It’s #VolunteersWeek and we at Live & Local are always indebted to our network of wonderful volunteer promoters. In village halls and community venues across Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, groups of Live & Local promoters have been putting on professional live arts for over 20 years. This is something we want to celebrate, however, Volunteers’ Week 2020 has been cast in a different light due to the ongoing crisis.
Coronavirus is having an unprecedented impact on the arts sector, and all the artists, staff and suppliers that rely on the entertainment/cultural sector for their livelihoods. This is also true of the volunteers who bring arts to their local communities, for whom it is a creative lifeline as well as having a huge impact on community cohesion and mental wellbeing. As such, celebrating our volunteers in the usual ways this year would not feel appropriate. Indeed, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) are halting their typical celebrations this year in favour of focusing on supporting volunteers to take on coronavirus-related roles and helping communities to cope with the many consequences of the pandemic.
What we can do in these trying times is simply say thank you for the contributions made by millions of volunteers across the UK, and more specifically thank you to our Live & Local volunteer groups. The work they do year-round is incredible and inspirational, something which is now more evident than ever before. Many promoters are doing essential work in their communities as we speak, and we want to share a few shining examples.
Tealby & Walesby Action Group – Tealby Village Hall
At the start of the pandemic, a small group of volunteers (all with expertise in planning and communication) got together to make sure that Tealby, Walesby, Kirmond le Mire, Stainton le Vale and Thoresway had a plan in place for vulnerable residents and a network of willing volunteers. Several leaflet drops took place to make sure they had everyone’s details and knew who needed assistance, and their action group was meeting three times a week via Zoom and linked with Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey District Council. We spoke to Richard Askam – Chair of the Tealby & Walesby Action Group – who said that both councils were ‘staggered that we had mobilised so quickly’.
During the last 10 weeks of lockdown, these volunteers looked after the vulnerable and self-isolating residents alongside the neighbours and friends who have done the same in partnership with Tealby Village Community Shop. Richard and the action group are truly grateful to their ‘wonderful community’, and Tealby was even featured on BBC ‘Look North’ (see above) for Chris Waud’s ‘Lockdown Portraits’. Ward is a photographer who lives in the village who lost his business as a result of Covid-19. In response, he turned his hand to recording the situation and photographed over 150 residents on their doorsteps, raising over £1k for NHS charities along the way!
The Palace Community Centre, Ibstock
As a community centre and theatre, The Palace Community Centre wanted to try and help wherever they could. Way back in March, they decided to asked for volunteers via Facebook and started to contact people who they thought may need help. Centre Administrator, Darren Dale, explained that it was more difficult to reach out to people than it sounds – firstly, they contacted people whose details they already had because they already used The Palace, this included group leaders and people who attended classes. They also posted on social media. Darren said, ‘we quickly got a group of volunteers at the ready, and the main areas of help started to become apparent: shopping, collecting medication, dog walking, food banks….’
The team then decided to organise a leaflet drop to try and reach people not on the internet, this was achieved with the help of volunteers who managed to cover the whole of the village. They then opened a drop off point for the local food bank, which has been very busy. For those involved with the community efforts in Ibstock, the thing that has stood out is how neighbours, friends and family have rallied round to help each other. This meant that volunteers have only had to help a small number of people. The centre is continuing to operate as a help centre until regulations change.
St Michaels Village Hall, Tenbury Wells
Have a look at the lovely picture below – this was taken in St Michael’s during their last clap. Local couple, Marion and Rick Bremners trotted up and down the lane with their two ponies pulling a cart which they had decorated with rainbows and thanks while the local community clapped and cheered for volunteers and key workers. Local promoter Ros Plested told us that the clap has brought the community out to mingle most weeks (while safely social distancing). They have celebrated VE Day together like this and that even ‘our post lady was swaddled up and down dressed as a unicorn’. What an image!
Peter Conner – Great Carlton Village Hall
Peter is a therapist, musician and poet, as well as volunteering as part of the Great Carlton Village Hall committee. He’s therefore uniquely placed to offer some insight into the current collective headspace many of us find ourselves in, and does so on his blog: A Calming Voice. It addresses many of the issues that the pandemic throws up such as letting go of what we cannot control. As he says, ‘everywhere is quieter at the moment (except for hospitals etc.) and there seems to be so much anxiety and tension in the air. The silence can let the ‘bad’ voices in sometimes’. His writing is informed by his counselling experience and by his garden which many have referred to as a ‘calming and peaceful place’ – one which we can all mentally transport ourselves to in times of need.
Lindsey Rural Players – Broadbent Theatre, Wickenby
Making a difference can come in big or small packages, and the Lindsey Rural Players have done their part to contribute by donating all the theatre’s drinks and snacks to the nearby Market Rasen food bank before lockdown began. It’s a seemingly small kindness but one that exemplifies the strength of community spirit and how much The Broadbent Theatre values its audience and local area.
Barnby in the Willows Village Hall
The Village Hall committee at Barnby in the Willows have been making sure that the residents in their small village feel supported during lockdown. This has included offering help to vulnerable neighbours by doing food shops and collecting prescriptions. In fact, one member of the committee has said that she’s now on first name terms with the chemist in Newark! Theirs is a wonderful example of an already close-knit community banding together.
Maplebeck Parish Meeting and Village Hall
The teams at both Maplebeck Village Hall and Parish Meeting responded on day one by working together and reaching out to the local residents and asking which of two groups they belonged to: people who needed help (for health reasons), and people who could provide it. The result was that even more people than expected were glad to offer their assistance during lockdown and have done so by delivering medicine, carrying out weekly shops and tending to people’s gardens for them. The local book club has even gone online with Zoom calls bringing people together. This reportedly came as no surprise though and is simply further evidence of their unbreakable village spirit.
– A food bank set up in response to hardship brought about by Covid-19 in Long Marston Village Hall, Stratford
Hoton Village Hall, Leicestershire
Many communities were very quick to act at the start of the UK Coronavirus outbreak and Hoton Village Hall were no exception, on the 17th March they began setting up a village support network using email, WhatsApp and Facebook. Since the launch of the network, neighbours have been watching out for one another, especially for those who have been self -isolating or shielding. People have been shopping, swapping and doing pharmacy trips for others.
To help reduce the negative impacts of isolation, a virtual coffee morning was held where cakes, safely baked, were delivered to the doorstep of those who wanted to take part. Attendees then shared photos of their ‘separate but together coffee morning’ on the group Facebook page. In May the community celebrated VE Day with bunting put up round the village, amplified WW2 music and socially distanced tea parties taking place on front drives or gardens.
The last week of May was Hoton’s Scarecrow Week – children and adults alike delighted in spotting new scarecrows as they appeared throughout the week (see the snap below). On the Friday evening a qualified chef cooked curry at the village hall which was either delivered or collected and many of residents sat with their scarecrows in their front gardens enjoying curry and the warm evening. In addition to all the other activities, residents have taken part in two quizzes so far, one of which involved locating photographs taken around the village – which certainly gave residents something to focus on during their daily walks!