“You Clap for Me Now”: Key Worker Poem Goes Viral

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A beautiful poem entitled ‘You Clap For Me Now’ by Darren Smith, a content director for Bridge Studio, that highlights the experience of migrant and BAME healthcare staff in the UK has gone viral across social media.

Many immigrants, used to the hostile environment, xenophobia and racism thanks to the vicious Brexit culture war, are now being heralded – quite rightly – as frontline heroes due to their prevalence in frontline services such as the NHS, social care and agriculture.

The video emerges as the British public appear at their front doors, windows, gardens and balconies to ‘clap for carers’ and other key workers every Thursday at 8 pm. The initiative is to say thank you to workers who are putting themselves at risk but who are keeping the economy ticking over and who are caring for those who are sick with COVID-19.

Smith said: “We are not trying to make a political point. It is a humanitarian one.” 

He said that the assumption some jobs are “unskilled” and therefore “unworthy” is an assumption that must be left behind once the UK begins to come out of the coronavirus crisis. He added: “We ask everyone to remember that we are stronger as a nation when we welcome people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to our shores to work and live and love alongside us.” 

Many immigrants, used to the hostile environment, xenophobia and racism thanks to the vicious Brexit culture war, are now being heralded – quite rightly – as frontline heroes

As the nation unites in showing its appreciation for those of the frontline every Thursday, Smith likened it to “that 1940s spirit of being more inclusive, a more United Kingdom” and labelled it a “tiny silver lining” during this uncertain, turbulent times.  

You clap for me now video
‘You Clap For Me Now’: Some of the participants in the video highlighted that many migrants and BAME people work in the sectors currently considered ‘essential’ for the UK amid Covid-19. [Image: DNYUZ.]

Smith pointed out the historical timeline of Britain that went from welcoming to rejecting immigration, from the rebuilding of Britain after WWII to Theresa May’s damning “hostile environment.” 

The poem cleverly turns some of the rhetoric used pre-COVID-19 on its head, referencing people’s fear that a “dirty disease” would come from overseas. 

The words “you know how it feels for home to be a prison, you know how it feels to live in fear” are particularly poignant. While certainly frustrating that for some, it takes losing their own freedom, and risks to their personal or their own families’ safety before they can extend compassion and sympathy to others such as immigrant and refugees, there is hope as shown in the poem this will change hostile attitudes for good. 

The poem cleverly turns some of the rhetoric used pre-COVID-19 on its head, referencing people’s fear that a “dirty disease” would come from overseas

Sachini Imbuldeniya was the creative director and producer of the viral video. Smith interviewed Imbuldeniya’s mother at the height of the Windrush Scandal as she had migrated from Sri Lanka to work as a nurse in the NHS. 

Imbuldeniya said her mother’s dedication to the NHS made the video particularly important for her. 

She said: “this poem was about ensuring when we recover from this pandemic we don’t return to the xenophobia and bigotry that we’ve seen over the past decade.” 

The poem has inevitably not been met with love by all, with far-right commentator Katie Hopkins using the thought-provoking message to push division. 

Hopkins seemed particularly enraged that the poem encourages “supporting angry immigrants”, despite the sombre yet brave words spoken in the video. 

Generally, discounting the far-right, Twitter has praised the creative endeavour with ‘You Clap For Me Now’ trending across the social media platform.

Actor and comedian Tez Ilyas took part in the video and thanked those sharing it after it hit six million views and 40,000 retweets in just 24 hours.  

[Header image: Austin Ban, Unsplash.]