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NHS workers, delivery drivers and teachers have united to recite a powerful poem, You Clap For Me Now, in a viral film which has already been viewed tens of thousands of times.
The poem takes all of the hateful rhetoric which has been directed at immigrants over the years and directs it at coronavirus instead.
It serves to remind the public that many key workers are from black and minority ethnic families – who shouldn’t be forgotten once the worst of the pandemic has passed.
Darren Smith, an illustrator and content director at The Bridge Studio, wrote the poem and his colleague, creative director Sachini Imbuldeniya, then suggested they make it into a film.
The idea for the poem came about when Smith interviewed Imbuldeniya’s mum for an article about the Windrush scandal. She had come to the UK from Sri Lanka to work as a nurse in the NHS – which she did for over 40 years.
‘You Clap For Me Now’ is a reference to the public applause for key workers which takes place every Thursday at 8pm. When the nation stood at windows and doorways to applaud key workers for a second week in a row, Smith realised that something had shifted.
“Once again we were rethinking what makes an ‘essential key worker’, and cheering on those first- second- and third-generation immigrants that we now depended on once more,” he says.
“This seemed to be one of the few glimmers of light during an otherwise stressful and difficult time, so I wanted to celebrate that shift. But at the same time, to remind people not to let us go back to the old ways of division and hatred once we emerge from lockdown.”
More than 50 people wanted to take part in the making of their video, including shop keepers, doctors, delivery drivers, nurses, teachers and social workers.
“Everyone involved in the film donated their time and passion and energies for free, and to see how it struck a chord with them – to see how important they felt the message was – was really powerful,” says Smith.
The logistics were tricky – they were making a short film during lockdown, after all. Each contributor was asked to film themselves saying a line each and the footage was then sent to editor Ruben Alvarado to stitch it all together.
“While doing this you kind of focus on the bits of the film rather than watch it all in one go, so it wasn’t until it was live and trending that I really got to listen properly to it as if from another person’s perspective,” he says.
“I think the end result hits the right note of celebration and reminder.”
You Clap For Me Now
So, it’s finally happened,
That thing you were afraid of,
Something’s come from overseas,
And taken your jobs,
Made it unsafe to walk the streets,
Kept you trapped in your home.
A dirty disease,
Your proud nation, gone.
But not me. Or me.
Or me. Or me.
No, you clap for me now.
You cheer as I toil,
Bringing food to your family,
Bringing food from your soil.
Propping up your hospitals,
Not some foreign invader.
Delivery driver. Teacher. Life saver.
Don’t say ‘go home’,
Don’t say ‘not here’,
You know how it feels for home to be a prison,
You know how it feels to live in fear.
So you clap for me now.
All this love you are bringing,
But don’t forget when it’s no longer quiet,
Don’t forget when you can no longer hear the birds singing,
Or see clear waters, that I crossed for you,
To make lives filled with peace,
And bring peace to your life too.
Come all you Gretas,
See what we have learned.
It only takes the smallest thing,
To change the world.
Imbuldeniya says she’s “overwhelmed” by the positive response to the poem and video – and by how far and wide it has spread.
She tells HuffPost UK: “My mum’s always been an inspiration to me – having come here from Sri Lanka to work for the NHS – and I think this is just a small part of thanking those people just like her who travel to our country to provide essential services, and to everyone else who is working so hard during this really difficult time.”
At the time of writing, the video had been shared online by thousands of people including J K Rowling, Gary Lineker and Caitlin Moran.
“Really it’s a celebration of those key workers putting their lives on the line to help friends, family, neighbours and communities all over the UK,” Smith says.
“If we can make sure that we all remember that feeling of inclusiveness, tolerance and goodwill once we escape the clutches of coronavirus, then the film will have done its job.”
Will he be out clapping this Thursday, then? “Yes, my ex-wife is a nurse with the NHS, so I’ll be on the doorstep with my kids clapping for her and all of her colleagues – no matter the country they were born in or the colour of their skin.”