Clubs around the country have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Unable to meet regularly due to social distancing restrictions, many have found ways to adapt, mainly through online technology. As these groups help make up the social fabric of our society, we had a look at how organisations in the local Ruislip area have been dealing with lockdown and how their members have been affected.
Effects of Lockdown
Some clubs have been able to stay open despite lockdown restrictions, garden centres have been deemed essential by the Government and can operate at a reduced capacity.
Sue Alexander from the Eastcote Horticultural Society said: “When garden centres were allowed to re-open last summer, we setup a “Pre-order and Collect” process…If any member wasn’t able to come to the [trading] Hut we arranged to deliver.”
Unfortunately for other groups, indoor meetings in close quarters mean they have had to shutter their doors until lockdown lifts completely in mid-June.
Bobby Jenkins, Chair of the Eastcote Art Society, said: “Due to the pandemic we haven’t been able to meet for a year now. As we meet in Eastcote Community Centre, we are not allowed to use the centre until the Council decides to open it again.”
The Zoom Boom—Keeping Connected
Keeping connected is important for our social and mental health. Thanks to platforms like Zoom and Teams, the online workday, school day or even casual drink with friends have become commonplace. Most clubs have used this technology to keep their members connected and to continue some activities.
Members of the Ruislip Operatic Society were forced to cancel their rehearsals and performances as venues closed and social distancing measures came into effect. However, they were able to use Zoom to create a “Christmas Medley.” Members performed their parts at home and then blended them together online.
Jackie Quaif, publicity manager for the Operatic Society, said: “We have continued our social events using Zoom. Being able to meet virtually has been a lifeline for many members and some would say they have kept us sane.”
While unable to meet, members of the Ruislip Running Club have used an app called Strava to continue to log the details of their runs and have used WhatsApp and Facebook to stay connected.
Jackie Stanley, a member of the running club, stated: “Social media has facilitated a sense of connection and support within the group, and reduced feelings of isolation…[we] maintained a sense of belonging, through bonding and building connections virtually.”
Similarly, the Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote Local Historical Society has been unable to meet since March 2020. They have found success using Zoom to host their guest speakers online.
Susan Toms, Secretary for the Historical Society, claimed: “We were lucky that most of our speakers who had been booked already pre-pandemic were willing and able to give their talks via Zoom.”
Unfortunately, lack of Wi-Fi or a computer means that meeting online does not work for everyone. It is particularly difficult for the elderly and the disadvantaged.
Bobby Jenkins, from the Eastcote Art Society, said: “Most of our members are senior citizens and either do not have a computer or are not able to access Zoom so we have not run any online meetings.
All our exhibitions were cancelled last year so I’m hoping the members have kept painting as I have.”
An End in Sight
When the first lockdown came into effect in March 2020, no one expected that, a year later, the UK would be in its third lockdown, racing to vaccinate the population. The government, however, has begun to slowly lift coronavirus restrictions.
Members of the Ruislip Operatic Society have begun thinking about new performances and Jackie Quaif stated: “Everyone is looking forward to returning to rehearsals when we can. We are beginning to plan for rehearsal and will start doing them online for some principal cast members.”
Although Eastcote Horticultural society has been able to keep its trade hub open, they were excited to be able to have members of the community visit at their leisure.
Sue Alexander said: “There will be no restriction on the number of people onsite, which creates more of a community feel and a buzz.”
Jackie Stanley, from the Ruislip Running Club, said: “This [the pandemic], I feel, has made the club stronger, as we have shared this unique experience of our lives. The club has a strong sense of identity and positivity and is excited to embark on a fresh new beginning.”
The Government is planning to lift all restrictions on meetings by June 21.
Most clubs have adapted to life under lockdown. They have continued to provide much needed social interaction for their members, who have worked hard to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Even so, everyone is looking forward to the day when they can enjoy their favourite groups in person and without worry.