Lockdown Legends: Annemarie Plas, founder of the UK Clap for Carers

Yoga teacher and sales rep Annemarie Plas is the woman behind the UK’s nationwide Clap for Carers, our weekly celebration of those putting themselves on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

She was inspired to launch it by similar events in her home country, the Netherlands – and within 24 hours, major celebrities like the Sussexes and Victoria Beckham had joined in. Since it began, the hashtag #clapforcarers has been shared over 100,00 times.

READ MORE: Kate Garraway FaceTimes husband in hospital for NHS clap

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Here, she talks to Yahoo about how it started:

How did Clap for Carers start?

I'm originally Dutch, so I saw the round of applause happening in the Netherlands, and obviously, at that time, we also had it happening in Italy and Spain. But they are generally speaking, a bit more passionate people, whereas the Dutch and the Brits are maybe a bit more reluctant to these things – more reserved.

Then I saw it happening in the Netherlands, and I have friends who work as nurses in Dutch hospitals, as well as people who are like myself and yourself, who are safely in their houses, and they told me of how much it lifted them and how much it boosted their morale, and they only had one time for having applause.

That got me so inspired that I thought, well, wouldn't it be lovely if we can also do that here, in this beautiful nation – and it worked.

Why do you think it took off so quickly?

It exploded – and went viral – and it just points out how everybody feels the same way. They all wanted to show in a simple way their appreciation. We’re also feeling that we’re going through this together and that every walk of life is affected by this crisis.

How do you feel when you take part every week?

It’s emotional! It’s also a bit of a highlight in the week because now I know who my neighbours are. It’s really special and you feel that you are connected to everybody, while we all also going through our own personal crisis.

It started out being just about applauding the NHS, but has become so much more – how did that happen?

For the first round of applause, I was pointing out the NHS workers, and then luckily this nation started sending me loads of messages, bringing me back to the core, and explaining to me that the whole group of care workers is actually much bigger.

READ MORE: UK set to 'Clap for Carers' again... and there are calls for it to be done differently

Then I started looking around in my own little community and I realised there are so many more people that are out there – like the mail man, people collecting my bins. It’s everybody in supermarkets that are still out there. It organically grew the next week into saying thank you to a much larger group of people. 

Why do you think this event has been so embraced by the British public?

I think it quickly spread because there is so much negativity happening right now around us, so that I think that every moment, when there is something that is a bit more positive on the horizon, that people go after that, because it is something that they can personally relate to but also can join into.

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It is such a simple gesture. Everybody can make an applause or can use something else to make noise, so I think that the level of entry is so low that therefore people feel like, “OK, this I can join in.” I definitely also think what has really helped is that all media outlets, everybody embraced the moment. 

Have you heard from key workers about what it means to them?

After every Thursday I get a wave of messages coming in. The ones that are closest to my heart are the parents that send me a little email, saying this is my son or daughter, working for the NHS, or is another key worker. Because I am a mum myself, and I can hear that they are so proud, but also anxious at the same time.

Also, from the footage that we've seen from how it has been received in the hospitals. People taking the time to drive down to a hospital on Thursday night. People, doctors and nurses coming out of the hospitals, applauding each other.

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I think it's really good that we are aware of how amazing the NHS is compared to other countries, and we should be really proud of them and really support them as a nation. In this day and age, nobody has this, what we have with the NHS.

You’ve also collaborated with Kindred, who make T-shirts to raise money for NHS charities – how did that come about?

Kindred reached out to me saying that they wanted to do something to support the cause with donation. They had already made really nice T-shirts with rainbows, so I said I would love to join with an applause logo.

They’ve just confirmed that they’ve just given £330,000 to NHS charities! It’s really nice to be involved in something that can help raise money for the NHS, while boosting morale for the nation on a Thursday night.

What are you hoping will be the lasting impact of Clap for Carers?

I'll hope that after this, we’ll have a realisation of how important key workers are in our day-to-day life. It is because of them that we can all safely stay in.

And then to maybe say a little more of ‘thank you’ to one another. Like, now I know who my mailman is. We have a daily chat if he comes around and I hang out the window. And then have that little feeling of the community and how important your little community is, because they are the people that you hear on a Thursday night, that it would be so nice to be part of the community. 

READ MORE: Beverley Knight reveals ‘deep connection’ with NHS 

We are all together, because we have been focusing so much on ourselves in the last 10 years, so for now, to be focused on the community and to respect everybody in it, that would be the dream if that could be an outcome of this.

What do you think you will tell your children, when they’re old enough to understand, about the lockdown?

If I have to tell my son later, what did Mummy and Daddy do in lockdown… We just tried to stay sane. We have little to no rules in our household any more when it comes down to screentime, ice cream. It was a challenging time, but we were the lucky ones.

Donate to NHS Charities Together by purchasing a Clap for Carers T-shirt

Up Close And Socially Distant is hosted by Kate Thornton and features weekly video catch-ups with people who are all doing whatever they can to help those around them get through lockdown.

This week Kate speaks to Strictly winner and actress Kara Tointon about her new storytelling app connecting families in lockdown called TELL, to kidney transplant specialist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Adnan Sharif on investigating the disproportionate way COVID-19 is affecting those from BAME communities, and to Annemarie Plas, who started the event that has swept the nation, our weekly Clap for Carers.

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