Millie’s cardboard cutout grandma on display at National Portrait Gallery

A photo of a five-year-old girl next to a cardboard cutout of her grandma was put on display at the National Portrait Gallery. 

In the photo, taken by Teddington resident Melanie Lowis, 37, her daughter Millie is doing her homework next to a hand-drawn cutout of her grandmother.

Never without her Grandma was one of 100 portraits to be displayed out of 31,000 entries to an exhibition launched by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Millie, five, is extremely close to her grandma and missed her a lot during lockdown. 

MAKING MEMORIES: The cut-out granny comes to life. Millie, 2, and her grandmother, Brenda Dunn Credit: Melanie Lowis

Brenda Dunn, 73, depicted in the cardboard cutout, was overcome with emotion when she first saw the photo.

Brenda said: “The picture honestly made me cry when I first saw it.” 

Brenda, a widow, moved to London a little over five years ago to be closer to her family. 

She spent nearly every day with Millie after Lowis returned to work after maternity leave, giving the two with an unbreakable bond. 

Lowis, now a stay-at-home mother, said: “Mum was obviously in lockdown on her own and she’s not very good at using technology. She wasn’t really able to use Zoom like everyone else was.

“Millie came up with the idea when we were trying to get her to do schooling stuff. She said: ‘The only way I’ll do [my homework] is if Grandma does it with me’.”

LOCKDOWN LAUGHS: Siblings Millie (5) and Harry (3) enjoy some freedom in the coronavirus lockdown Credit: Melanie Lowis

Millie got creative and her cardboard-cutout-granny was born. 

Lowis said: “She used to take it around, lie on the sofa with it, watch a bit of TV with it, you know, carry it around the house a bit.” 

Brenda, having spent most of the lockdown in isolation, found the whole exhibition extremely moving. 

Brenda said: “I looked at them all and I was stunned. It’s such a wonderful project. I’m almost crying now thinking about them.” 

The pair have since been reunited.  

Millie, her mother, her 43-year-old father Mike, and three-year-old brother Harry, were able to become part of Dunn’s support bubble at the beginning of July in line with restrictions. 

Lowis said of the reunion: “When we said [to Millie], okay you can hug [Grandma], she just sort of hugged her legs and didn’t let go. It was so sweet.” 

SWEET MEMORIES: Millie on her second birthday, with mum Melanie Lowis
Credit: Melanie Lowis

With Millie restarting school in September, their reunion was short-lived, as Brenda could not afford to subject herself to the risk of a potential coronavirus exposure from Millie’s school. 

The pair hope that this second period of separation will be brief. 

Hold Still is a digital exhibition, launched by the Duchess of Cambridge, and aims to capture life in Britain during the coronavirus pandemic. 

A selection of the photographs will be displayed in towns and cities across the UK later this year. 

The cardboard cutout itself is not in the National Portrait Gallery, but in Dunn’s house, hanging in pride of place on her wall. 

Featured Image Credit: Melanie Lowis, ‘Never Without her Grandma’, with thanks to National Portrait Gallery

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South west London photographers handpicked for digital exhibition – Warta Saya
12 October 2020 11:28 am

[…] One other south west London story making the exhibition is that of five-year-old Millie and her cardboard cutout grandma. […]

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