At the Young Foundation, our mission is to develop better connected and more sustainable communities across the UK. One of the main ways in which we achieve this is by building a shared body of evidence, tools and insight about how communities are taking action on the issues that affect them.
In recent months, many communities in the UK and across the world have been experiencing changes and challenges as a result of COVID-19.
In such uncertain times, it can feel overwhelming and difficult to see the light. At the Young Foundation, we have worked on many challenging issues faced by society; from youth homelessness, to housing and public health inequalities and we always approach these issues by focusing on the strengths of the people and places addressing them. The COVID-19 crisis has proven no different, with an array of incredible community-led responses emerging across the country, which the Young Foundation will be exploring as part of our Community, Covid & You research project over the coming months. The project is open to all to share their experiences of the pandemic and how their community is responding.
Through our work, we are already seeing incredible energy and innovative approaches from people and communities seeking to address the multiple impacts of COVID-19. As part of Tower Hamlets Communities Driving Change, residents are rallying together over WhatsApp to coordinate support across their neighbourhoods – organising food packages and signposting people to services which can offer further support. Through the GLA Civic Futures programme, community leaders across London are taking action; including a foodbank which takes away the usual barriers to access (such as vouchers) and the development of a Coronavirus Tech Handbook – a crowd-sourced library of resources and responses to the pandemic.
In other parts of London, and further afield, we are also seeing action in a variety of forms, mostly online:
- Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK: a group of volunteers supporting local community groups organising mutual aid throughout the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK. They also created the Guide for Supporting Migrants During Coronavirus.
- Nunhead Knocks: a community-based, all-volunteer organisation working around Peckham, London to connect people with the assistance they need due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Care for Your Corona Virus Anxiety: offering resources for anxiety and your mental health in a global climate of uncertainty.
- The Social Distancing Festival: a site for celebrating art from all over the world, showcasing amazing talent, and coming together as a community at a time when we need it more than ever.
- Quarantainment List: a curated and crowdsourced list of ideas to help entertain and educate our families and ourselves whilst we are socially distancing.
The list is endless and speaks volumes about the power of communities and what we as a nation can learn from each other in times of uncertainty.
This blog is the first in a four part series, featuring examples of incredible community responses to COVID-19, focusing on three ways in which community is defined and experienced – identity, faith and place.
Communities of Identity – The Corona Cabaret, online
Identity can come in many different forms; people may identify around factors such as their race, gender, sexuality, age, religion, interest, or locality. The LGBTQI+ community is one characterised by creativity and unity in the face of struggle. One network in particular, with over 1000 members worldwide – from London to Berlin, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv and beyond – have created “the first online global cabaret” in the wake of COVID-19.
Cabaret performer Dan Glass explained to the Guardian;
“None of us have ever dealt with a situation as seismic as this. That’s how you release the stress of trauma, by having a creative outlet. Art, and music, writing has always been a fundamental way people have liberated themselves when in a cage.”
Hear more from Dan about how he and his community are responding to the crisis; “this is what we have to recognise when it comes to the Corona epidemic, that people’s lives will be saved by communities coming together” in Part 2 of this blog series.
Communities of Faith: St. Mary the Virgin Church – Witney, Oxfordshire
A faith community is a group of people who share a particular set of religious beliefs. The UK is comprised of a dynamic mix of faith communities with millions of people identifying as religious, many of whom commune around physical places of worship – such as the 454 synagogues, 1750 mosques and 16,000 churches across the country. As these spiritual places close their doors during the COVID-19 crisis, many are adapting to continue to serve the needs of their communities.
One church in particular has shifted everything online, from holding its services over Zoom and YouTube to doing community outreach over the phone; and in doing so, finding new ways of experiencing community. Lay Minister, Richard Young explains;
“For me that’s been the surprise, that rather than these occasional, fixed Sunday meetings with individuals you now have impromptu discussions online and you’re getting to know people better… We’ve found our online services to be really popular and have observed a larger congregation than normal! The virtual community has been a godsend. And a lifesaver”.
Join Part 3 of this blog series to hear more from Richard about how he and the congregation at St. Mary’s Church in Witney, Oxfordshire are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Communities of Place – Latin Village/Pueblito Paisa, London
A community of place binds people together because of where they reside, work, visit or spend a large amount of their time. It is perhaps the main type of community the Young Foundation focuses on through our work.
Indoor and street markets offer a particularly interesting example of place-based communities, having existed for centuries despite the rapid changes of the places within which they exist. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has seen markets temporarily close across the country, including a 900-year old market in Shropshire, Moor Market in Sheffield, and market stalls across Wigan. In London, the UK’s viral-epicentre, COVID-19 has had devastating impacts to the livelihoods, mental health and physical wellbeing of traders at one market in particular – Seven Sisters Market (Latin Village/Pueblito Paisa) in Tottenham. Like the church and LGBTQI+ network, the traders here are turning to online means to connect and organise.
Mirca Morera, Chair of the Save the Latin Village campaign, which fights to raise awareness of human rights violations of the BAME and Latinx community who make up the market and to protect the space from regeneration projects, explains;
“As a campaign we have always promoted solidarity with other communities, particularly in times of crisis…COVID-19 has transformed the way we commune, and in our case, it has improved unity as members support one another during a critical time”.
Join Mirca, and market trader and activist Vicky Alvarez in Part 4 of this blog series where they will be discussing how traders at Seven Sisters Market and the Save the Latin Village campaign are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Join us next Wednesday for Part 2!
To take part in our Community, Covid & You research project, click here.
You can find out more about any of the initiatives featured in this blog by following the series or by contacting Isabel.firstname.lastname@example.org