Northern Soul and People’s Powerhouse are partnering to share good news stories about businesses, people and communities coming together in the North of England and showing us the best of humanity during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve heard so many examples of people showing great kindness and compassion and we think that these stories deserve to be shared far and wide. Let’s bring a little sprinkle of joy to people’s news feed and show the world how great Northerners really are, especially in challenging times.
After shutting the doors during the current crisis, Inspire Women Oldham created Operation Inspire so its members don’t lose the important connections made at the centre. Founder Sallie Bonnie created a closed Facebook page for attendees where 58 women joined and, after learning the ropes, members turned to Zoom to facilitate face-to-face conversations. Lesley Reece from Inspire says: “Our ladies are important to us and so is their well-being, so having the ability to stay connected is wonderful for them and for us. As we enter another week of lockdown, one of our ladies is preparing to do a Zoom from her allotment. Again, it’s keeping Inspire Women connected. Who knows what will happen next? But one thing is for sure, we will get through it together because together we are strong.”
When the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, a group of residents in Calder Vale came together to form The Calder Vale COVID-19 Volunteer Support Group. The voluntary body, who are also residents, agreed that they would aid anyone who was vulnerable, over 70 or self-isolating and had no family to support them. The now 15 volunteers also recognised that local businesses needed support. The newsagent began delivering fresh milk to the doorstop as well as Garstang Market produce. The Methodist Church closed its doors which meant that the monthly lunch club with local business The Lunchbox was under threat. However, the group continues to support The Lunchbox by ordering via a collection service. There’s even a Saturday fish and chip supper made by local business Turners Fish and Chips.
Talking of food, IncrEdible Education has given 90 free edible plant packs out in Eccles, including free deliveries to schools in the area. And Youth Focus North East delivered 30 sets of rackets to families in Middlesbrough who were nominated for helping others. The rackets were provided by Street Games.
Meanwhile, Manchester’s Wai Yin Society is delivering Tablets from DevicesDotNow to vulnerable people in their community to help people stay connected in these different times, while independent off license Chestnut House in Pooley Bridge, Cumbria is offering home deliveries to help members of the community get the essential supplies they need without having to risk leaving their homes.
Another business which is playing its part in helping supplies to reach those in need is The Lingholm Estate near Keswick which is working with local food wholesaler Caterite to provide a weekly meal service for vulnerable people in the community.
Support workers from Warrington-headquartered health and social care charity Making Space have thought beyond their usual roles to provide help to the people they support and their colleagues. Dave Valentine, activities coordinator at Palmyra residential home in Sefton, Merseyside, has been taxiing other support workers to and from work, volunteering extra hours on top of his paid shifts and food shopping for workers and their families if they have to isolate. While Lucy Hague (pictured) from Darlington’s extra care housing scheme Rosemary Court has been collecting drawings and letters from local children to bring cheer to tenants who are missing their own families.
Filmmakers and creatives from Manchester have come together to help bereaved families grieve during lockdown by creating a free video memorial service. The move comes after UK government rules mean only close family members and/or single households can attend funerals. The team of volunteers at Video for Distant Memorials will make a free video memorial for anyone who has lost a loved one, (whether or not the death was due to COVID-19). At this time of social distancing and self-isolation, the videos enable family and friends to say goodbye.
But there’s a financial cost to keeping initiatives like this going, and these unprecedented times are having an impact on voluntary and social sector organisations across the region. That’s why Greater Manchester community groups are being urged to take up the offer of financial support from Forever Manchester and the National Lottery Community Fund to support their response to the impact of COVID-19.
Forever Manchester is working with the UK Community Foundations to raise money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester and is offering awards of up to £5,000 for community groups in the city region.
Supporting small businesses
Dreaming about life after lockdown? People are being encouraged to support their local pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and venues through COVID-19 by buying gift vouchers to use after the virus has run its course.
In an effort to support the hospitality and leisure industry (and its many employees) during this incredibly challenging time for the sector, Lancaster creative agency Hotfoot Design and gift voucher platform Regalo are offering free online gift voucher shops for local, independent businesses in the North West. Hospitality venues and leisure destinations can sell digital gift vouchers directly to customers through a new gift voucher discovery website called Vouch.
Cumbria Tourism is encouraging people all over the county to do whatever they can to support smaller businesses (e.g. independent grocers) which have adapted services to include deliveries of necessities. To raise further awareness, Cumbria Tourism has used its 5,000-strong MyCumbria card email database to invite residents to play their part.
One of the scheme’s main sponsors, Booths supermarket, is offering a £3 discount from every purchase of £30 or more at its local branches which remain open for essential shopping trips. Cardholders in the Ulverston, Kirkby Lonsdale, Kendal, Milnthorpe, Keswick, Penrith, Windermere and Carnforth areas are all able to use the card when making trips for their supplies.
Supporting our key workers
Inspired by the efforts in the Manchester community, a car sharing company has launched a brand new, free community car share scheme to help move essential services around Manchester as the crisis intensifies. Karshare aims to establish a fleet of 10,000 cars, on loan from members of the local community, to be used by health workers, care workers, charity workers, food banks and NHS staff, free of charge.
Karshare founder Andy Hibbert explains: “We’re already partnered with Gatwick and Bristol Airports where we run a service renting out people’s cars when they go on holiday. We started thinking about how we could make a difference in the current situation and the principle is the same. The average car already sits unused for 96 per cent of the time, even more so now as most of us are staying at home. These cars could really be helping so many vulnerable people given there are many care workers and charities within the community that need transportation support right now. If you have a car you’re not going to need for the next week or two, we can put it to good use, doing good in Manchester. See how you can help by visiting Karshare.com.”
Meanwhile, messages of thanks to key workers across Bury are being inscribed on some of the borough’s busiest roads. The markings pay tribute to those working in health and social care, public transport, the emergency services and other workers who are keeping the borough going.
Throughout this pandemic, it’s imperative that we continue to support key workers such as carers who are taking care of extremely vulnerable members of society. Barnsley Carers’ Service will issue a ‘carers’ card’ to unpaid carers who are nervous they may be stopped and questioned while carrying out their caring duties including multiple shopping trips, buying excess quantities of food or being out driving or on foot late at night. Unpaid carers can request a card or register for support by contacting Tara Ramsden on 01226 288 772 or via the service’s Facebook page, called Barnsley Carers Service.
Boosting morale and raising much-needed funds
Feeling a bit low and in need of a boost? Well, I Love MCR and Great Northern Warehouse are spreading the message of hope and positivity across the city. They’re asking for people of all ages to submit their artworks. The chosen selections will be displayed on digital billboards and notice boards in office and apartment blocks across the city including Axis Tower, the biggest outdoor digital screen in Manchester. Once lockdown restrictions have been lifted and it’s safe for venues to reopen, the artworks will also be displayed in a charity art exhibition hosted at Great Northern Warehouse with all proceeds going to Forever Manchester Community Support Fund which is helping those impacted by COVID-19.
Supporting arts and culture
The arts have been hit hard by COVID-19, but there are initiatives attempting to ease the situation.
Across the borough of Scarborough, a group of arts organisations are offering practical help to creatives and artists during the current crisis. COAST is the Local Cultural Education Partnership for the Borough of Scarborough which includes the towns of Whitby, Scarborough and Filey. Administered by Create Arts Development, it includes local stakeholders from cultural organisations, freelance artists and practitioners. Its members range from the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough Museums Trust, Whitby’s Pannett Art Gallery and Whitby Museum to individuals with specialist skills.
The group has produced a resource and information pack which includes contact details of members to allow creative and artists to access their skills and advice on everything from accessing emergency funding to technical issues. There are also links to online support and creative projects to inspire and excite, and well-being resources. To download COAST’s creatives and COVID-19 resource and skills information pack click here.
Designed to support UK-based BAME music-makers in exploring new ideas and collaborating with other artists under our current, uniquely challenging circumstances, a new Lockdown Edition of Opera North’s successful Resonance programme is open for applications now. As part of its drive to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on artists and the making of music, the Leeds-based company is seeking applications from professional UK-based music-creators from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, working in any genre. Five successful lead artists will each receive a grant of up to £800 to cover fees for themselves and collaborator/s for 2 to 2.5 days’ work and small equipment purchases. To be eligible for Resonance: The Lockdown Edition, applicants must be UK-based professional composers or music-creators aged 18 or over who are not in full-time education. Applications should be made via a short online form before the deadline of 10am on May 8, 2020.
And here’s a little extra good news to keep you smiling. A student from Lancashire with terminal brain cancer was offered a private jet from financial firm Greensill so she could continue receiving experimental therapy in Germany despite the coronavirus travel restrictions.
By Emma Yates-Badley, Deputy Editor