Monday, 10 May 2021

Duchess Kate Speaks to Mum & Daughter Behind Hold Still's 'Cancelled'

Today, the second in a series of telephone conversations the Duchess of Cambridge had with Hold Still participants last autumn was released.

'Cancelled' by Niaz Maleknia captured a feeling experienced by students all over the UK. Niaz wrote: "To be told that your A-level exams have been cancelled may seem like a dream come true. However in reality it's far from the truth. The class of 2020 have experienced disappointment at so many levels. Exams cancelled. Graduations and proms cancelled, not knowing how their university life will look. During lockdown I feel that there was not enough said about the disappointments that many of these students have had to face due to the Corona virus. In my opinion, they are the Silent Heroes. They will be the ones facing the ‘New Normal' as they step into their chosen paths after leaving school. I feel they went unnoticed in the main during this difficult time. However, they have also been one of the most affected and most patient groups."

Speaking to Niaz, the Duchess said, "Hello, very nice to chat to you. I just wanted to say a huge thank you for sending in your photograph. We thought it was fantastic." Niaz said she found the briefs for the project "really inspiring" and referenced Kate's keen interest in photography.

Kate said hello to Mia's daughter Romy, telling her she feels she knows her "so well" from the photo. 

"I think it's so important you know that your mum's really highlighted how much young people have been affected by lockdown and all of the disruptions that you had with work and with school and everything." Romy added: "I was in my last year of school so I was meant to do my A levels which is what the photo relates to. The photo was taken on what was supposed to be my last day of A levels."

Speaking about the impact on young people's mental health during the pandemic, Kate said, "Everyone has experienced something together in a way, so there's no shame in talking about it. And that's what we've been really keen to do, is break the stigma and try to start conversations around mental health."

Despite a very tough year, Romy has been accepted to Stanford University in California with an unconditional offer.

Mum Niaz continues to explore her passion for photography.

Last spring, as we saw the Royal family adjust to the "Zoom engagement", I thought to myself, when we reach a point where engagements are announced in advance we'll know a gradual return to normality has been realised. Fifteen months later, Kensington Palace did just that. On Thursday, William and Kate will undertake engagements in the West Midlands to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. The day will focus on "highlighting local organisations that support children and young people". This year's theme - nature - is very much in keeping with Kate's areas of focus.

On Friday, the Cambridges will participate in the annual Mental Health Minute, which will be broadcast across five hundred radio stations.

Friday, 7 May 2021

The Duchess of Cambridge Celebrates the Release of Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020

It was a busy Friday for the Duchess of Cambridge as she celebrated the official release of Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020 with several engagements and activities in London. The poignant and timely book reached number one in Amazon UK's best sellers chart yesterday - with copies arriving in homes all over the country and much farther away today.

When the project was announced last year, I was very hopeful a book was in the planning. It must be an incredibly exciting day for Kate, the team at the National Portrait Gallery and the chosen 100 whose images are now a part of history.

The day began outside Kensington Palace in the sunshine.

The Duchess, judges from the project, finalists and a team from Book Fairies left free copies all over the UK at places that gave them hope during lockdown. Each copy is wrapped in gold ribbon with a free copy sticker and a letter from Kate.

The Duchess wrote to lucky finders: "Once you have finished looking through the book, please leave it somewhere else in your community for the next person to enjoy."

Then the Book Fairies got to work...

They were left in unexpected places.

And places of great significance. One fairy shared, "Seeing the Cathedral closed during lockdown, at a surreal time when it was hard to come to terms with things, somehow felt like a final goodbye to our dear Father, Grandfather and Great-Grandfather at the great age of 100 years."

In Putney, Arnhel de Serra hid a copy in his local area.

Arnhel's photo 'Everyday Heroes' was among the most popular in the exhibition -- a local postman cheering up those on his round in fancy dress. He said of the image: "When I drove past Richard I had to do a double-take, as I couldn't believe he was out on his postman’s round in fancy dress. I asked if I could photograph him, and over a few days we got to know each other. Given the doomsday scenario that the media were portraying in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt very strongly that here was a man who had something deeply personal and positive to offer his community. Is it an earth shattering news story? Probably not. As a human interest story however, I feel that his generosity of spirit should be celebrated, and I am delighted that he will be part of this very important project."

I love this photo of a copy left among flowers.

Outside the National Portrait Gallery.

The West Lothian fairies chose their nearest vaccination centre.

A copy left in this peaceful setting in Oxford.

One very happy lady found a copy at Forth Valley Hospital.

The Duchess' first engagement saw her visit Royal London Hospital to hear how art is commissioned for its Vital Arts service. She viewed a framed portrait of 'Melanie'. Kate and the National Portrait Gallery gifted the piece and it will go on display in the hospital's main corridor.

Hello! reports: "The Duchess said: 'It's become really iconic, hasn't it? Some of them had really powerful stories behind them and this one really stood out. I spoke to Johannah and she was so, 'this is not about me, it’s about the people who I represent'. She was so humble about it.'"

Kate participated in a discussion with staff.

More from Hello!:

'She sat down with a range of staff to chat about their experiences during the pandemic and asked: "How you all doing? I know hospitals are busy places but the extra pressure of Covid… How’s the mood now?"

She was told morale was good and was shown examples of photographs taken by staff from Barts Health NHS Trust to document this period in history.'

Kate was given a copy of the book Oh No, George by Chris Haughton for the children and remarked, "That's very appropriate!" She viewed prints and pictures and said Charlotte would love a glittery image she saw.

From there, Kate visited the National Portrait Gallery's archive.

The visit followed news the final 100 images from Hold Still will form part of the NPG's national collection, ensuring their place in the gallery's history.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery told the Mail: "The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our Patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal. The photographs submitted have helped to create a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown. We are honoured to have been able to share a selection of these photographs with the nation, first through the online and community exhibition and now through this new publication. The proceeds raised from the book will help us to continue to care for and share our national Collection and to provide free access, inspiration and learning, through the work we do at the Gallery and our UK wide community and education projects." Proceeds from the book will be shared between the NPG and the UK's leading mental health charity, Mind.

Hello!'s Emily Nash has been on the button today with up-to-the-minute reports and revealed Kate spent time at the gallery with finalists Naz Maleknia and Claudia Burton. She praised their work: "These are personal moments you have captured, and it's a great thing to share them with the world."

Now, a look at Kate's outfit from today.

The Duchess was stylish in a vibrant orange coat dress from Eponine London's Autumn/Winter 2018 collection (with thanks to Laura). The wool crepe coat features a mandarin collar and three-quarter length sleeves.

Middleton Maven suggests Kate's skirt is a past season ZARA piece.

Kate's gorgeous new handbag is by DeMellier London (with thanks to LadyPark79). 

The £295 Nano Montreal in deep toffee smooth is described as a "petite structured cross-body bag with a removable/adjustable cross-body strap and tubular top handle".

The styles come in an array of colours. Below, the Nano Montreal in black.

The brand has a special charitable mission entitled 'A Bag, A Life', and each purchase helps to provide vaccines at a critical time for countries all over the world.  A note from founder Mireia Llusia-Lindh:

'A Bag, A Life is a permanent initiative that is very close to my heart and part of DeMellier's DNA as much as our aim to create beautiful yet attainable products and to cherish all the smart and very special women around the world.

As a mother, aunt and godmother, I struggle to come to terms with the endless void that the loss of a child creates. Some of us are incredibly lucky to have been born or raised in countries where we get the best available medical care.

Millions of children don't have the same luck and are dying from preventable diseases at a terrifying rate. For every item you purchase, DeMellier funds lifesaving vaccines and medical treatments aimed to save the life of a child in need, in collaboration with international children's charity SOS CHILDREN'S VILLAGES and local vaccine providers. The funds are administered in countries such as Somalia, where currently 1 in 6 children do not live to see their 6th birthday. So far we have funded over 170,000 vaccines and treatments and I can’t thank you enough for your help with this cause.'
Of course, you'll remember SOS Children's Villages was central to the Cambridges' tour of Pakistan. They were so impressed they went back a second time.

The Duchess wore her Ralph Lauren Celia pumps.

And accessorised with her Mappin & Webb Empress earrings.

It's wonderful to see so many 'Book Fairies' around the country. There's very much been a sense of a gradual return to normality now ahead of summer. When Kate and the NPG began work on this project, the UK was in the throes of a very frightening and uncertain time. Now a year later, as the book is released, we look to brighter days thanks to the vaccination programme. The book is a record of the darkest days we all experienced, the hope we held on to, the resilience of children, the courage and bravery of our everyday heroes, and the importance of every moment with loved ones. If considering purchasing an extra copy of Hold Still, you too can become a Book Fairy. Click here to find out more. Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 is available on the NPG's website and Amazon.

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