As retailers begin to reopen and queues of shoppers form once again around the country, this week marks the beginning of the end of England’s economic lockdown. The past three months have proved extremely difficult for businesses across the UK, with a quarter of all companies shutting down temporarily and fears that the economic consequences of the pandemic will last far into the future. The human and social cost of the lockdown has also been immense, with an unprecedented number of people out of work and social distancing measures causing widespread isolation.
As Britain adjusted to the new normal, a number of community-based support networks formed in Bristol to help keep businesses afloat, care for the city’s vulnerable residents and rise to the new and unique challenges that the virus has presented. During what felt like three months of constant bad news, these groups have created heartwarming and inspiring stories of Bristolians looking out for each other in a time of crisis. In this blog we will look at some of these stories, and showcase three of the projects that have played an important role in Bristol’s coronavirus community.
Formed on day 2 of the lockdown, The Lockdown Economy is a directory of local independent businesses. The directory is a great place to find food, drinks, supplies and classes while supporting the local economy. It contains up-to-date delivery information for different businesses, and if you sign up as a member, you can get “exclusive Lockdown discounts from Bristol indies”. Among the countless independent traders, the directory features many Bristol Pound members, including Little Roar Cakes, Eclectic Gift Shop and Southville Deli. The scheme’s success has inspired the formation of other “Lockdown Economies” in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.
Meanwhile, in South Bristol, the BS3 Community Covid-19 Response was set up in order to provide support for individuals struggling during the pandemic. The grassroots organisation was formed as a way to share ideas about how to help out, and to coordinate the community’s response. As well as providing important resources and information, the mutual-aid scheme has been helping the area’s residents in a variety of ways: volunteers offer to pick up prescriptions and run errands for vulnerable people, and the BS3 Community Larder provides food for those in need. Becky Lewis-Jones, who set up the group, said “I think we are going to come out of this with a very different community, having built life-long ties.”
Responding to the challenges facing the food production industry, several independent restaurants and local farms have come together to “ensure that the city of Bristol stays fed during the Covid-19 crisis”. Creating temporary kitchens in closed-down restaurants, the Bristol Food Union has been supporting Caring in Bristol to provide food for 500 homeless people a day. It has also been providing weekly food provisions for 100 vulnerable people, and hot meals for essential workers and frontline staff. On top of all this, the group has raised over £150,000 for their Feed the Frontline campaign, as well as the Bristol Food Fund, which aims to “help the industry to get back on its feet once this crisis has passed.”
These innovative groups and projects demonstrate the compassion and creativity of Bristol’s community. Although the lockdown is slowly coming to an end, the need for this cooperation is just as vital as ever; bleak economic forecasts predict that the impact of Covid-19 on our lives is far from over. As Britain reopens, can the community networks that have formed continue to protect the vulnerable? Could the lessons learned during lockdown help us to create a fairer, more community-minded society?