Somerset schoolboy makes his mark on Covid-19 memorial

Somerset schoolboy makes his mark on Covid-19 memorial

Somerset schoolboy makes his mark on Covid-19 memorial

Ten-year-old Jake Insall said he was “happy, excited, emotional and a little bit nervous” when he learned his artwork will feature on a Covid-19 memorial stone at several South West crematoria.

Westerleigh Group, the UK’s largest independent owner and operator of cemeteries and crematoria, announced last year it planned to create Covid-19 memorial gardens at most of its sites in England, Scotland and Wales.

Westerleigh issued an open invitation for people of all ages and backgrounds to submit ideas for a design to be etched onto a stone obelisk which will form the centre-piece of each garden.

The Somerset schoolboy, from Chilton Polden, said he has never won a competition before and felt proud to learn his design had been chosen as the winner for Westerleigh’s South West region.

Westerleigh Group is choosing six designs overall, one for each of its regions, so designers had an opportunity – if they wished – to incorporate something relevant to their region in their entries.

He said: “I wanted to enter the Memorial Design Competition because I knew that it would be a good place for people to go to if they have lost either their family or friends because of the pandemic.

“I wanted to make a positive contribution to the community.”

He said he talked to his mum about what his design might include to represent the pandemic, what might be symbols of hope and how he could express people still being together but also apart.

He said: “My design has a rainbow, clouds at the end of the rainbow, and two hands reaching through and over the rainbow, holding hands.

“I chose a rainbow because it has been used a lot during Covid to represent hope. The hand that comes through the rainbow represents a person who has been lost and the hand that is coming over the rainbow is a person who is still alive.

“Holding hands, they are still connected and in some way still together.”

Jake’s proud parents said: “The thought and time he put into his design was amazing and we feel very emotional about what it means.

“We hope people who have lost those they love gain comfort from visiting the gardens and seeing the memorial.

Sarah Johnson, Jake’s schoolteacher, said: “I wanted the children in my class to take part in this competition to have a chance to show their creativity.

“I believe that this design competition also gave them a remarkable opportunity to be able to make their own mark on these unprecedented times.

“Most importantly, I really wanted the children to be able to have the chance to help those that have lost so much remember their loved ones in a beautiful space, something I know all our young participants are extremely proud of.”

Roger Mclaughlan, Chief Executive Officer of Westerleigh Group, said: “We would like the memorial gardens to provide permanent, tranquil places for people to visit to remember loved ones who lost their lives during the pandemic and also to remember and reflect on those who have sacrificed so much to help others during the coronavirus crisis. 

“We decided early on that we wanted local people to help shape how the gardens would look so that each of them would become something of real significance to our local communities.

“We were overwhelmed by the creativity shown by the many people who submitted their imaginative designs and the judging process was a moving experience as it was clear that a lot of heartfelt thought had been put into each entry.

“I would like to congratulate Jake for his winning design and am looking forward to seeing how it looks in the memorial gardens at our crematoria in the South West.”

Jake’s design will be etched onto the black polished granite stone monuments which will be placed in the memorial gardens at Westerleigh Group’s crematoria at Westerleigh, Treswithian Downs, Sedgemoor and Forest of Dean.

Westerleigh Group hopes to install the Covid-19 memorials at all its sites during June, ready to open for the public to visit in July.

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