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Lockdown Legend
Illustration: Time Out

Lockdown Legend: the Londoner who started the Clap for Our Carers campaign for the NHS

By
Isabelle Aron
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When Dutch-born Annemarie Plas saw plans for a communal clap for health workers in the Netherlands doing the rounds in her Dutch WhatsApp groups, she knew she wanted to recreate it in the UK. She lives in London and started the campaign last Friday (March 20) while on a video call with some friends. Less than a week later, the message had spread far and wide – last night saw people around the country come together at 8pm to clap for the NHS workers and London’s landmarks were lit up blue for the occasion. Plas is now planning to make Clap for our Carers a weekly celebration, every Thursday at 8pm.

I live in London but I’m Dutch and I saw that the call for applause in the Netherlands going around in my dutch WhatsApp group. I saw how quickly these things can go viral. I looked to see if it had also been done in other countries and I was inspired by what I saw. I saw the boost it gave to people working on the frontline and the positive impact it had on the people that were clapping – we’re all stuck in our houses and being forced to stay indoors so it’s nice to see your neighbours who you haven’t seen in a week or maybe longer.

I was inspired to start the UK campaign last Friday night. I was on a video chat with my friends, having some wine. I thought maybe I could just do it here as well. Because I’d had a few glasses of wine and made the image quite quickly, there is one image with a spelling mistake going around as well, it says ‘clap for our cares’, instead of ‘clap for our carers’. My friend noticed – but that image had already started going round!

It was a surprise to see how quickly it spread. Friends were sending me screenshots on the Saturday morning of various celebrities posting it. Victoria Beckham posted it and I thought: She has such a wide reach and if she’s willing to spread the message, it shows how everybody in all walks of life feels the same way.

It was really heartwarming to see all the footage from last night. In Scotland they had people playing the bagpipes and people were singing around the country, it’s amazing. Everybody feels the same and everyone is having the same battles. It was emotional.

I hope we can do it again. I’m planning to organise it for every Thursday night, at least for as long as this lockdown is going on. I want it to be a weekly moment.

I’m now trying to think of how we can make this thank-you bigger and wider. As well as the NHS, I want to say thank you to everyone who is out there keeping our world open: people in shops, Royal Mail workers, dentists, pharmacists, supermarket workers – they’re exposed to everybody who comes in there. We’re asking a lot of these people. 

During the clap, I was in my living room on the first floor, hanging out of the window. I could hear people on my road and I saw them all open up their windows, standing at their front doors and standing in the middle of the road. I’m not having much contact with my neighbours and all of a sudden I saw everybody coming out. I thought: Yes! Now we’re all together.

I’ve had so many messages from people from the NHS saying thank you for the applause, it really gave them a boost. There was a woman on the TV saying she was just coming home from a long shift and coming home to that was something she really appreciated.

Read our interview with another lockdown legend – the London restaurateur who’s keeping hospitality staff in work.

Want to do your bit? Here’s how to help (and get help) in London during lockdown.

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