have learnt and enjoyed during lockdown; Karis Viola Lambert and her sculpture Us, which pays tribute to the brave key workers who have kept the UK running throughout the pandemic; and Nomad Clan with their sculpture Digital Conscience, which explores digital identity, virtual reality, over stimulation and value systems during this challenging time.

Their artworks will form part of the installation alongside those of fashion icon and designer Dame Zandra Rhodes and other acclaimed artists.

“What’s not to love?” said Coronation Street and Broadchurch actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, who provided one of the recorded voices.

©David Oates

“A piece of public art that gives us the opportunity to thank the millions of key workers who have risked and sacrificed so much to keep society ticking along in these most challenging and heart-breaking of times- just wonderful! All the bin collectors and shop workers and delivery drivers; the NHS staff, from the cleaners to the consultants, our incredible teachers and our care givers. An opportunity to remember, to reflect, to be thankful. I’m so happy to be a small part of this.”

Gratitude will launch in Birmingham on 20th August before making its way to St Peter’s Square from 3rd September until 12th September, followed by Edinburgh (17th – 26th September) and London (1st – 10th October).

The sculptures will be auctioned off at a later date, with substantial proceeds donated to NHS Charities Together, which supports the NHS, including its hospitals, ambulance services, community and mental healthcare providers and vital partnerships.

Tickets for the Manchester opening will be available from 10am on Friday 13th August at


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

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