The week before lockdown in the UK began was one of exponential development and absolute uncertainty. During that week, I noticed the unique responses my local community began to make to COVID-19. I tried to emulate these neighbourly acts within my imagery, respecting social distancing whilst attempting to create an almost tangible feeling of positivity.
The cafes and restaurants had already been advised by the government to operate solely as takeout and with the impending risk of closure, adaption came quickly. The owner (Tash) of cafe Mae + Harvey, made the decision to sell all of their stock to customers; items such as toilet roll, pasta and eggs that had become all but impossible to buy in the local supermarkets were now readily available to the community.
St Paul’s Old Ford church takes food donations throughout the week to be transported over the weekend to Bow food bank. Rev April Keech runs a volunteer network with a unique operating system. She assigns a code word to both the volunteer and the vulnerable person they’re visiting; they then recite this to one another upon arrival. This allows reassurance for those most at risk as the UK has sadly seen increases in door to door fraudulent acts. Helping Rev James and Tracey transport the donations to the food bank was a curious experience of its own, with an ‘any means necessary’ approach to move the food through Bow using a pram and cart; though this would be a short lived experience. Following this weekend came the announcement the nation would be going into lock down and all places of worship were to cease operating indefinitely.
Other small businesses have adapted to allow some form of continued operation during lock down, whilst still trying to benefit the local community. Zoes Ghana Kitchen in Hackney Wick began raising funds to keep her kitchen open whilst offering free hot meals to the elderly, the vulnerable and the NHS throughout this period. Barge East who also had to close their doors, offer a service delivering food boxes to locals at cost price. Using their restaurant suppliers to source fresh fruit, veg, dairy and meat. What is great to see though is the community coming together to support local business in these testing times, as they have flocked to donate, purchasing the food boxes and neighbours offering to deliver the warm meals from Zoe’s kitchen.
The community support for one another is not just exclusive to my local area but all over the UK; mutual aid groups appeared everywhere in the early stages of the pandemic. They offer a broad spectrum of advice, help and people to talk to during the isolation period. There’s a great sense of camaraderie within the groups, I began tracking these kinds acts and connecting the dots of people needing help to those who had had help to offer.