During Lockdown, you may have discovered a new sense of community spirit on your street. Although the Clap for Carers now seems a long time ago, it was a time when we all came together. Although we had to stay inside throughout the day, for two minutes on a Thursday you could pop outside, stand on your front door step and see other smiley faces in your street. If you enjoyed that sense of Community Spirit, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do as we move forward to keep that feeling alive. Let me tell you, you absolutely can! After all, let’s face it, now more than ever we need some community spirit.
Let me take you back to a time before social distancing and global pandemics…
You may remember the extremely tragic killing of Batley and Spen MP, Jo Cox. In her memory, her friends and family set up the Jo Cox Foundation with a mission to reduce loneliness. With everyone being asked to stay at home for over a year, the importance of combating loneliness could not be more important. In June 2017, they launched The Great Get Together – an initiative designed to bring communities together which is supposed to take place every year on the weekend of Jo Cox’s birthday (when there isn’t a global pandemic occurring!) One day, ping went Facebook Messenger. It was a message from my neighbour asking me if I had seen this and could we do it? Of course I replied straight away and agreed. We quickly set to work planning our get together. The children designed invitations and delivered them to all the houses on the street. They also made posters and bunting to decorate. We asked anyone coming to bring a plate of food to share so that one person wasn’t left with all the cooking. The day came and I must admit I did wonder if anyone would come! Slowly but surely, the square in front of our houses filled with garden chairs and soon our whole street were outside chatting. We were making real connections with our neighbours and not just walking past them with a mumbled ‘Good Morning.’ We had an amazing afternoon and we all agreed that we must do it again next year!
And so started something magical on our street! The magic of the joy of being together with the people who live around you. A little while later, we held a Cupcake Party to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. I must admit, I was again a little concerned that nobody would come out. For the Great Get Together, all people needed to do was eat food and chat but would they support a charity event? Everyone was really kind and we raised over £100.
Once we has started the ball rolling with community events in our street, I quickly found that my next door neighbours were extremely accommodating with my requests for celebrations! We have had a VE Day Street Party, Halloween Street Party and possibly my favourite one of all – A Christmas Lights Switch On which included carol singing and mulled wine and mince pies! The children of the street also turned the roundabout on our road into a War Memorial by painting egg boxes and making them into poppies and placing them around the roundabout.
I have posted photos of our exploits on Social Media and have had many friends make comments along the lines of ‘I wish I lived on your street.’ I wanted to share our story so that others can see that it isn’t difficult to create a sense of community spirit on your street. The first thing you need is just one other neighbour who shares your passion and vision. I am extremely lucky that the family who live next door to us are just as enthusiastic as I am about bringing our street together. Once you have a little team, you just need to work to your strengths. My neighbour, Julia is brilliant at chatting to people. She is great at inviting our neighbours to events and encouraging people to come out and join us. That is not so much my forte. I am a quiet introvert and whilst I like to be a part of the hubbub I’m much happier being in the background. However, what I do enjoy is using my designing skills to make posters for the events and baking up treats that I hope others will enjoy. Growing up, we often joked that a party hosted by my grandmother was never knowingly under catered! Carrying on that proud tradition, I am happy ensuring that everyone goes away with a full tummy!
Then, you just need an event to invite people to. Any of these would make great street party occasions:
– End of Lockdown Celebration
– Christmas Lights Switch On
– Community Easter Egg Hunt
– Halloween Street Party
– Alzheimer’s Society Cupcake Party
– Macmillan’s Coffee Morning
– British Heart Foundation Tea Party
– Summer BBQ
To be fair, you could just decide to get together without having a specific reason. That would be awesome too!
Once you have chosen your event, you just need to make sure that everyone in your street knows about it. Like us, you could get the children in your street to design invitations and posters or you could knock something up on the computer. It doesn’t really matter how you do it as long as everyone knows when to come out and join you.
Then, you just need to agree how you will cater the event. Asking everyone to bring a plate of food works well. You could be super organised and agree that everyone brings something different but we just leave it open and it has always worked really well. On the day, we set up a long table with drinks and food and let everyone help themselves. You could do some ice breaker games if you really want to get to know your neighbours. We did this for our first event. We had a sheet with questions such as ‘Find someone who is born in December’ or ‘Find someone who plays golf’ which was designed by the Great Get Together. The children enjoyed filling them in but the adults just chatted and got to know each other that way!
Depending on the event, you may wish to organise some entertainment. For our VE Day party, we had some 1940s music playing in the background but nothing which was too difficult to organise. At Christmas, Julia kindly made some booklets with words for the Christmas Carols in so everyone could join in with them. The children also did some singing and dancing which went down well. I definitely don’t think you need to worry about entertainment for an event to go well. It is much more about chatting and getting to know your neighbours.
I would wholeheartedly encourage you to take the plunge and have a go at organising an event on your street. Getting to know the people around you makes living there so much nicer and you may find that you build up a fantastic network of people who can help you out if you need it! Possibly the best reason to do it though, is because it will be really fun and you’ll have a fabulous time!
Thank you to the Finnis Family for kindly agreeing to be part of this post!