'I'm terrified Dad is viewed as a Covid statistic rather than the man I knew'


A year ago today was the day my father, Ian Fowler, lost his battle with Covid-19.

He was 56.

It hadn’t been long since he’d taken voluntary redundancy from his job as a design engineer for Jaguar Land Rover. He should have had decades of enjoying his well earned retirement in front of him.

More than that he was my whole world, the person who I learnt my own passion for engineering from, the person whose values and beliefs to help other people and treat everyone with kindness and respect have become my values, the person who me, my partner Steph, sister and mother miss every single day.

A year on, I am terrified that he is viewed as merely a statistic, rather than the amazing, loving, brilliant man I knew and worshipped.

That’s why, as I drew the first heart upon the National Covid Memorial Wall, I knew how important the memorial was to keeping his legacy and memory alive.



Ian Fowler (left), who died of Covid last year, with his son Matt Fowler, a co-founder of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice
Ian Fowler (left), who died of Covid last year, with his son Matt Fowler, a co-founder of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice

Like each of the over 150,000 hearts that are now hand painted onto a huge wall on the Southbank side of the river Thames, directly facing Parliament.

I knew as I painted that first heart and lovingly wrote his initials into it that it was now directly opposite the terrace at Parliament, next to the river.

I hope that the Government will do the right thing and help the memorial become a permanent feature, like the local Lambeth Council has done, and that it will forever more act as a reminder of the pandemic and the loss I, and hundreds of thousands of others, have gone through over the past year.

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For me it is still staggering to comprehend the scale of loss represented by the memorial. It takes almost ten minutes to walk its length and it gives a chance for sober reflection on all the lives lost.

How many of those hearts wouldn’t have been painted if lessons had been learnt when they should have been?

So many broken, grieving families could have been saved this pain. They should have been saved from it.



The national COVID-19 memorial wall in London
The national COVID-19 memorial wall in London

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign group, which I founded alongside Jo Goodman who also lost her Father in April last year, had been calling for these lessons to be learnt since June last year.

We’ve written to the Prime Minister seven times since then, asking to meet to avoid going to a judicial review to establish the rights of families who lost a loved one to gain answers and help tackle the pandemic.

Seven times he has refused to even meet us. I remember the feelings of anger and confusion I had when last summer the Prime Minister went for a bike ride in Nottinghamshire with a new MP, went and tried his hand selling fish in a fish market in Scotland and rode a digger in Goole.

How was this more important than meeting with bereaved families and learning from their experiences to save more lives?



Grieving families say Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to meet them
Grieving families say Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to meet them

But rather than have a rapid review inquiry that helped save lives, a summer tour of photo opportunities was chosen instead.

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But despite the current success of the vaccine programme, it’s important to remember we are still in a pandemic. People are losing their lives each day.

It’s not the time for complacency but it is the time, and not a moment too soon, to start the process for an independent, judge-led, statutory public inquiry to save as many lives as possible.

A year from now I don’t want someone else to be having to write an article reflecting on a year without their loved one and how ignored they feel by our Government.

Matt Fowler is co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

Find out more and donate to the National Covid Memorial Wall here.





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