Duchess Kate had a number of phone calls with some of the 100 finalists who appeared in the Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 book. She was keen to hear more about the stories behind the people in the photographs and how they were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The calls, which took place in the autumn of 2020 and have been recently shared on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's YouTube channel, highlight the resilience of so many and their individual stories.
In the latest phone call, the Duchess of Cambridge chatted with Gimba, a ward nurse at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London. Her portrait was taken by her friend Hassan Akkad, who snapped Gimba during a rare quiet moment on her lunch break.
During the call, Kate heard more about the professional and personal struggles Gimba has faced as the world battled COVID-19. The ward nurse recounted how her mother had been taken to hospital in Nigeria during the trying time, and Gimba was unable to visit her due to travel restrictions. Additionally, Gimba did not take any time off because she was focused on caring for the people in her ward.
"It was hard, but it's a job I love to do because the patients need us," Gimba told Kate during the emotional phone call.
Duchess Kate could see Gimba's passion for the job and her patients. She said, "I bet you made their day feel that little bit brighter, Gimba."
After hearing about the variety of food the hospital prepares, from Caribbean to English to Chinese, Kate remarked, "Well, food nurtures the soul, doesn't it?"
Gimba, who started working at the NHS hospital in 2001, personally loves her jollof rice dish. It's her favourite break meal and she was captured eating chicken and rice by Hassan in the Hold Still portrait.
Hassan has been focused on documenting the experiences of people during COVID-19. In his finalist entry for Hold Still, he explained that on the day the photograph was taken, Gimba had received "the terrible news from Nigeria that her mother had fallen ill and had been rushed to hospital."
"Gimba cried all day and was heartbroken that she couldn’t fly home to see her mother and look after her because of travel restrictions during the pandemic," the description continued. "She declined to take any time off, saying: 'I have to feed my patients.'"
"I took this photo while Gimba was having lunch in the staff room, after having prepared meals for all eighteen COVID-19 patients in our ward," he explained. "She was having chicken and rice."
Thankfully, Gimba's mother is now doing better and she is out of hospital. The ward host shared the good news with Kate.
Gimba's call with Kate was the fifth released so far. In another phone conversation that was recently shared, the duchess joked with Jason Baird, aka the Stockport Spider-Man, about getting a costume for Prince William!
Jason and his friend Andrew Baldock started dressing up as Marvel characters in 2020 for their daily walks to entertain children during lockdown. More and more people got involved so the duchess thought that perhaps William should get a spidey suit.
"Might have to buy William a suit," Duchess Kate hilariously mused.
She added, "Unfortunately, I'm not so sure he's going to get the air clearance that you've got." It was in reference to Jason's incredible photo of the martial arts teacher doing some very agile Spider-Man moves in the suit!