Memory Benches

14 Jun 2023

During the height of the Covid pandemic, multiple lockdowns sent the country into a prolonged state of social isolation.  In this period everyone faced their own personal struggles and hardships. With young people emerging as one of the groups most affected. For many, lockdown meant not being able to see family and friends leading to isolation and loneliness. For others, this meant a disrupted education, dealing with the unfamiliarity of attending school through online classes, anxiety about grades and the implications they could have about their future attending college and university. For some, it meant entering the alien world of work over Zoom.

For the Members of St Andrew’s, it meant losing out on visiting the Club. Only seeing their friends and youth workers through online workshops. Even though St Andrews is very proud, of the incredible and vital virtual work done during our lockdown online workshops, it is almost impossible to recreate the sense of community and belonging that comes with in-person visits to the Club.

In recognition of the hardships endured during the lockdowns. The Members of St Andrew’s supported by staff and Westminster artist Alix Smith, worked together as part of a Lockdown Landscapes national project to create and decorate Memory benches. That would depict their lockdown experience, the impact on their mental health while exploring memories and reflecting on hardships. Once complete the benches would be exhibited at the National Memorial Arboretum over the summer.

The concept of a memory bench was inspired by seeing so many public benches taped off during lockdown. By making these benches, young people will be able to share their memories of the lockdown with others, but simultaneously, members of the public will be able to sit on the benches and reflect on their own memories.

The process of creating the benches began with Members sharing their personal memories and thoughts through art. They then created ‘memory books’ where they explored and recorded their experiences of lockdown using drawings, photographs, and collages. They also worked with an oral historian and took part in a heritage walk around Westminster.

Drawing on their memory books for inspiration. Members with the support of Staff and Alix Smith set about decorating the memorial benches at the Club. Working together to create vibrant colourful benches that could be enjoyed by the public while sharing the story of their lockdown experience. The process took months of hard work, creativity, and teamwork from everyone involved.

The Club is so incredibly proud of the wonderful work that has been done by the St Andrew’s team creating the Covid memorial benches, and we were absolutely delighted to proudly show off the finished work at our recent President's Reception.

Following such an incredible effort by the St Andrew’s team, it is now time to display the finished product at the National Memorial Arboretum over the summer. We are so honoured and humbled to be able to show our amazing Memory Benches to the public which will be on display until the start of October this year. Before returning to the Club.

The journey of making the Memory benches from concept to creation has been a reflective, creative, and cathartic journey for all involved. Everyone at the Club is so proud of what has been achieved and we look forward to sharing more updates about the Memory benches once they have been returned to the Club in October.