Published on: 15 March 2023
The impact of COVID-19 on South Tyneside communities has been marked with the unveiling of memorials during poignant services across area.
Communities gathered for the six permanent COVID memorials being unveiled in recognition of the incredible strength and resilience of local people in helping to keep others safe, support those most in need and ensure the continued delivery of essential services at the height of the crisis.
They also serve as a lasting tribute and provide a special place for local people to remember those lost to the pandemic.
Nearly 700 people died in South Tyneside.
The ceremonies, held on Sunday, March 12, followed on from a meeting where the Freedom of the Borough was conferred to all NHS colleagues and key workers for their role in helping support communities during the height of the pandemic.
The meeting, which saw our Executive Medical Director Dr Shaz Wahid speak of the privilege he felt to receive the honour on behalf of his fellow healthcare staff, can be watched on YouTube by clicking here.
The memorials stand in South Marine Park in South Shields, Fountain Park in Hebburn, West Park in Jarrow and Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn as well as Front Street, Cleadon, and Boldon Colliery.
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Pat Hay said:
"It was a real honour to unveil the COVID memorial in South Marine Park.
"Reading the inscription reminds us of what we all experienced and endured during those dark times.
"They provide a special place for people to reflect and remember the loved ones they lost while also acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of local people - people of all walks of life - who came together to support the communities of South Tyneside in many ways.
"It was wonderful to see people coming together in the traditional sense, joining us for these events across the Borough.
"It's something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago."
The unveilings involved short services, including prayers, poems, readings and music.
The Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Tracey Dixon, joined communities in Whitburn.
"In 2020, daily life completely changed for all of us. COVID-19 brought new challenges and experiences, affecting everyone in some way or another.
"At that time, we made a promise we would mark the impact of the pandemic, celebrate the incredible show of strength and courage in our local communities, acknowledge the sacrifices made and commemorate the lives that were sadly lost.
"These memorial stones act as meaningful and lasting markers of that period in all our lives and provide a place for future generations to visit, reflect and remember."
The inscriptions differ from location to location, reflecting the experiences of each local area.
The wording and themes were determined by local people and community groups in a creative collaboration with The Cultural Spring.
Key themes emerging from the community engagement process and reflected across the memorial inscriptions, include the impact of the pandemic on people's physical and mental health, education and employment as well as feelings of isolation, loss of confidence, love and hope.
They also acknowledge kindness, support and community spirit, taking up new hobbies, getting to know neighbours and clapping together, rainbows, the importance of family, new ways of communicating and connecting with nature.
South Tyneside is the latest area to install memorials reflecting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The unveilings followed the Freedom of South Shields being conferred to all local NHS, care and key workers during an Extraordinary Meeting of Borough Council at South Shields Town Hall.
The conferral is available for viewing on the Council's website at: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/CovidMemorials
The Ceremonial Scroll is on display in South Shields Town Hall.
Smaller copies of the scroll are available at the town hall for key workers to collect.
Any enquiries about collection tomes can be made by emailing email@example.com