Accomplished artist and playwright Mel Shand is calling on north-east residents to nominate their own lockdown hero.
Mel is also encouraging people “to be creative and expressive” by taking part in the We Art Our Heroes campaign.
Launched by the Evening Express and Press and Journal, the major art project is aiming to create a lasting legacy to all frontline workers.
Readers are being asked to use their creativity to draw pictures of some of the lockdown workers who have helped us and made a difference over the past 12 months.
With the initiative now in full swing, Mel, who holds an instrumental role in Finzean and the surrounding communities, is backing the call for We Art Our Heroes pictures.
The 56-year-old said she believes the campaign is crucial in these unprecedented times.
“The We Art Our Heroes Campaign is so important because it’s inviting participants to give thanks and be creative and expressive,” said Mel.
“And the recipients will know that someone appreciates their efforts, no matter how small – or in some cases, huge, those efforts might be.
“The campaign is about paying forward and being grateful and being kind.
“It’s about not worrying whether something you do might be ‘good enough’ – it’s simply about taking the trouble and making the gesture.”
Mel is asking people to nominate their friends or family members who have made a difference during lockdown. All you need to do is fill out the online form below before March 3.
She will then select one lucky person to draw a portrait of.
As part of the We Art Our Heroes campaign drawings can be made of healthcare staff, shop workers, refuse collectors, delivery drivers, emergency services, teachers and school staff, neighbours or family members.
The creative has taken part in other initiatives like We Art Our Heroes during her career. And portrait work is something she particularly admires.
“I have always been interested in all sorts of wildlife, people and animals, but I especially like to draw people whilst they are working or playing music, whether they are aware of me or not,” Mel added.
“Drawing from life is especially important to me – it helps drawing from things that are static, such as photographs.
“I take a lot of photographs and use my Instagram account as a more efficient diary, timeline and sketchbook.
“Creatively over the last 10 years, I’ve taken 265,000 images, written and published two books, written three community plays and been honoured to have been commissioned for lots of portraits of children, dogs, horses and people.
“In 2009 I put together a project called a Portrait of Our Time where I photographed around 230 households in my local community. As a result of this project, I got to meet a lot of great people who shared their stories with me, some of which were turned into a play.
“This really helped establish a great network of people who otherwise might not have had a reason to gather, so I see myself as just the conduit for getting folk together and making things happen.
“And when lockdown was first enforced, I started a ‘Need a Neighbour’ WhatsApp group. This was primarily for helping people out in the community with deliveries and collections of messages and prescriptions.
“Somebody then posted a link to another Scrub Hub group, and I thought I should start a separate group – the Finzean Scrub Hub – for those who were interested.
“Members of that made loads of scrubs, masks and scrub bags to help with NHS supplies and care homes in the region.
“There are lots of people who wanted to help, so all I did was connect them really and bowl it along.”
Mel was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of her efforts in connecting people throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
She is now looking forward to seeing what inspiring individuals are sent her way as part of her involvement in We Art Our Heroes.
“Campaigns like this one are important because they galvanise people into action and inspire them to be part of the bigger picture.
“Notwithstanding all the awful things that Covid-19 has caused, it has proved we can change (our behaviour) if we want to, so it’s given me the gift of time to consider what’s important to me, and saying thank you is very important.
“Give it a go – what have you possibly got to lose? I try to say yes to as many things as possible because you only have one life and it’s important to live it well.
“You never know what might come of participating in this campaign and taking up art, in general.”
The Evening Express and Press and Journal will feature all the entries in special supplements and online galleries starting on Monday, March 22 – one year on from the start of the first lockdown.
The deadline for entries for the project is Saturday, March 6 at 8pm.