Lockdown has helped Pontefract street forge community spirit

In the six months since lockdown, there are few who could say that life has improved.

By Nick Frame
Friday, 25th September 2020, 4:30 pm
In it together....the neighbours of Kingsway.
In it together....the neighbours of Kingsway.

But residents on a Pontefract street say through all the fear and uncertainty, they have managed to carve out a community spirit perhaps not seen since The Blitz.

For those living on Kingsway, a cul-de-sac made up of a close-knit nucleus of neighbours, isolation has not been allowed to become the ‘new normal’.

The busy socially-distanced weekly street gatherings have only recently come to an end, long after the full lockdown eased, and it’s only the fading summer sun, rather than the residents’ enthusiasm, that has drawn them to a close. For now at least.

Kingsway in Pontefract

“I think it’s changed for the better,” says resident and school teacher Fiona Haddock.

“We had the last event on the last Bank Holiday Monday because the nights are drawing in, and it was very emotional.

“We can’t believe how far we have all come, supporting each other together.

“Many homes on the street have been passed down through the generations. Most of us have known each other for years but we’ve had people come and go.

Residents say lockdown has helped forge a commnunity spirit.

“We’ve met people we may not have spoken to before but we all know each other now and there’s a real mixture of ages.

“Everybody has really embraced it.”

Like countless numbers of streets across Britain, the first gathering came during the inaugural ‘clap for carers’, when residents stood on their doorsteps shortly before 8pm on Thursday, March 25 to cheer on frontline workers.

Wishing to capitalise on the feelgood factor, a Facebook page was set up for the Kingsway residents which quickly established a weekly Tuesday night bingo evening.

The neighbours held weekly quizzes.

After proving successful, events escalated with a general knowledge quiz introduced on a Friday and a music clip quiz introduced on a Sunday afternoon.

Additional games were introduced on a Sunday before the music quiz, with a children’s-only bingo.

Easter saw a successful socially-distanced bonnet parade, and VE Day led to tea and cake celebrations, accompanied by a backing track of war-time classics.

There were birthday parties for the street’s children, and even a christening party for Kingsway’s youngest resident who was just eight-months-old.

The collective spirit began with the first clap for carers.

When the weather was bad they would continue on Zoom calls over the internet, although most preferred the outdoor events, Fiona said.

The August Bank Holiday Monday saw the last outdoor gathering of 2020, with more quizzes, games and even a light-hearted award ceremony.

They ended with a rendition of the street’s adopted lockdown song ‘ You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

While the outdoor celebrations have ended for the year, neighbourly errands and selfless trips to the supermarket continue thanks to the friendships forged.

Kingsway neighbour Gilly Heatherington, who set up the Facebook page said: “My God, it’s been a scary few months but we got through it together.

“We’ve shared fears, tears, support, love and lots of fun and laughter along the way from the youngest to the oldest, and we did it together. I’m sure none of us will ever forget 2020, nor the memories we’ve made along the way.

There were even competitions for kids.

Neighbour Nicky Hall added: “In a time where everything was uncertain, people were lonely, scared and vulnerable, the wonderful people brought all of the street together.”

Fiona Haddock, who gave birth to her daughter shortly before lockdown, says she now sees the people of Kingsway as an extended family.

She said: “Some say community spirit and faith in humanity is lost but I for one am proud that, as I brought my daughter into the world at the start of this pandemic, she will be brought up to know that in the worst of times the importance of kindness can go a long way.

“As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and what a village we have on Kingsway.”

The popular outdoor events have ended, for now at least.
Proud to be part of Kingsway.
Many of the residents knew each other beforehand, but lockdown has helped strengthen friendships.