Greater Manchester honours key worker heroes with a ‘tree tribute’ art installation

2 July 2020

Greater Manchester honours key worker heroes with a ‘tree tribute’ art installation.

Thirty three key workers from across Greater Manchester were honoured with their portraits projected onto some of the most important trees in Manchester city centre; part of a project by Greater Manchester charity City of Trees, projection artists, Illuminos and supported by Hits Radio.

Greater Manchester-based projection artists Illuminos – the force behind many large scale art projects including the Lunar Loops Blue Dot festival illumination at Jodrell Bank last year, and the ‘Momentous’ projections on Leeds Civic Hall - were inspired by Hits Radio’s Hero Hour, launched earlier in lockdown to recognise the efforts of key workers.

They teamed up with the charity City of Trees to pay their thanks to some of those heroes. City of Trees has created a tree trail in Manchester City Centre, which identifies 33 notable trees in key areas such as Manchester Cathedral, Stephenson Square as well as green spaces across the city such as Sackville Park and St John’s Garden. Trees include a Giant Sequoia, Tree of Heaven and a Paper Bark Maple.

Throughout the week of 15 June, as it becomes dark, portraits of 33 individual key workers were projected onto each tree. Rob Vale, artist with Illuminos, explains: “Sentinels is our response to the coronavirus outbreak, and a way of using our artistic practice to celebrate those people who must continue to work - steadfast and unwavering, through this crisis. Across Greater Manchester, key workers continue their vital activity - they are the sentinels - guardians of our wellbeing, and the human evidence of the pandemic we all face." He adds “The growth of these urban trees – the green against the grey - remind us of the life force of the many key workers that carry us through these difficult times. By forming each tree via video projection into living portraits, their actions can be celebrated - sentinels stood proud in the city.”

Sarah Nurton from City of Trees comments: “We hope this will be a fitting way to recognize and celebrate some of Greater Manchester’s amazing keyworkers. Each tree has its own unique character and we aim to match that with those people nominated in a truly unique tribute.”

Paul Gerrard, Programme Director at Hits Radio, says: “When we heard about this campaign we were really keen to get involved. Our team at Hits Radio has been blown away by the spirit of the keyworkers here in Greater Manchester and our listeners have been sharing amazing, humbling stories of those people in their lives who have made incredible sacrifices during the pandemic. This feels like a truly unique way of honouring these people .”

Key workers were nominated by members of the community via a social media campaign. Projections are taking place at night, with portable equipment, maintaining social isolation rules. They will exist briefly in reality, but imagery of each will be transferred online, where audiences can experience their city in a new light. Each image will link to the current Tree Trail map, and imagery was shared widely through social media, traditional press and news.

The map of the key workers being honoured, and the trees that they connect to can be found here:

This project has been supported by Arts Council England with the projectors kindly donated by Epson projectors.