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.
Organisations in Hexham, Northumberland have combined with the Town and County Councils to form Hexham Community Together and aid vulnerable residents during the current COVID-19 crisis. Self-isolation and social distancing mean that many residents require help with everything from basic day-to-day tasks including shopping for groceries, collecting prescriptions and library book collection. They’re also in need of social contact such as a friendly voice at the end of the phone which the local initiative is working hard to provide at a safe distance.
For the duration of the critical periods of lockdown, North Yorkshire-based PBA Applied Ecology Ltd is providing free assistance with food deliveries to two Settle-based businesses (Drake & Macefield Family Butchers and the Ye Olde Naked Man Family Bakery). PBA vans have been re-purposed and are expected to make up to 750 free deliveries to the local community during this period. Although they are only a small company, they are pleased to be able to help their local community and to support other local businesses in this rural area during such a difficult time.
Meanwhile, Medlar-with-Wesham Town Council and Flyde Borough Council in Lancashire have established a Community Support System. All households received a letter with contact details for support and a card to be displayed in the window of the household. The card has a green side which indicates ‘Thanks. Everything is OK.’, and a red side which shows that support is needed. More than 50 residents have volunteered to help others in the community. Every road has been allocated at least two wardens who check their area daily and the centre support phone number and email address can be contacted by those needing support or to advise that a red card has been seen. The centre support has also helped local companies contact the food bank. People have been helped by volunteers doing shopping, collecting prescriptions, ringing up for chats or just walking past and interacting in a safe manner. The community centre is also being used for extra storage and packing space for the local food bank.
Food crisis and fundraising
In response to the difficulties many people face during the COVID-19 crisis, our region’s local organisations and individuals have come up with brilliant ways to provide support to the most vulnerable members of society.
The Liverpool charity behind the new Nelson Mandela memorial in Princes Park has launched a crowdfunder to provide emergency food and hygiene parcels to the most vulnerable and elderly in their communities. Mandela8 has begun co-ordination of the project with Granby Toxteth Development Trust to ensure that volunteers will be delivering parcels to those in desperate need of support during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly families and individuals from refugee and migrant communities.
As well as food and hygiene packs, creative art packs will also be provided to young people in families. The charity aims to deliver an initial 1,000 packs to those aged over 70 and with underlying health problems with a further 3,600 people being identified as vulnerable and needing support. The funds raised by Mandela8 will ensure pressure is lifted from staff already stretched in local authority services, build morale and add valuable resources to support the most vulnerable during isolation. Anyone wishing to donate to the Crowdfunder can do so via the project’s page on Spacehive.
In Manchester, Eat Well MCR, a hospitality collective initially formed in response to the UK food crisis which worsened due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, is working hard to source, prepare and deliver 1,850 meals weekly to front line NHS workers, families with children in hospitals, people living with food poverty, women with children seeking refuge and people that are homeless. But the initiative needs our help to continue to provide urgent support across Greater Manchester. Just £1 can pay for a tasty hot meal for someone and £2,000 can feed 2,000 each week. Please click here for more information or to donate.
As supermarket shelves are emptying and we’re continuing to isolate at home, more vulnerable people are turning to food banks for help. But as shops and community spaces have closed, a significant number of people have been pushed into food insecurity. Footprints in the Community, the charity that runs Redcar Area Foodbank in North Yorkshire, was struggling to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 virus and had been giving out triple the amount of food than was coming in.
Considering this, Redcar campaigner Luke Myer organised a grassroots fundraising effort and in 24 hours managed to raise £1,000. In a brilliant example of how Northern communities can come together to help those in need, the initiative raised £3,000, all in small donations in just three weeks. Soon, local politicians got onboard including former Labour MPs Anna Turley and Paul Williams, the local Lib Dem group and Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
The arts go digital in support of charity
With doors currently closed due to coronavirus, the arts are employing innovative initiatives to keep people entertained during these strange days. The arts have always played a valuable role in people’s mental well-being and, at a time when social distancing might cause people to feel isolated, the arts are more important than ever.
Manchester-based, Scottish composer Graham McCusker, who wrote the music for the recent hit BBC series His Dark Materials, has released a previously unheard track to raise money for The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester. The track was unused in the television series, but McCusker has unearthed the tune from his personal collection for fans to enjoy during lockdown. The track is available to download on Graham McCusker’s Bandcamp and is priced at 99p.
The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25 per cent increase in calls since the lockdown and visits to the UK-wide National Domestic Abuse helpline website are 150 per cent higher than during the last week of February. Considering these statistics, Made It Theatre Company have joined forces with Manchester’s Finest, producer Simon Naylor and ShowBuzz MCR to live-stream a fundraising production of the biographical production of Green Door by Ann Brown. The show takes place on May 16 at 7.30pm and can be streamed here.
Donations raised are being shared equally between two charities, The Emily Davison Centre in Accrington, a charity that works with women experiencing domestic abuse, and EdShift in Halifax, a community interest company that delivers drama-based learning workshops in order to empower the next generation with the skills and aspiration to achieve healthy relationships. To donate, please click here.
Lastly, festival season is certainly looking a little different this year but arts organisations are using innovative ways to recreate the festivities online. While the real-life communal experience of Liverpool’s one-night free arts festival LightNight, produced by Open Culture, is its biggest strength, the event is turning digital in a bid to champion and celebrate what the arts mean to us all. From 5pm on May 15, 2020, members of the public are invited to follow #LightNightatHome and join in a digital exploration of work by many of the artists and organisations who had so much planned for the festival this year. This year’s theme is Home, which adopts an even greater resonance during this current crisis.
And if all that’s not enough to top up your happiness levels, a photographer from Salford has been taking free doorstep portraits for families during lockdown to raise money for a children’s hospice close to her heart. Lian Cunliffe was inspired by portraits she saw online from an American photographer and decided she would bring the idea to Salford, using the photoshoots to encourage people to dress up and have a happier memory of their time in lockdown. You can see more of these pictures on Lian’s Facebook page.
By Emma Yates-Badley, Deputy Editor