"ISN’T it amazing how just 30 minutes chatting to other people can brighten up your day.”
My neighbour and friend Betty made the comment as we walked home from a community gathering in our local village hall.
A plant sale to raise funds for the village’s scented garden, there was also tea and cake and a raffle. A simple affair, but thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. I met some really interesting people, including a former Lord Mayor.
People of all ages sat and chatted and, as one person commented, there wasn’t a mobile phone in sight.
Whether it’s a street party, a fete or a coffee morning, community events are uplifting occasions. They give you chance to get to know people who live in your neighbourhood, who you would otherwise never meet.
This month supermarket chain Morrisons gave thousands of customers a free freshly baked hot cross bun - dubbed The Giving Bun - for them to pass on to a neighbour or loved one in an act of Easter kindness.
The community initiative was launched to bring people together after research commissioned by the supermarket chain revealed that 54 per cent of people say life is too busy to get to know their neighbours. Seven out of ten Britons admitted never speaking to those living around them, and 86 per cent say they have no idea who lives on their street.
People said that life pressures such as work and family were stopping them getting to know the people living in their community. The study found that people today have less time for each other compared with previous years, with 67 per cent saying they do not feel as involved in their local community in comparison to previous generations.
This is precisely why local gatherings such as the one I attended are important.
Uplifting: a community event at Earswick village hall
When I was growing up I could name on one hand the number of homes in our village where I did not know the names of the occupants.
As a family, we mixed with just about everyone. My dad played village cricket and I often helped my mum and other cricketers’ wives to make teas. Dad also walked around the village every lunchtime, as he still does, chatting to people. My mum was a WI member and helped at the local old people’s club, my siblings and I played tennis and all my family were involved in the annual carnival.
I am sad to say that, due to the pressures highlighted in Morrisons’ research, I don’t do as much as I would like in my own village, but I try to support events whenever I can. Through this, playing tennis locally, and walking, I know virtually all the people living in my street and many others in surrounding homes. It is a comfort to know so many people, some of whom have helped us out in various crises over the years.
A survey last year by the food company Bisto and City University of London produced similar findings to the Morrisons’ study. York was revealed as the UK city with the best community spirit - and as a long-time resident I would not disagree - while Wolverhampton was worst.
In an attempt to bring back community spirit Bisto launched ‘Open Door Sunday’, a campaign to encourage neighbours to invite each other round to enjoy a roast together.
I am also going to attempt to attend more community occasions. You never know who you are going to bump into or what you could learn. I hadn’t a clue what to write about for this column before sitting down for tea in the village hall. “Events like this bring people out and get them talking face to face - why don’t you write about it?” a neighbour suggested.