I don’t suppose many of you will have been that preoccupied with what’s happened to my irregular blog posts about local planning applications and local elections. However, an explanation is due, and it’s that I’ve been devoting my spare time in the last month to being part of the Queen Edith’s Community Forum team. This group of volunteers has stepped up magnificently from its normal activities of holding neighbourhood events and producing the weekly What’s On email and the quarterly Queen Edith’s magazine. It’s now taking the lead in this area co-ordinating help for vulnerable and isolating residents, and is proving to be a lifeline for many. In addition, our emailed Daily News is now reaching around 1,000 local homes and has been acknowledged by a couple of local businesses as having been a huge help in keeping them open. Add your name to the circulation here.
Once this public health crisis is over, much will be written about how communities responded. In Cambridge, hamstrung by our uniquely byzantine arrangements of local governance, the councils seemed to acknowledge early on that they would not be able to organise quickly enough to provide much beyond the necessary scaling up of their essential services. Instead, they decided to encourage and co-ordinate residents’ initiatives. This is not a criticism of that approach (although its implementation could have been better), but it’s interesting how the best way to get things done in an emergency seems to be going straight to the grassroots level.
Different groups sprang up in different parts of the city, some led by existing residents associations, some by church organisations, some by local councillors and others by new groups. Here, we were lucky to have the Queen Edith’s Community Forum already in place, led by its determined and indefatigable chair Sam Davies, as well as two concerned and enthusiastic Anglican parish churches led by Revd. Steven Rothwell and Revd. James Shakespeare. A small team launched an initiative called ‘Happy To Help’, the first of its kind in the city, which leafletted the entire ward within a week, encouraging residents to look after their neighbours. It has since developed a telephone-based system where the isolated and vulnerable can call on one of over 150 local volunteers to help with shopping, collecting prescriptions, dog walking and the like. This may be important in the next few weeks when existing neighbourly help arrangements become harder to maintain.
Nobody should underestimate the effort required to set this up, but when we look back, we know it will have been worth it. In the meantime, I’d like to thank Sam, Steve, James, Anne, Al, Rebecca, Chloe, Risa, Steph, Nicki, Sean, Fiona, Claire and the rest of our wonderful team of people who have offered their time in service of the neighbourhood.
- Not getting the daily news email? Add your name to the list here.
- Find out how to ask for help from our volunteers here.
- Cambridge City Council coronavirus updates and information can be found here.
- Latest video from Sam Davies.