Woman planning the country's first mass Covid memorial event in Milton Keynes accuses local councillors of being 'unsympathetic and unhelpful'

MK is due to be thrust into the spotlight this summer as the first town to host a public memorial event to remember lives lost during the Covid pandemic.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 12:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 12:14 pm

But the woman behind the mass memorial is furious because she says local parish councils and MK Council have refused to support the event, which is called Candleight4covid.

Deborah Lewis, who lost her dad to Covid last April, said: "I have done my utmost to remain strictly non-political but, I can no longer sit back and let the sheer hypocrisy continue, especially from elected official in Milton Keynes who will shortly go to the polls claiming they care about their constituents."

She approached MK Council and parish councils all over MK to ask for contributions towards the cost of the event, which will consist of a lantern parade followed by a ceremony in MK Rose on June 23.

Deborah's mum and dad died within six months of each other

The cash was needed to pay for public liability insurance, staging, lighting, and sound, a wet weather shelter and seating for dignitaries and performers, Portaloo provision and decorations.

But all of them have refused, said Deborah.

"The response has been soul destroying. I have contacted the Tory party, Labour and the Lib Dems. None of them have bothered to respond," she claimed.

Deborah has contacted parish councils and they too have not helped. A couple have replied saying they "could not justify the expense", she said.

Deborah Lewis

"Since when has anyone needed to 'justify' supporting the bereaved? Many of us have so far have never been permitted a wake or memorial and an opportunity to unite in our grief."

Deborah added: "Many of these officials will stand before the public on May 6 'claiming 'to care for their constituents'. This simply does not seem to be true...Ironically, these will be the very same people who will be expected to receive an invite to this event and claim they have the bereaved in their thought and hearts.

She said the Parks Trust has been helpful and she has obtained all the necessary licences and permission to hold the memorial event. Milton Keynes Community Foundation has also agreed £3,000 of funding.

Deborah's mum and dad passed away just six months apart, though her mum died of cancer. The memorial event is to remember all lives lost during the pandemic, whether or not Covid was the cause of death.

Deborah founded a support group called Covid19 Families because she was horrified at the lack of support she received when her father died. During lockdown, shut away from sympathetic relatives, colleagues and friends, and unable to even organise a proper funeral, she felt very alone, she said.

"The one group who are actually receiving very, very little support are the Covid bereaved... It's hard enough to lose someone at anytime but losing someone during the lockdown was and still is horrendous, and the long term mental health effects of grieving during lockdown are yet to manifest themselves."

Covid19 Families group soon spread all over the UK. There are now 37 regional groups, supporting more than 3,500 bereaved people, said Deborah.

She believes the MK memorial event would attract national media and TV coverage.

"It will allow the many who have been denied a moment to reflect and unite in grief that final act of closure. Not just the families, but friends, neighbours, work colleagues, and associates," she said.

"For over a year now, those experiencing grief have been denied the right to remember and mark the passing of their loved ones due to pandemic restrictions, and for many, myself including this is an important part of the grieving process - closure.

"This event now has the dubious honour of becoming the very first public attendance memorial event to take place anywhere in the UK and will quite literally shine a light on Milton Keynes and show just how a memorial event can go ahead in a safe and socially distanced manner leading the way for the rest of the country."

But, without more cash, the event could be in jeopardy.

Deborah said: "I'm not asking for much - I'm asking the parishes of Milton Keynes to come together and support their bereaved by each contributing a small amount."