Call for Greater Manchester to nominate their keyworker heroes

A call has gone out for people to nominate their hero to feature as a portrait, digitally projected onto one of 33 trees in and around Manchester City Centre, as part of a project being delivered by Greater Manchester charity City of Trees, Hits Radio and projection artists, Illuminos.

Hits Radio launched their ‘Hero Hour’ to big up the incredible people who are going out of their way to keep us healthy, safe and fed during this time.

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’ Hero Hour. They have teamed up with charity City of Trees, who aims to plant and nurture at least 3 million trees - one tree for every person living in the city region, for this project.

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.

During June these trees will be connected to 33 individual key workers through video projection of one portrait onto each tree, created over several evenings.

Rob Vale, artist with Illuminos explains “Sentinels is our response to the coronavirus outbreak, and a way of using our artistic practice as celebration of 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.”

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 and we can’t wait to see the result of this project.”

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 nominated in a truly unique tribute”.

Projections will take 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 will be shared widely through social media, traditional press and news.

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

To nominate someone who has worked on through this crisis - from nurses and doctors to other emergency services, carers, teachers, care workers, shop assistants, delivery drivers visit

You can also tweet your nomination using the hashtag #livingheroes