As lockdown restrictions are eased, Norwich residents are being encouraged to share their digital skills and knowledge with their neighbours who need support, through a month-long campaign by the Fine City Neighbours project.
The campaign, which takes place throughout the month of May, asks Norwich residents who have digital skills and resources that they can share to display a poster in their window, which lets their neighbours know that someone is there to help, if they need it. The poster can be downloaded for free from the Fine City Neighbours website, while Volunteers from GoodGym Norwich will safely deliver posters to a number of neighbourhoods in the city.
The poster aims to inspire Norwich neighbours to find ways to support one another, over the phone or over the fence, whether that is by talking someone through the process of listening to a podcast, making a video call, or joining their regular coffee morning which has moved online during the pandemic.
Fine City Neighbours is a project which celebrates the spirit of neighbourliness that has supported residents and kept our collective spirits up, through the national lockdowns over the last year and beyond. A website, FineCityNeighbours.com, was launched in January, and 50,000 postcards were also delivered to houses in Norwich letting people know about the project.
Started by Dr Ben Little, (HUM) and Norwich City Council’s Community Enabling Team, the Fine City Neighbours project has been exploring the creative ways city residents have stayed connected, while physically apart, throughout the crisis.
Research has shown that much of this activity has relied on digital technology, such as the use of neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, which creates a barrier for people who don’t have the digital skills or resources they need to participate. This inequality is what the new campaign by Fine City Neighbours aims to address.
Norwich Theatre is one of the many local organisations involved with the Fine City Neighbours project. Joseph Ballard, Project Coordinator for Shakespeare Nation, Norwich Theatre said: “Doorstep Shakespeare was a project that connected people across Norwich. Due to lockdown, all our preparatory sessions took place online with only the two filming days taking place in-person.
“Not everyone was used to online sessions and Zoom, and everyone helped each other along the way. One participant, one of the oldest, did not have Internet access at home. Her grandson let her borrow an iPad and we asked her neighbour if we could borrow their wifi. This enabled the participant to take part in the project. The participant has since joined other online sessions for other things too.”
Dr Ben Little from the Fine City Neighbours project said: “The idea behind the poster campaign is to make it easier for neighbours to ask for or offer help and support.
“Over the last year we have been amazed by how Norwich residents have connected with their neighbours. It’s just the first time can sometimes feel a bit awkward, so we wanted to help with that.
“We want everyone to be able to take part, so even if someone isn’t tech-savvy, perhaps they can offer gardening advice, or a cuppa and listening ear over the fence for a neighbour who needs a chat.”
The campaign has been made possible by the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) at UEA, and funding from the Norwich Good Economy Commission, which is supporting a number of projects to help combat digital inequality in Norwich.
For more information, visit https://finecityneighbours.com/