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The Duchess of Cambridge praises frontline workers in poignant video call with nurse

The royal spoke of the country’s "appreciation and pride"

Emily Nash

The Duchess of Cambridge has told of the country’s "appreciation and pride" in frontline workers in a video call to a nurse who took part in the Hold Still project.

Kate spoke to Johannah Churchill, whose portrait of her colleague Melanie Senior was recreated as a mural in Manchester last month, and Dr Edward Cole, who was helping Melanie set up a Covid clinic in south west London when she took the powerful image.

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She told them: "I hope you have seen and feel the country’s appreciation and pride in all the hard work that you do and all the frontline workers do on a day to day basis."

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WATCH: The Duchess of Cambridge marks the end of moving Hold Still project

Johannah’s entry entitled "Melanie, March 2020" shows her fellow nurse in full PPE, helping to prepare the clinic for patients as the health crisis took hold earlier this year.

Artist Pete Barber recreated the striking portrait on a wall in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, one of 115 community exhibition sites for the Hold Still project set up with support from the Co-op over the past month.

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Kate spoke to frontline workers

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Making the videocall as the UK-wide exhibitions drew to a close this week, the Duchess said: "Johannah, I just want to say a huge thank you to you for sending in your really amazing image of Melanie. It’s really inspiring, it’s very emotive and I think it’s really touched everybody with the reality that it shows of all those who have worked on the frontline and the difficulties that you’ve all faced."

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Wearing a pale blue cardigan from Boden and sitting on a sofa at Kensington Palace, with photographs of her children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis behind her, Kate added: "I think it was an important part of the story to try to show members of the public and those at home who might not be witnessing what you obviously witnessed on a day to day basis."

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The doting mum is passionate about the project 

Johannah won a scholarship to do a masters in photography at the University of Middlesex after completing her degree in photography – all while working as a nurse. 

She told the Duchess she had received messages from medical workers in Australia, Canada and the Philippines in response to the portrait, one of 100 finalists chosen for the exhibition.

She said: "People have actually contacted me to say thank you for taking the image. I’m actually really surprised I’ve had a lot of messages from complete strangers. 

"I got a message from a woman who’s a nurse in ITU in Manchester and she said she stood in front of the mural and cried."

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The Duchess told her: "I think it’s become such an iconic portrait that represents a lot of what frontline workers have experienced and what those of you across the UK have put your lives on the line in looking after us all this year. 

"I think it certainly touched us in terms of the judging panel, we felt it was a hugely moving image and I think it has really resonated with lots of the public too, so well done.

"I think it will be an image that people will remember in the future as showcasing the realities of what so many of you witnessed."

The Duchess launched the photography competition in May in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, of which she is patron.

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