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Parish community emergency meeting with The Big Issue founder cancelled due to Coronavirus

Members of Holme Parish Council had to cancel their coronavirus emergency meeting last week, following government guidelines to shut all pubs and restaurants.
Peterborough Guild Hall
Peterborough's Guild Hall

The meeting, which was to have been held at The Admiral Wells public house in Holme, was arranged for Friday afternoon.

Just before it was about to begin, organisers Stewart Howe and Joanne Hutchinson were told by the landlord of the pub that, following government issued guidelines to avoid gatherings of people in public places, the public house would have to close.

The meeting had been arranged with guest speaker Lord Bird, the founder of The Big Issue, alongside representatives from TK Maxx, the Farmers Union and several local COVID-19 support groups.

They desperately need funding to support the many volunteers who are giving up their time to help the old, vulnerable and isolated continue to access medication and food.

Mr Howe said: “It’s very sad that we’ve had to cancel today’s meeting although I totally understand why the landlord has complied with government guidelines.

“This is a rural area and many of the residents in parishes like Holme are elderly, disabled and often isolated.

“They may not have access to some of the digital media that most of us take for granted, which effectively leaves them in the dark when it comes to information.

“That also means they’re very frightened and they feel ‘out of the loop’ – which is exactly why we called this emergency community meeting to let our vulnerable people know that their community is here for them.

“Make no mistake – we have all got to work together to get through this crisis.”

Lord Bird, who founded The Big Issue in September 1991 and was travelling up from the House of Lords especially for the meeting, was informed part way through his journey and was able to turn around and head back to the capital.

Looking beyond today’s cancellation, Mr Howe added: “We’re about to start a weekly newsletter which we will distribute free to the entire parish and the local parishes beyond Holme.

“We need our communities to pull together to help each other in what we call a ‘Social Echo’.

“In November 2018, The Big Issue Group held the UK’s first social trading conference at Northampton’s historic Guildhall. We now want to roll out this initiative across Cambridgeshire with the aim of forging new ways of thinking, connecting and trading, thereby helping to build up local trading ecosystems which put the needs of the community first.

“The coronavirus emergency will simply highlight to all of us more than ever how vulnerable we all are in times of need, and that we must stop thinking only of ourselves are see that we are all involved in this as one community.

“This crisis will realise – and maximise – the value of the ‘social pound’, bringing together representatives of local businesses, charities, social enterprises and public sector bodies with a simple aim: to create a more vibrant local economy through trade, not aid.”

For more details on The Big Issue Group and helping with the Social Echo contact Stewart Howe:

By Rob Alexander

Local Democracy Reporting Service