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SNCK1Since the arrival of Covid we’ve seen the number of Mutual Aid groups across the UK expand rapidly to over four thousand! The groups work day in day out to support the communities with food, PPE, and a variety of social care. South Norwood is one such operation that has seen a regular Community Kitchen blossom into a full blown mutual aid operation. I spoke with Laura Whittall about how they’ve had to adapt.

1. As we’re fast approaching 3 months of lockdown, how has the South Norwood Community Kitchen had to adjust and adapt to the needs of the regular kitchen users and other vulnerable members of the community?
“There has been a lot of listening to and learning from our regular kitchen community about their needs and how their circumstances have changed; but also through our networks we have done a lot of work finding where the hidden members of our communities are who may have become vulnerable, or are more vulnerable than ever, and what they need.
A lot of our regular visitors’ support systems have come apart so we’ve had to learn fast about other ways they can access support be it around mental health, housing, benefits etc. and what the new channels for this are. Hardly any of them have phones or some of our friends stuck at home are unable to use technology so we’ve had to find ways of helping them through this. We’ve noticed our friends who don’t have access to public funds have been doubly disadvantaged by this lockdown as they are unable to access official support so we have had to support them more than ever
Deliveries have also become an important part of what we do now. A reliable service for those who can’t get out the house or find it
.difficult accessing food and basic things. It’s helped to bring a bit of community to their doors when they have never felt more isolated.”

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2. Do you feel the principles of Mutual Aid have worked well for you?
“Yes absolutely, it has helped to just make things happen, get resources shared and information across quickly. Even though we have had to put together new processes and ways of doing things they are not weighed down by hefty structure or admin which means we can be nimble and flexible when we need to adapt what we do. Also it means people can just get involved and crack on with what needs to be done. It makes the whole environment around what we are doing more inclusive and everyone feeling involved.
We’ve had scenarios where some people were accessing support and are now helping to support others so it creates a culture of reciprocity and mutuality where no one is treated as a victim.
There does however at times need to be decisions made somewhere and people need direction or knowledge but this doesn’t mean that it should work through hierarchical means but through supporting people to get the knowledge they need and share it on.”

3.Do you feel that Council involvement would have helped or hindered your Mutual Aid non hierarchical way of all working and supporting one another on an equal basis?
“Council structures are paternalistic and deeply bureaucratic and they can only ever think in this way. When resources are scarce like they are now, there are resources they can share such as funding but it needs to be done in a way that is not onerous or tries to control mutual aid efforts in communities. Creating competitive environments has not helped organisations with some winning and some losing in the funding roulette.
Thankfully we have always made the council aware that we are independent from them and that the terms of our relationship needs to be on a footing where they see us as having better understandings of the needs and aspirations of our community rather than prioritising their own internal agendas. Its still a work in progress but any council involvement should be around giving and supporting resources led by mutual aid efforts rather than them leading activities”.

4. What has worked really well for you in keeping the kitchen surviving and expanding during lockdown, and what have the obstacles (if any ) been?
“Having a great community like we do in South Norwood is the best survival kit you could ever need and from this has come a committed crew who trust and respect each other. Having honesty, no egos or power merchants has been really important with regards to having to change things if they aren’t working. We made some mistakes at the beginning (and are still sometimes making mistakes!) and it was pretty stressful but we came together, reflected and shared ideas then got on with it.
Also our relationships with the wider community. If we need something quickly, it happens; like people dropping stuff off, referring people who need support or just championing the cause.
One of the key obstacles has been some of the competition that can arise between different organisations, groups etc who are each trying to support the vulnerable in our communities. Often there is competition for funding and resources whereas we should be collaborating and supporting each other – by not working more together it stretches resources thinner and thinner.”

5. The Kitchen working so successfully has certainly been taken on board by the local community, and the phrase “mutual aid” is now becoming a daily description of what has been happening in the area. Do you think after lockdown is over people will hold on to this belief that it is possible for people to work co-operatively rather than competitively and without a hierarchy?
“I think the foundations for this have been laid and people realise that they can take action and are not afraid to do so. I think before all this a lot of people wanted to act but did not know how or did not have the confidence to do so. However extreme times call for extreme behaviours and people have stepped beyond their comfort zones (or didn’t even have a choice) and I think that to go back to their normal realities would never feel the same again.
It has burst a lot of bubbles about how we cannot rely on our individualistic efforts and that other people are sources of support
and resilience. There is a collective consciousness there now that cannot be broken very easily.
There is still work to be done though. As soon as the world’s cogs start to turn again and lives become increasingly focused back onto working and capitalist means of survival, there is a fear that many people will turn inwards.
Our communities therefore need to find fresh and renewed ways for voices to be shared and heard, and clear understandings of how they make change happen; however small or big. That their smalls acts will still really make a difference.
We have got to keep that energy going but it cannot become trapped and suffocated by hierarchical and routine community meetings and consultations that are usually led by people in authority but through meaningful acts of community expression and action where everyone is invited.”

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It’s a strange time for our community. We either seem to be stuck at home bored, or worked off our feet on the front line, trying to keep our community running. Either way we might need something constructive we can do to take our minds off of the current crisis for a few minutes. We might also be able to raise a few bob for our friends at South Norwood Community Kitchen who still continue to work hard to keep the community fed during the current crisis.

Some of our friends organise community learning projects, and one such project can offer FREE English, maths and ICT courses up to Level 2. All of these courses can be done remotely from your home. Neal Colpitts explains more.

Contact Neal via neal.colpitts@sigmaukgroup.com or on 07527 965604

The courses are completely free – but if you are able to make a small donation to the Community Kitchen that would be greatly appreciated. Click here to make a donation. Thank you.

Stay well everybody x

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Our community is everyone who has made South Norwood their home.

Everyone is welcome. Everyone has something to contribute.

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A Beacon Of Hope

The General Election has once again shown South Norwood to be a beacon of diversity, tolerance and hope in the dystopian dark-ages of the 21st Century. As much of Britain, and indeed the world, harks back to an imagined past, we unashamedly look towards a glorious future that can only be built by us all working together.

These are undoubtedly dark times. Our first imperative has to be to pull together as a community to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable are supported. A decade of austerity means that South Norwood already has a great many such initiatives, quietly working away without fuss or fanfare. We need to support them in whatever way we can. We are happy to use the communications of the South Norwood Tourist Board to help these initiatives organise and fund-raise. It is a sad and cold-hearted country that forces its most vulnerable citizens to rely on charity – but that is where we are right now. The path towards a brighter future starts from where we are now. We will not see our friends left behind.

Being home to a community of innovators, inventors and instigators, South Norwood cannot help but stand in opposition to the dead hand of conservatism. Culture is not a dead fly, sealed in amber, but an ongoing process of us communicating and relating to each other. It is an engine of evolution, that since pre-historic times, has seen people moving around the world, sharing and stimulating the ideas that built our civilisation. We are lucky to live and love on one of the world’s great crossroads which makes South Norwood a melting pot for imagination and creativity. When your neighbours are the whole world, popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar is an adventure of friendship and discovery.

The Empire is as dead as the Latin that vomits forth from our newly anointed leader. The neo-liberal European dream is likewise extinguished. But in South Norwood the laboratory of future lifestyles is all around us. The future is in each and every one of us.

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This Is Not A Notice

South Norwood is rightly famed for the works of art that crop up unannounced around the place. At Woodside tram stop you can currently see an homage to the great Rene Magritte.

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A Garden Built With Love

When residents first took it upon themselves to rescue the plot of dirty and disused land at the end of Love Lane it was a  full of old mattresses, discarded needles, dog shit and the detritus of dereliction that comes with speculative property deals and absentee landowners who have no interest in the local community.

5 years of love and hard graft have turned this wasteland into a community garden. Move loved and well used. But today Mayfair property speculator Tyger Sanchez parked his tanks on the Love Lane garden, obliterating the stage that children use to put on shows and serve cakes.

Well, he might be a big noise in Mayfair – but there’s a bad smell surrounding this. What sort of bully smashes up a kids play area? He has no planning permission to build – so no need to do any of this. It is just pointless vandalism. Or is it an expedition to see how much he can get away with? Other property speculators have tried such brinkmanship with local councils. Tyger probably thinks Croydon Council are an easy touch, having been accused of being too close to property speculators in the past. But they have accepted Love Lane Green as an Asset of Community Value – and the community does indeed value it.

This is the Council’s chance to show that they are in fact on the side of local residents – not bully boy speculators who make Rachman look good by comparison. People who appear happy to destroy everything that the residents have built and then leave it to fester. Perhaps the hope is that if it becomes a big enough eyesore and health hazard the council will eventually relent and give planning permission. Well, not this time.

Our community is our home – not your get-rich-quick scheme. And we will fight to save it!

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What it used to look like before residents took action

 

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Watch The Skies!

Moon AntFor some weeks now SNTB’s boffins have been experimenting with the South Norwood Large Array, our contribution to the exploration of space. This top secret network of wires, electronics and coat hangers has been trained on deep space (upwards).

From the outset we were intrigued to discover what wonders awaited us. Now the truth can be told.

A repeating signal, apparently beamed at us from beyond the Solar System. Was it a pulsar? Was it some stray microwave signal? Or was it something else entirely?

A message from the stars, translated on the beating wings of a billion flying ants. Synchronised perfectly with the code, flapping in unison, acting much like the diaphragm in an old telephone, turning the tiny vibrations into speech.

So here it is! Courtesy of the flying ants! A message from the stars!

Greetings Earthlings!
We have detected your transmissions.

It has taken 50 years for your primitive radio waves to reach our space station, orbiting out beyond the furthest reaches of the Solar System. We heard and were inspired by the communications between Earth and your pioneers on the Moon, “As you talk to us from the Sea Of Tranquillity, so shall we make tranquillity here on Earth. All people on this Earth shall be one!”

Such a positive statement from someone who we took to be surely be one of the most upright and honest of your political class – Mr Richard Nixon. Using our inter-galactic catch-up service, our stellar sociologists have studied his track record – which was perhaps a bit of a let down. However, it appears that subsequent appointments could make the age of Tricky Dicky seem like a Golden Age in comparison.

As a result, we have this simple message for you all, “Do not, under any circumstances, take us to your leaders!” They are, quite frankly, an embarrassment to you.

In studying your planet, we see how you come together to achieve great feats. You are more wonderful than you could ever know. Unfortunately your humanity is not shared by those of your political or mercantile class, whose attributes are not suited to sustainable growth. Many species have fallen under the spell of such leaders but their ideology is an evolutionary dead end: As dead as the surface of the Moon. 

Mutual aid and co-operation are the key to evolution. It is in that spirit that we extend the hand of friendship to the humans of Earth.

We offer you a place in our Galactic Federation!
We offer you free movement between the planets!
We offer you a purple passport to the stars!

There’s just the small matter of a referendum….

One Giant Leap

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One Giant Leap!

One Giant Leap

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Publications

The Air from SN

While various commercial tourist boards across the world might produce glossy books showing their respective areas “from the air,” here at South Norwood Tourist Board we are taking an altogether different approach.

Ever-mindful of our carbon footprint we have lovingly produced The Air From South Norwood. This 300 page, high quality volume is a welcome addition to any home, offering over 150 full colour glossy prints of the air as it can be seen with your feet securely planted on the terra firma of South Norwood.

No family should be without this masterpiece. Just lay back, close your eyes and imagine owning such a volume – and it is yours. This is the very pinnacle of conceptual marketing. Each volume is lovingly crafted from the very air of South Norwood – although to a foolish man, it might not appear to be there at all.

 

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Once again, the people of South Norwood proved that they stand united. 100 people attended the Reclaim The Park event, which aimed to both raise awareness of the recent spate of sexual assaults and also to show community solidarity in the face of the antisocial behaviour of one individual.

Thank you to everyone who turned up – and all those who couldn’t but who shared their support online. People met, made new friendships, arranged future walks together and reinforced the community bonds that make South Norwood a place that we are proud to call home.

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