One of the most surreal features of our new Covid-19 reality is that time doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in its traditional sense. Since the UK went into lockdown last month, we’ve been floating through the days in an almost dreamlike state, trapped in the endess news cycle of increasing death rates and the latest medical developments. The working week slips seamlessly into the weekend, and even when the clocks went forward most of us barely noticed that we had an hour less on the sofa.
In the context of this strange new world, the Clap for Our Carers campaign has been the wake up call we all needed. Thursday March 26 at 8pm marked the moment when millions of Brits emerged from their homes, metaphorically bleary eyed, to give thanks to the people who are risking their lives to go to work every day with an age old human custom: the round of applause.
The concept of bringing together the entire country with one simple but powerful act is the brainchild of Annemarie Plas, a Dutch-born software salesperson and part-time yoga teacher who lives in London with her husband and four-year-old son, who came up with the idea after hearing about a similar campaign that was doing the rounds in a few of her Whatsapp groups with her friends back in The Netherlands.
“They only did it once there, but I have friends who work in the Dutch hospitals and I heard how much it lifted them up,” says Plas. “On a Friday night, while having a remote glass of wine with my friends here, I was discussing it and said wouldn’t it be nice if we could see if we could pull it off here as well.” She quickly knocked up a graphic with all of the key information on it – Thursday night, 8pm and the NHS logo – then shared it to everyone she knew across Whatsapp, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram with a simple message: please share this.
Once again, at 8pm tonight, we’ll demonstrate our solidarity and support for our front line workers from our doorsteps. Let's clap for our NHS heroes, supermarket workers, teachers, cleaners, carers and everyone keeping our city safe and connected ???? #ClapForOurCarers pic.twitter.com/UQ5HBufiPG
— Mayor of London (gov.uk/coronavirus) (@MayorofLondon) April 2, 2020
“That was Friday night and then the next day by lunchtime all of a sudden Victoria Beckham had it on her Instagram page,” says Plas. The following Thursday, millions of us gathered together (at a safe distance, of course) to take part in the campaign. Even for the cynics among us, the results were pretty life-affirming: videos on social showed entire streets of people clapping on their doorsteps, whistling out of windows, and banging pots and pans in their gardens, collectively bringing the house down for the thousands of people in the UK who have been classed as key workers, be it doctors or delivery drivers.
Since then, the campaign’s popularity has continued to spiral, with thousands of videos being shared on social, Channel 4 staging a special ad break takeover to coincide with it, public figures including the Royal Family and 007 himself, Daniel Craig, getting involved, and TikTok promoting it as one of its challenges, which has seen over three million views already.
With Clap for our Carers set to take place every Thursday until the lockdown is eventually lifted, PR agency Hue & Cry offered to help Plas by reaching out to news publications on her behalf and giving her a bit of media training (having never done an interview before, she’s now racked up dozens with broadcasters and national papers), while digital agency Creative Clinic created the campaign’s first official logo – a pair of hands clapping – website, a series of downloadable posters and campaign graphics, and led the overall brand strategy.
For Plas, the whole experience of the past couple of weeks has been surreal but highly rewarding. “It’s better for me to focus on this than focus on the crisis, because it is such a sad thing that is happening,” she says. I’ve been trying to do as many interviews as possible, doing it alongside my job, but it gives me such an uplift.” As for the campaign itself, she put its success down to its simple but universal message.
— James Bond (@007) March 26, 2020
“Everybody either knows someone who is working on the frontline or you’ve seen the images of the nurses who have these marks from wearing the facemasks, so it resonated with a lot of people. And it’s not just the NHS workers, it’s everybody that is still out there keeping our world indoors going. These jobs aren’t often getting the most respect; if you said ‘I work in a supermarket’ people might not think that highly of you, but we now have to admit that without them we are nowhere, they are the backbone of our society. We can live without the CEO, but we definitely cannot live without the people who stock the shelves,” says Plas.
As well as giving a much-needed boost to our key workers, the campaign has also had a dramatic impact on the spirits of the whole nation, with many people on social citing how they’ve never felt more connected to their community despite the fact we’re all locked inside. “We are all fighting our own battles; all of sudden you are adjusting to working from home, not seeing as many people as you used to everyday, especially for those who live alone,” says Plas.
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Don't forget to put your alarm on – only 1 hour remaining ???? Tonight at 8pm the nation will stand together to clap in thanks to all those who put themselves at risk every day across the UK. • • • #clapforourcarers #nhs #keyworkers #thankyouthursday #covid19 #coronavirus #clapfornhs #clapforcarers #weareinthistogether #countdown #stayhomesavelives
“This is a massive adjustment for [me and my husband] that our son is no longer in nursery, and you can sometimes get caught up in our your own demons in your head. Now we are like ‘oh no, we are all in this’, everybody is going through the same. We were all so focused on our individual lives but now we’re getting more connected with each other.”