Denise Bates – Birmingham
Using the Gov.uk statistics : Daily deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate by date of death
Denise challenged herself to create an abstract textile piece using the Office of National Statistics data from Day 1 of the First Lockdown to one year later March 23rd 2021. Each stitch in the piece represents a passing of a human being.
– DENISE’S WORDS –
In the early days of January 2021, it was evident that the UK death toll due to Covid-19 would pass 100,000. It is a figure that is hard to visualise.
It was not front page news, the idea that there were the equivalent of 3 or more plane loads of people dying daily was too much for main stream media and perhaps a resignation that this was really happening and we had become immune to the sheer tragedy behind the numbers.
I wondered what 100k stitches would look like but I had no concept of how long they would physically take to commit to fabric.
After a few false starts, the stitches grew to represent the statistics.
The first 9 stitches in the centre, in NHS blue represent the lives of those first recorded to have died from Covid-19 between 30th January 2020 and 6th March 2020. The 46 following red stitches are up to 13th March 2020. From this point each colour represents 1 day of deaths.
The pearls represent the end of each week (a Friday) as the statistics are updated. There are markers for the start of each month.
The colours mirror the rainbows that became the national symbol of appreciation of all our key workers.
The blocks of colour which the initial circular pattern turn into on the left are allude to the tiers different parts of the country were subjected to after the numbers started to increase again ( mid September onwards).
Christmas Day is towards the top left in red and silver. New Years Eve and New Years Day are in blue and silver top right.
The shortest day of stitches of the first wave is 8 (red) 29th August 2020 and then just 4 in light blue on 19th and 22nd May 2021. The longest is 1,483 (dark blue) on the 19th Jan 2021. The numbers from February onwards form an outer frame. From the first death recorded on 30th January 2020 to the end of June 2021 there are 154,149 stitches (as per the ONS stats of 27/7/21).
The front of the piece is regular, ordered and is a stitched representation of the statistics, but I love how the back of this piece is so much more than that.
Each coloured thread is tied to the next so that there is a continuous link of one day to the next. It symbolises those people who died being connected not just by Covid-19 or by the day they died but by the NHS who cared for them – some will have been treated in the same hospital by the same staff and in the same bed. Connected by the loss and grief felt by their families.
The back of this piece is more colourful, it is brighter and more vibrant, it is the fullness of those people’s lives, they were grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, colleagues, each had a story so much more than a number in a set of statistics.
The back of Life Stitches is the truer story of the beautiful souls the UK has lost.