Organisations from across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – including BCP Council, faith groups, schools and businesses – are joining forces to help residents renew their sense of belonging, support and friendliness, which they experienced during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
As part of the BCP council area’s ‘As One’ campaign, the message ‘Fill your street with friendliness’ will be displayed from Valentine’s Day onwards, on hundreds of large banners across the borough. From the spring, dozens of local As One events will be held to help the message take root in each locality.
The idea is to encourage a sense of connection, kindness, friendliness and belonging between people who live on the same street – and aims to be a huge boost for elderly people, young families, single people and essentially everyone!
Dozens of churches and other faith groups, community centres and other BCP area partners are preparing to host ‘As One’ Tea Party events, each for their own neighbourhood. There, residents from each local street will be introduced to the idea of starting a Street Association for their own street, with the aim of keeping the friendliness going long after the pandemic has ended.
In many local areas, an As One memorial service will also be held, ahead of the tea party, to remember the anxiety, isolation, loss and bereavement experienced by so many over the last two years – and to help bring a measure of peace and ‘closure’. The subsequent tea party then seeks to focus on the key ‘positive’ of the pandemic: the burst of community spirit – and help it flourish for the long term.
The two-metre banner, introducing a design which is being picked up in other parts of the UK, focuses its encouragement on ‘your street’ – as Street Associations led by local residents have been shown over 10 years to be a popular way of getting people together. They encourage residents to organise events like a children’s party, a barbecue, quiz night or a trip away – just for one’s own street.
With an agenda of ‘friendship, fun, belonging, a helping hand’, the prize is that everyone gradually gets to know everyone, friendliness is released, isolation is addressed, fun is had and practical help flows to residents who may need it. Community events are anticipated to take place from the spring, with the Platinum Jubilee as a key incentive to get neighbourly communication going in time. The strap-line for Street Associations is ‘Love my street’, making a Valentine’s Day launch most appropriate!
Residents are encouraged to find out more about starting a Street Association where they live – see as-one.uk/bcp for more details of how to get it going. There is also an invitation to help spread the As One vision on social media:
Councillor Jane Kelly, Lead Member for Communities, BCP Council, says: “I fully support the As One initiative. BCP Council has an ambition to create vibrant communities where everyone plays an active role and feels a sense of pride where they live, and As One really supports that.
“We have seen a growth of friendships, mutual support, and a sense of community in individual community areas during lockdown and in responding to the pandemic, and As One across the BCP Council area will ensure that we maintain that as we come out of COVID-19 restrictions and move ‘back to normal’. I would encourage every resident across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to find out more about Street Associations, and, with others in their road, to be involved in this simple way of bringing people together at the most local of levels.”
The Rt Revd Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne and acting Bishop of Salisbury, says, “In these days of fruitful partnerships between churches and civic authorities, I was delighted when the diocesan Aldhelm Fund awarded a grant of £5000 to the As One initiative for the BCP area.
“As Christians, we obviously give a high priority to loving our neighbours, and an increase in the number of Street Associations can only lead to real friendships and a growing sense of community at street level. The prospect of neighbours, of all faiths and none, becoming friends in the road where they live can lead to all sorts of transformative action.”
As One BCP is part of pioneering As One UK, along with Worcestershire, Birmingham and Dudley in the first ‘wave’ – with other towns, cities and counties preparing to take part. It draws from Birmingham’s successful 2018-20 ‘Permission to Smile’ campaign.
Contacts: Julie Munson, for BCP Council, firstname.lastname@example.org; Paul Hockley, BCP churches-based local coordinator, email@example.com, 01202 730626; Martin Graham, As One UK firstname.lastname@example.org, 07931 282716.