Local Key Worker Heroes: Caring through COVID in Clackmannanshire

2020 has been the year of the unexpected for everyone. I had been planning to spend the year in my Alloa studio developing works for a large solo exhibition in 2021 for which portraiture was not going to be a focus and Covid wasn’t on the radar.

But lockdown abruptly changed all that. I had to consider what I, as an artist trained in painting, can contribute to the benefit of the community?

During the months of Lockdown I dedicated myself to a daily schedule of creating a series of portraits of frontline key workers. I asked for nominations from the local community and subsequently created around 50 portraits, to be gifted to the nominees, borrowing them for exhibition.

Originally these were to be seen as tributes to the people in the community as well as documenting these unprecedented times. It was not possible to paint all the key workers in Clackmannanshire, of course: those portrayed here also represent their colleagues and fellow key workers.

I was particularly struck that, despite being virtually entirely covered by PPE, some key workers are immediately recognised by those who know them.

This has been a learning curve for me as an artist working in such constrained circumstances and painting PPE for the first time. It has also been a great pleasure for me personally to get to know the portrayed key workers and their nominators.

Artlink Central arranged for a set of the portraits to be exhibited at Forth Valley Royal Hospital during our lockdown summer, and received many positive reactions when seen in public, despite difficult circumstances for visitors in the hospital and staff alike. This gave the impetus to produce this book which will, I hope, give more people the opportunity to view the work until we can safely exhibit them in public to a large physical audience in 2021.

Karen Strang

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Local Key Worker Heroes: Caring through COVID in Clackmannanshire

Nominated subject's portraits and personal stories.

110 page book, published by Heather Ann Dowd Ltd.,
ISBN 9780954728687

Available for £10 from

  • Home-Start
  • Gordon McFarlane Jeweller, Alloa
  • Alloa Spiers Centre Library
  • the Wee Gallery Candleriggs, Alloa
  • Alloa first-Friday street market
  • A.C.E. Alloa
  • Strathcarron Hospice outlets
  • Optimise Cafe in Alva
or direct from the artist, while stocks last.
All proceeds to local charities.

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