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/ 30 June 2020

Grief Wall in Clapton Common

The Covid-19 crisis has caused a dramatic change in how we conduct many things in our lives, and the pandemic has forced us to mourn for our loved ones in an unthinkable way, for those who have died since the start of lockdown. To help one area in east London, a vicar has created an innovative way to help people come together to remember those who have died, and to grieve when many have not been able to attend funerals.

The Revd William Taylor, of St Thomas’ Church in Clapton Common, came up with the idea of a Grief Wall, after experiencing the death through Covid-19 of his friend Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, a leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill. Together they had set up a Jewish Christian Forum and had worked to turn an old derelict toilet block on the common into a village hall and community kitchen.

Unable to sit shiva with the family (the traditional Jewish practice of mourning), and with support from the local council, Taylor had the hoardings surrounding the toilet block repainted with the words We Grieve, visible from a major thoroughfare, in Upper Clapton, Hackney.

Through this simple act, and with social distancing, people arrived weekly at 8 pm before the national Clap for the NHS health workers to come together to remember those who had died during this period of lockdown. The name of each person was remembered with a simple sheet of paper glued to the wall. A bell was rung, and there was a moment of silence.

Taylor, who has written a blog on the website Together for the Common Good, quotes a woman who responded to this simple act on twitter. The woman said:

“I saw this for the for first time a couple of days ago and I wept. We need more acknowledgement of the grief we are all feeling.”

Through international newswires, this powerful act has been written about in the New Zealand Herald, the Times of Israel, Global News in Canada and other outlets.

The New York Times, which picked up the story quoted Taylor, saying:

“What we’ve found, almost by accident, is the need for communities to stand together and grieve.″

With the building project now complete, most of the hoarding has been removed, but the section with We Grieve remains. Last Thursday, the Mayor of Hackney attended and said that this was “a place of hope as well as grief” as the community stood together.’  Worm London, a local floral studio, invited everyone to stick sprigs of rosemary from the church garden to the hoarding, as Rosemary is the herb for memory and remembrance.

Photos taken by Fran Hales


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