The Covid-19 pandemic changed our lives. Every single one of us. It will be a time that we will never forget. At Loreto, students and staff have created a mural that will help us remember that time, and serve as a reminder of our heroes and our communities; a tribute to the NHS.
The idea came about when the Assistant Head of the Art Department, Jon Buckley, spoke with a friend one weekend who was making the tooling moulds to produce lateral flow tests. The friend had thousands of sample tests (unused) and asked if we could make use of them. Rather than them going in to landfill, Mr Buckley said yes.
The Art Department set about finding an NHS worker who was on the front line through Covid-19 as a representative of the thousands of frontline key workers. Dr Halima Choonara who was indeed working in Manchester, on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic volunteered to be photographed and these images were used to create the mural. 9,990 lateral flows and a lot of acrylic paint and gluesticks later, Loreto art students and staff have painted her portrait.
The size of the artwork is not to be underestimated at a whopping 13 feet high x 8 feet wide it leaves quite an impression. It is on display in Loreto College’s Ball Theatre where it is seen by hundreds of members of the Loreto College community on a daily basis. It is seen by all staff in weekly staff briefings, students during weekly assemblies and, most significantly, during the MEDSOC classes, where our ambitious and prospective medics, dentists, vets and healthcare professionals are being taught and supported in readiness for a career in the NHS and Social Care. These aspirational students will be adding to the 67 Loreto students from last year who are now studying medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.
When asking staff and students about the mural, they have said:
“It’s really powerful, her eyes are watching you and look at you with such care”, another member of the Loreto community said, “when I see it, I think of my family, it’s such a comforting and warm picture” and “it makes me proud”.
The picture represents a single point in time, it is a picture of one person, but the picture is made up of thousands of parts, much like our NHS. Dr Halima Choonara’s image is representative of the tireless work that NHS workers commit themselves to on every shift. She represents the idea of community, something we hold very dear at Loreto. The NHS wrapped its arms around our entire community, our entire nation, and this art work is a tribute and thank you to them, our heroes.
Dr Halima Choonara protected and cared for so many families during the pandemic and it is a joy to behold that since the picture was taken, Dr Halima Choonara has started a family of her own. We were privileged to invite her and her wider family in for the unveiling of the art work, she was very honoured and moved to see it.
We are so grateful to Dr Halima Choonara for helping Loreto with this project and to her and her colleagues for the efforts and unfaltering energy and commitment she, and her colleagues, offer in public service each and every day.
Dr Halima Choonara has kindly offered to come and work with Loreto students and we are confident that they will find this support both informative and inspiring