Our Engagement Producer, Matthew Jewson, has been taking a look at some of the wonderful charitable activities taking place in and around Colchester during these difficult times.
“As life continues in lockdown, many charities, voluntary groups and generally lovely people have been providing wonderful services of support during the COVID-19 crisis. Colchester has so many things to be proud of, but one thing in particular I’ve seen shining through over the past weeks is a wonderful sense of togetherness and camaraderie within our town. Whether it’s organising your own neighbourhood street party (from your doorsteps) or cutting your hair in bizarre ways for charity, these acts of kindness and support are pinnacle for instilling hope and sustaining a healthy mindset during such challenging times.
Colchester Borough Council recently published their COVID19 Community Response Pack, combining key resources, contacts and information in for those in the Colchester area in one useful document. This pack also highlights some of the local charities and initiatives that are working hard to support our community during lockdown.
It’s the simple acts that are making a world of difference to people in these unprecedented times and I wanted to celebrate just a few groups and individuals, some of whom are mentioned in the pack, and some who aren’t, who I have noticed going that extra mile in providing incredible and often creative ways of support.
Baking for NHS
Who’d have thought that The Great British Bake Off would prove as helpful as it has over the last few weeks and months? The country has taken to baking during lockdown, with people brushing off their dusty aprons and getting stuck into old recipe books. I’m proud to announce I’ve now officially mastered the baking of banana bread – Mr Paul Hollywood, I’m waiting for my handshake!…maybe not… – but food brings us together, is a wonderful activity for all ages to join in and has been found to have therapeutic value. Therapeutic both whilst making and eating, I’m sure.
One particular person who far surpasses my basic baking skills is Colchester resident, Debra Hornigold. Since Lockdown Debra has been showcasing her talents by creating baked goodies for NHS & Key workers. The demand has been so huge she’s been receiving kind donations from local village supporters and local shops for her to meet the increasing popularity of her delicious treats.
I caught up with Debra about her incredible achievement and she said, “To be honest, this was supposed to be my way of saying a thank you to all the front line workers. I am sitting at home, safely, and felt it was just something small I could do to show how much I appreciate their continued dedication to their job. I still feel that they deserve everything I can do to make their day a little brighter so until this is all over, I shall keep baking!”
She now bakes every week and sends out 16 or more boxes with around 20/30 different portions of cakes inside!
She’s distributed to Colchester & Ipswich Hospital across various departments including ICU and physiotherapy units. Oaks Hospital and Mental Health units, Carers and care homes, Funeral directors, Vets, Great Horkesley school, Postmen, Butchers, Nayland Surgery Hospice, ambulance paramedics and many more! Thank you, Debra!
Colchester Foodbank have been welcoming volunteers to provide support for packing and distributing food packages to homes in need. This fantastic organisation continues to work across our whole community, and are calling out for further support.
Currently 42 people have set up their own fundraising campaigns through the Colchester Foodbank Facebook page and many people are taking food collections into their own hands by collecting much needed supplies from friends, family and neighbours before taking them to the Foodbanks central hub at The Moorside. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/FoodBankColchester/
Staying active and healthy is a vital part of our mental and physical wellbeing in these difficult times. What’s usually difficult, and I can personally attest to this, is finding a routine in exercise and finding something that suits your capabilities.
Active Essex have put together a full schedule of physical activities for all ages and capabilities. What they’ve done so well is provide a huge scope of ‘At Home’ activities from PE on Monday with Hayley to Karate with Richard on a Saturday, there is at least one physical activity for everyone.
Not only have they put together a full schedule of activities for every day of the week but they’ve also put together a YouTube channel, providing a range of accessible pre-recorded exercise videos.
United In Kind
United In Kind is a community social movement built on tackling loneliness and isolation through acts of kindness. More so than ever, United In Kind are teaming up with local charities and voluntary groups by creating an online community group to share wonderful stories through their social media platforms and website.
Within their work United In Kind focus on three key aims which are; to make sure that everyone feels part of a community, inspire people to connect in new ways, and support and share our appreciation for workers in critical roles.
United In Kind are continuously looking for supporters to get involved, they even have designated district coaches to guide you through becoming a Community Champion. Find out more here https://www.unitedinkind.org or contact email@example.com for more information.
And Finally, I wanted to take a few moments to talk about what we are doing to support our local creatives and community.
Since lockdown began, we have been working hard to set-up and deliver an extensive programme of work, free of charge for our audience under the Mercury Online banner.
Over the past 5 weeks, we have facilitated an extensive range of activities from specialist masterclasses in directing, writing and choreography to a weekly story time session with panto favourite Dale Superville via our Facebook page. However, there are two events, during this period that have stood out to me, especially when I think about how we as a theatre have been working to bring people together during these strange times.
A few weeks ago, we premiered our 2019 pantomime ‘Cinderella’ on YouTube for our audiences to enjoy whilst stuck at home. On the day of release, the recording had approximately, 2,500 households tune in to watch. Staggeringly, the week following the release date saw a further 58,000 households tune in to watch the show. It might just be me, but I think that is incredible and I only hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.
The second event that has really struck me over the lockdown period is our Sing-along sessions. Each week, incredible actor-musician Craig Mather hosts a live session with up to 95 household, who all join together in song. Not only are these events emotional to just watch, but the added dancing in the living rooms and themed fancy dress makes it truly something to behold. Last week, the sessions caught the eye of celebrity Matt Lucas who asked if he could join the session. Of course, we said yes and may have cheekily asked him to sing ‘Thank you Baked Potato’, his newly released song in support of the NHS and front line workers. Needless to say, he was delighted to share, and I would recommend heading to our Facebook page here to see the video of him signing during the session.
Further information about all Mercury Online activities can be found on our website: www.mercurytheatre.co.uk
Like I said it’s the little things that make a world of difference and it’s simple acts like these and the countless others that, not just the Colchester Community, but the entire world community, are doing which will help build morale and bring people together in the these toughest of circumstances.”