Recapturing community spirit in the long-term - guest blog by Martin Graham
‘As One’ encourages more of a sense of connection, kindness, friendliness and belonging between people who live in the same street. It aims to be a huge boost for local communities.
As part of Walsall’s ‘As One’ campaign, the message, ‘Fill your street with friendliness’, launched on the 14th February 2022 (Valentine's Day). This will soon be displayed on large banners across the borough. From the spring, dozens of local As One events will be put on to help the message take root in each locality. Faith groups, places of worship, community centres and Walsall for All partners will be involved.
Founder of As One and Street Associations Martin Graham, shares a few words below, reflecting on the community spirit from the pandemic and how we can unite again with the same approach.
Two years ago, we – along with the whole world – were hit by a pandemic, the like of which we have not experienced in our lifetimes. We responded with a level of fear – yes – but also with a determination to help those who needed it and to be there for one another – briefly to become family, as it were – with those who shared the same street. WhatsApp groups flourished and many of us together stood on our doorsteps and poured out our thanks to the NHS for playing its crucial part with such courage and devotion.
Now, as we slowly emerge from COVID, there is ‘blowing in the wind’ a shared memory of how, briefly, we were one, how we were part of the same story and therefore somehow part of each other.
But in that memory lies a challenge. Will we let the advance we saw – for it was a huge advance for our shared humanity – will we let it fall away, like autumn leaves that have had their day? Or will we conclude that there is something which we rediscovered that is too good – too important – to let slip silently away?
If so, it will require ordinary people like you and me to say, “We must build on the concern, the love, the new connections, the spirit of oneness that was, and is, of such value”. That is the challenge. My request, my urging, is that today we dedicate ourselves afresh to building a new unity, street-by-street; and make that oneness part of the inheritance we pass on to the next generation. We can do this!