Covid - one year on: 365 camellia and rose bushes planted in Islington

Islington Council staff with a camellia planted to mark the one year anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown

Staff from Islington's greenspace and housing teams with a camellia planted to mark the one year anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown - Credit: Islington Council

Islington Council is thanking people for their "incredible efforts" and remembering those who have died during the pandemic, to mark a year since the first coronavirus lockdown.

One year ago today (March 23), people across the whole country dramatically changed their daily lives to slow the spread of the virus.       

Since then, Islington has seen and continues to see some extraordinary examples of community kindness, unity, and courage in the face of huge challenges – with local people delivering supplies, advice, and support to others in the community.        

To mark the lockdown anniversary, and to remember the local people that have sadly been lost to the virus, the council is starting to plant 365 camellia and white rose bushes around the borough. 

The idea is that the evergreen plants which flower in March will act as an annual symbol of remembrance for years to come.       

Islington Council staff stand alongside a camellia bush in Highbury Quadrant

Islington Council staff stand alongside a camellia bush in Highbury Quadrant - one of more than 300 that are being planted around the borough - Credit: Islington Council

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There have been countless examples of community kindness in the past year, thanks to initiatives from groups including the mutual aid groups that sprung up all over the borough and food bank volunteers who have helped feed those hardest hit during the pandemic.

Cllr Asima Shaikh with members of the community sewing groups wearing their masks. Picture: Islingto

Cllr Asima Shaikh with members of the community sewing groups wearing their masks. Picture: Islington Council - Credit: Islington Council

Community sewing groups banded together last spring to make more than 500 face masks for vulnerable residents, and business partners from Absolute Print in Archway made hundreds of masks to protect frontline workers from Covid-19. 

Hak Huseyin. Picture: Hak Huseyin

Hak Huseyin. Picture: Hak Huseyin - Credit: Archant

The Octopus network of 14 community centres has provided food, activities, and support in new ways during lockdown, with online classes and the distribution of 1,500 food parcels weekly, while Forum+ has supported the LGBTQ+ community through lockdown, by making wellbeing calls and putting on social events online for those feeling isolated. 

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Sunnyside Community Gardens spread some cheer with its 'garden in your flat' project, delivering plants for free to residents on the Elthorne Estate.  

Finsbury Park Mosque partnered with Human Appeal and Wishes Catering to hand out 100 meals to NHS workers at the Whittington Hospital.

Gene therapy company, MeiraGTx, offered gloves, masks and disposable lab coats to local care homes out of concern for staff. 

And the Islington Giving crisis fund has allocated funds to about 30 local organisations to help the communities through the pandemic.     

Meanwhile Arsenal in the Community, Islington Council and the HIS Church Charity have worked together to deliver over half a million meals to the most vulnerable.

The council too has played its own role, by working tirelessly to support local people through this difficult period, helping house more than 300 homeless people into safe accommodation and distributing more than 3,000 laptops to enable remote learning.    

Its We are Islington helpline was set up days after the announcement of the first lockdown to support those in need, and has since responded to more than 17,000 calls, working alongside the voluntary sector and mutual aid groups. Anyone in the community who needs help has received support, including with food and medicine drops, advice, and friendly conversations with those experiencing loneliness.     

Jonathan O’Sullivan, the council’s director of public health, said: “The past year has been one of huge sacrifices and tragedy, and countless acts of kindness and selflessness in our borough where we have protected and supported each other.    

“It has been truly incredible to see the way that Islington has united in such challenging circumstances to support those most in need - from the incredible work of the NHS in treating patients and rolling out the vaccine, to mutual aid groups and the We are Islington helpline who have brought food, medicine and hope to the people who have needed it most.    

“We are so grateful to everyone that has done their bit to slow the spread of the virus in Islington by staying at home and making huge changes to their daily lives.

"The more we look out for each other, the sooner we will see life return to normal.”    

The council is inviting local people to take part in Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection today by pausing for a moment’s silence at noon, and by joining others in lighting a candle or shining a torch outside at 8pm.

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