Updated: Mar 24
Alec Finlay has been appointed to work on Scotland’s Covid memorial in the grounds of Glasgow’s Pollok Country Park. In this blog he talks about his experience with both ME and Long Covid and how the recognition of loss and hope of recuperation is at the heart of his project.
Update: two years after the first lockdown in March 2020, Scotland's Covid Memorial has published an audiobook featuring a selection of ‘I remember’ contributions which were edited by Alec Finlay and read by Robert Carlyle, with sound design by Chris Watson.
The mad week before the first lockdown, when everyone could see what was happening, except Boris Johnson, that was when my end and my beginning collided. Aged 21 I went from glandular fever to ME ; aged 54 I fell again, this time from ME to Long Covid. My life has been defined by contested diseases which lack adequate medical research or support. At the same time, the difficulties ME inflicted also funnelled me into becoming an artist. That was the one form of life which allowed enough flexibility for prolonged rest and creativity helped me endure periods of chronic pain. Now, with Long Covid, my physical world has shrunk further, to a 150m slow walk circle, but art still offers ways to be resilient. Early on in Long Covid I gathered together a creative tool-kit to share strategies: https://www.dayofaccess.co.uk/2020/03/covid-19-creative-tool-kit.html
Then, in Spring of 2021, I applied to design the Scottish Covid Memorial, in Pollok Country Park, Glasgow. Despite my disability, which I was honest about, I was accepted – I hope this gives other people whose lives have been catastrophically altered a sense of hope, that they too can adapt and remain productive in some way. The experience of using my awareness to imagine a memorial adequate to this historical moment contrasted with the Kafkaesque horror-show of seeking PiP, benefits, where the facts about my new life were disbelieved and manipulated.
The memorial that my team will make is intended to honour lost loved ones and, just as important, to recognise the impact of the pandemic upon us all. I see it as a contribution to a new culture of recuperation. I insisted on the recognition of the losses – sometimes grief is an appropriate word for those who remain alive – suffered by those with Long Covid.
This summer we are collecting memories which will be integral to the memorial, in the form of ‘I remember’ written texts. Whether you wish to remember a loved one or contribute your personal experiences – galling, touching, humorous, enraged – this is an opportunity to be part of a collective record of the pandemic, recognising the cultural and political significance of the past year and more, and its ongoing repercussions. Many of us have taken comfort in patient led online platforms such as this – learning, comparing, supporting, encouraging, and sometimes, yes, having a good old moan. I believe there isn’t yet a settled will about what the pandemic means, and our way to create this is to assemble memories.
I’m including an invitation to write an ‘I remember’, a form first devised by the American artist Joe Brainard. A wide selection of contributions will appear on the project blog, and they will all be kept in an archive.
The campaign for a national memorial was initiated by The Herald with their partners at greenspace Scotland managing and overseeing the artistic commission.
Alec is collaborating with Lucy Richards on the design of the memorial.
There are examples of ‘I remember’ below and more at http://www.i-remember.uk/
This is the announcement of the project in The Herald: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19321212.scotlands-covid-memorial-campaign-appoints-artist-work-historic-project/
For further information contact Alec
I remember being sick in February and everyone
telling me that it wasn’t covid
I remember my first ‘walk’ in the wheelchair, meeting Annie,
and agreeing the wild garlic seems early every year
I remember when I could walk for miles and didn’t,
and now I wish that I had