“Is community family?” is a big question. With people staying in and self isolating there’s a lot of questions regarding friends, family and the local community.
Here in Herefordshire, while the County is quite rural, how many people have been in isolation? I guess if you are in a town then you probably have been isolating. But if you are on a farm or out in the countryside have you even had to isolate?
Myself, living on a working Livestock farm plus also being a keyworker, very little changed for me when the pandemic started. On the farm we only ever see other farmers or the neighbours (the nearest ones being a few miles away). So other than asking if anyone needs anything from town when you do bump into anyone, nothing much has changed.
But is community family? The simple answer is that it can be. Community is a big thing in the countryside, as you only ever see neighbouring farmers. Being isolated means that the local community tends to help each other out a lot more, as there is no one else, and any other help is a long way off. This does go a long way to explaining why people who live in rural areas can be a bit stand offish. When anyone new or an ‘outsider’ comes into a rural ‘family' or tight knit community that have known and helped each other through good times, bad times and emergencies it can be daunting.
But in these unusual times, community has become family with people getting to know their neighbours when perhaps before they didn’t even see their neighbours.
So where am I going with this? The word community can mean a lot. Community Hall, community space, community activities...
As we come out of lockdown how many community groups are coming back? How many are still able to come back? The very definition of a community group is not profit making, being run for the community, and sometimes being at the heart of a community. People giving up their time to run a club doing what they love, such as amateur dramatics, brownies, cubs, line dancing and martial arts.
Most community groups do grow into groups of friends and sometimes become more like family. We should never underestimate how much a community group can mean to someone. If you have been isolating or even isolated in a rural setting, then community groups can be a lifeline for human contact. So as community, village, parish and memorial halls start to reopen across the county, don’t forget to continue to support your local community groups. I know there’s a few clubs that won’t be back, having been unable to survive financially during the recent lockdown.
I run Festival Martial Arts at Clehonger village hall, which is a community martial arts club. Like many other clubs we still have licences and insurances to pay even when the club isn’t running classes, plus, when we do restart classes it will take up more funds (which we don’t have) for things like a thermometer plus sanitiser , etc. Being a rural community club everyone (even the hall hirers) deal in cash, but now we will have to get a card reader. So please support your local groups as it’s taking a huge effort for all groups to reopen. And many of the people who run the groups will have to reach into their own pockets to do so, but only because they love what they do.
The importance of community groups also comes to the fore talking about mental wellbeing. Getting out and socialising helps keep everyone balanced and positive.
With all this in mind Festival Martial Arts will be back up and running when the schools go back in September. We will be running a reduced number of classes on a Thursday evening only to begin with as we don’t know at this point how many students will be coming back after the lockdown.
So if you would like to come train with us in Clehonger village hall from Thursday 10th July please pre book via our website as, due to restrictions, we are limited on numbers we are allowed in the village hall.
If martial arts is your thing, or you fancy giving it a try, we have just the prize for you – a month’s training for one family at Festival Martial Arts! Check out the competition details here.
Festival Martial Arts - Mat Thornhill
Mat Thornhill was born in London to Scottish and Armenian parents. He has travelled most of Europe eastern and western, working in telecoms, with the British army and also as a journalist and award winning chef. These days he is now married, lives on a working Livestock farm, works in security and is a martial arts instructor.