Fostering children playing freely outdoors – towards a post-pandemic vision

One of many consequences of the lockdown in UK is that children are not allowed to meet and play out with their friends at their defined but closed playgrounds. In some cities in UK this situation led to creative and ‚anarchic’ responses, where residents took control of their streets, transforming parking spaces and public roads into attractive playgrounds for children in the neighbourhood.

Picture by John Sturrock

Beyond those activities, the main issue addresses the impact of erosion of everyday freedoms of children in their play, restricted and controlled also in times of non-pandemic. “Is it right that we’re packing our kids into small spaces and letting cars all over our streets? The pandemic has allowed these conversations to be had, which otherwise might be seen to be too radical.”, the author is citing a parent governer and public health researcher in London.

For me these community activities are in the first line a remarkable example of empowerment in action. But rethinking what we take for granted seems even more important. A crucial first step is a shift in attitude as to the current model of ownership of public space.

Story shared by Monika Bobzien, Germany.

Read more about the story here or contact at monika.bobzien@arcormail.de

Captain Tom’, 99, raises more than $31 million for UK carers

Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old British war veteran did what he could do to raise money for health care service. Using a walking frame, the world war two veteran walked 100 laps of his garden. His goal was to complete the laps before his 100th birthday.

He raised $31.3 million for the healthcare service. Old age is no barrier to responding to the needs of the community.

Picture retrieved from RFEA

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA, based on a story originally collected by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Ball State University, Indiana, USA.

More info here or at msergon@my.nl.edu

A virtual arts festival to raise the spirits of people in a neighbourhood

In our neighbourhood, a place called Chorlton, in Manchester, UK, we (a group of residents, chaired by me a community psychologist) organise a community arts festival every year. This year, after planning and scheduling over 200 artists to engage in creative activities across 60 community places, we had to cancel. Then a local resident came along and offered to curate a digital or virtual festival. This went ahead in October. We worked with 20 of the original artists to prepare virtual galleries, and virtual streets of Chorlton, learning as we went, and opening the festival to all.

Over a 3 day period, residents visited galleries, specially created ‘rooms (one about art-from-rubbish in a rubbish bin!), listened to virtuoso performances and bands on a large screen in a festival field where they could also chat with each other, played games in the virtual streets – and all of this virtual – and free! There were activities for all ages and embraced many different cultures.

Whilst the festival had no barriers to inclusion, of course digital capability was an issue – Like everything else in this COVID year, digital inclusion enabled participation but exclusion did the opposite. If people could not attend uring the 3 day festival, they could access the virtual worlds afterwards. As follow up activities the virtual festival field and local streets were transformed for Halloween. In recognition that not only was digital exclusion an issue, but navigating the virtual worlds was challenging for anyone over the age of 25, we have mounted some learning opportunities in collaboration with a local college.

Story and pictures shared by Carolyn Kagan, United Kingdom.

For more info here or please contact at cmkagan@gmail.com

Mutual aid, climate action

Every resident in three abutting streets were connected via whatsApp, facebook or by door knocking. They kept in contact sharing things, ideas and experiences throughout the lockdown. One of the things that everyone agreed on, was the glory of the silence, the lack of traffic the breathable air (in the City), and the opportunities to discover what neighbours were interested in – who played the ukelele, who made jam, who ran a plant swop, who could sew, who could sing, who had a saw and who liked to run. Over time the joys of walking and cycling became clear.

Picture by I love Manchester

We held some Zoom meetings and conducted a survey to be sure of the interest in traffic reduction, and made an application to the Government to close the group of streets to vehicular traffic. Even if this is unsuccessful, the shared interest in traffic reduction that has arisen from the pandemic, is a good foundation for further resident-led climate action.

Neighbours knew who did not have (or use) internet – lesson – get to know your neighbours.
Given a reason to connect, people enjoyed the connections – lesson – find a common shared purpose.
Things (like climate action) do not happen without leadership – lesson – lead: and consider why not you?

Story shared by Carolyn Kagan, United Kingdom

For more info please contact at: cmkagan@gmail.com

Village response to supporting elderly or vulnerable people

Our village’s ladies social group (on Whats app) discussed soon after lockdown, what could we do for local residents. It was agreed that we could together, do some practical tasks such as shopping, dog walking or phone calls to help combat isolation. One person volunteered to advertise their home phone number, a “flyer” was produced that offered all kinds of practical and emotional help to residents and to ring the main volunteer’s number, who would then arrange others to undertake support tasks. The leaflet was distributed to every household in the village by a number of volunteers.

Illustration by Nextdoor

Leaflet given out to every household. A number of people requested help with shopping for essential items and were allocated a volunteer.

It was quick and easy to do. Sharing tasks meant no one person was trying to do everything. People felt support was there (even if they didn’t need it).
It linked to Nextdoor ap which was used throughout UK.

Story shared by Cath Howard, United Kingdom.

For more info please contact at cath.papcastle@gmail.com

Girls spread hope to those in need

Girls Gang, a community action group for teenage girls in a disadvantaged community produced positive posters to be included in food packages being sent to families experiencing poverty and hardship during lockdown. The group wanted to do something to help the community but felt limited in ways they could enact their citizenship during lockdown. Messages in the posters included words of hope, tips for coping with lockdown and also telling residents that they were not alone.

Picture by West Cumbria Community Action Trust

Recipients of the care packages told the coordinators that the posters helped to lift spirits at times when anxieties were high. It also provided the girls with an opportunity to enact their civic citizenship under the civic restrictions imposed under lockdown.

Class based inequalities are being exacerbated during the lockdown but working class and poor communities are finding creative ways to support one another.

Story shared by Suzanne Wilson, United Kingdom.

More info here or at swilson21@uclan.uk

Street art keeps spirits up and connects during lockdown

One resident bought some chalk for his children to use and started writing messages when it was a birthday or an anniversary; these messages of congratulations and solidarity can be seen from our second story windows.

Children from the area started adding portraits so that it looks like they are all holding hands, something that they cannot not do during lockdown. The idea was first started by children but soon it became a focus of the street, with every resident (including pets) being included in this collective portrait.

Picture by News and Star

The street art was a welcome distraction during these unsettling times, which resulted in increased well-being and community identity on our street.

Creative means of connecting people can emerge when we are separated. Initiatives for children can have spill over effects to grown ups!

Shared by Suzanne Wilson, from the United Kingdom.

More info here or at swilson21@uclan.uk