Have someone you want to nominate? The deadline is this Sunday (14th June)

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 unique art project called ‘Sentinels.’

Greater Manchester-based projection artists Illuminos – the force behind large-scale art installations at many events, from bluedot festival to Chinese New Year - were inspired to create Sentinels by Hits Radio’s ‘Hero Hour,’ which highlights the region’s frontline workers. The two organisations have teamed up with charity City of Trees, which aims to plant and nurture at least three million trees (one tree for every person living in the Manchester’s city region).

As well as Greater Manchester heroes, Sentinels will also be used to highlight City of Trees’ trail. This identifies 33 notable trees in key city centre areas such as Manchester Cathedral, Stephenson Square, Sackville Park and St John’s Garden; including a giant sequoia, tree of heaven and paper bark maple.

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

Illuminos artist Rob Vale said: “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 guardians of our wellbeing and the human evidence of the pandemic we all face. 

“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.” 

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Programme director at Hits Radio, Paul Gerrard, said: “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 added: “We hope this will be a fitting way to recognise 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.”

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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.

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

To nominate someone who has worked on through this crisis - from nurses and doctors to other emergency services, carers, teachers, care workers, shop assistants and delivery drivers - share a nomination on Twitter or Instagram the hashtag #livingheroes by Sunday 14th June.

Sentinels: When and how?

The projections will take place throughout the week commencing Monday 15th June. Four evenings (15th, 17th, 19th and 21st) are the intention, though this is subject to change. Organisers will reveal the first 15 portraits and trees at the start of the week, then the second 18 halfway through.

Projections will appear after dark but will also be streamed live online via Illuminos’ YouTube and Instagram channels. Images will also be shared afterwards via Illuminos and City of Trees, as well as another tree trail map based on the project.

Find out more about Illuminos and City of Trees on the websites. You can view the tree trail here.

Read more: How you can enjoy Manchester’s arts scene at home

Images: Illuminos