The Duchess of Cambridge has played fairy godmother to readers across the capital and left her book featuring images from her landmark photographic project for them to find.
Kate celebrated the publication of Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation In 2020 by leaving a copy at the Queen Victoria statue that overlooks the Broad Walk outside Kensington Palace Gardens.
As the country adapted to life under the first lockdown, the duchess launched her Hold Still project in May last year with the National Portrait Gallery, and encouraged the public to pick up a camera or smartphone and capture the “spirit of the nation” during the pandemic.
Images of sleeping nurses, shielding elderly people and family scenes showing the reality of working from home were some of the images submitted, with 100 pictures chosen to go on display across the country and now featured in the book.
Kate joined the Hold Still judges and contributors of the final 100 images in leaving copies at places that gave them hope during the lockdown.
The initiative was supported by The Book Fairies, an organisation that encourages people to leave books they have enjoyed for others to find.
Each copy of Hold Still features a gold Book Fairy sticker and gold ribbon, and has a letter from the duchess tucked inside.
Later the duchess visited the Royal London Hospital in east London to learn how Barts Health NHS Trust’s Vital Arts organisation commissions art for the Royal London and the trust’s other hospitals to improve the patient and staff experience.
She also heard how the National Portrait Gallery has collaborated with the hospital to bring workshops to young patients and their families through its hospital programme.
In January the Royal London was caring for Covid patients from across north-east London including 150 who required critical care – more than double those treated during the first wave.
Kate sat down with a range of staff to chat about their experiences during the pandemic and asked: “How you all doing? I know hospitals are busy places but the extra pressure of Covid… How’s the mood now?”
She was told morale was good and was shown examples of photographs taken by staff from Barts Health NHS Trust to document this period in history.
The duchess also saw Johannah Churchill’s framed picture entitled “Melanie, March 2020”, an image of her fellow nurse wearing personal protective equipment and helping to prepare a Covid-19 clinic for patients.
The picture was recreated as a powerful mural in Manchester and is the cover image of the book Hold Still.
Kate and the National Portrait Gallery gifted the framed portrait to the Royal London and it will go in display in the hospital’s main corridor.