Connecting Communities runs full summer festival despite pandemic Despite the continuing Covid-19 pandemic Harrow Mencap's Connecting Communities team ran a fantastic and varied summer festival. The event included many social opportunities for a variety of people from Harrow, Hillingdon and Brent, including clients, volunteers and others. From its launch date on 26 June until its end in mid-September, the festival included many different activities. Some of these included healthy walks, outdoor picnics, quizzes, phone-in sessions, video calls, talks and meetings with local councillors, MPs and assembly members. We have prepared a timeline featuring some of the highlights of the festival to showcase its impact on members of the local community, many of whom have experienced anxiety, isolation and poor mental health because of the coronavirus. The Connecting Communities team collected feedback quotes from various participants including clients, staff and volunteers. The team hope that everyone can have as much fun during the winter festival too! 26 June - Festival launches with a healthy walk Connecting Communities officially launched the Summer Festival with their first Healthy Walk on Friday 26 June 2020. The group started by collecting food from Tesco Pinner Green to be used in Harrow Mencap's food parcels project for vulnerable people. Our volunteer Charles Newman spent hours planning routes with Jeremy and Josephine Child. The group walked from Harrow Mencap's Pinner Green Activity Centre through residential districts before turning left on Catlins Drive Pinner to an unspoilt field where they had a coffee break under the trees. The group walked through the field before coming to another field overlooking the River Pinn. The group then sheltered under some trees and enjoyed the view with packed lunches. They then went on to Eastcote Park and visited some beautiful gardens. People could even buy an ice cream in an outside café there. The group travelled back through the field and cut down Birchmead Avenue through the footpaths in the shade and finally through Pinner Green residential estate and back into Pinner Green to finish the walk. Participants gave some lovely feedback. James Keeler said: How lovely it was to be out with friends after a long period of isolation. Julia Mead said: It was so nice to see friends again. Charles Newman said: I was honoured to be assisting in the planning of so many healthy walks. 30 June - Healthy walk and quiz The Connecting Communities team now runs a healthy walk every Tuesday for groups of 6 people at a time, with activities along the way. On 30 June, the walk included a quiz about London Underground. Our volunteer Andrew O’Brien was delighted to see his friends again after a very long period at home. He said: I really liked seeing old friends on the walk yesterday afternoon, it was very lively and informal, quite a distance we walked. I took photos and a video of said above. There was David H, Charles, and David who was going to do a talk on the underground. 1 July - Telephone call and engagement session with Hillingdon Council Leader Ray Puddifoot On Wednesday 1 July we were honoured to have the Leader of Hillingdon Council Ray Puddifoot who spent over 2 hours engaging with around 37 people on the telephone. Ray had the chance to meet different people from different departments ranging from the Chief Executive Deven Pillay to Services Manager Teresa Neal and heard first hand of the varying work volunteers from Harrow Mencap Connecting Communities do and how they have all adapted during the lockdown. 3 July - Healthy Walk Volunteers, clients and others enjoyed yet another healthy walk on 3 July. The group walked a staggering 8 miles! Harrow Mencap's self-advocate and volunteer Tim pictured below, had a great time going out again after a long period indoors during the lockdown. 14 July - Local History Tour and outdoor activities On 14 July, 15 people split into small groups and met at Harrow Recreation Park where Harrow Mencap client and volunteer David Brown spoke on the History of London Underground Stations and Volunteer Julia Mead entertained everybody with an items game. At 2pm after the activity, the group split into 2 groups, one going for a short walk around the park, and the other enjoying a longer walk and a tour of historic sites in the Headstone Area, including Headstone Manor Park and the old Halls Farm. 20 July - Tea Club and Quiz at Pinner Green The team also ran a multi media tea club and quiz session at Pinner Green Activity Centre. A group of 8 people enjoyed a socially distanced afternoon tea. Later they were joined by 3 more people over a conference phone call for a quiz. The group were happy to welcome back former volunteer Emma Foss from Norfolk by phone. She has been able to join various sessions by dialing since she moved away to Great Yarmouth. One client, Erica, had so much fun that she drew a picture of the Connecting Communities and Fundraising Manager Jeremy Child to say thank you: 21 July - Talk by Graham Henson and healthy walk On 21 July the team welcomed the Leader of Harrow Council Graham Henson in Roxeth Recreation Ground. He engaged with the group and gave a talk about how Harrow Council is coping with the pandemic. After the talk, the group split into 2 smaller groups and enjoyed a healthy walk. After this session, Julia Mead who only joined our volunteer team in February, said that Connecting Communities has changed her life. She has volunteered extensively with a wide variety of Activities, not least volunteering to run a number of sessions herself. 23 July - Drama Spectrum Performance via Video Call On 23 July, a the team held a session with a fantastic vocal performance from staff at the musical theatre company and singing school Drama Spectrum over video call. Eloise and her mother Lindsey wowed listeners with a variety of musical theatre tunes. Our volunteer Barbara Smed said: I really enjoyed listening to the singing today – they are exceptional and obviously very talented. 24 July - Walk around Pinner, Northwood Hills, and District On Friday 24 July, Jeremy and his wife Josephine took a group on a varied walk stretching from Northwood Hills to the borders of Pinner and Rayners Lane. The group was excited to discover a lovely park in Rayners Lane which Jeremy had not visited since 1966! Jeremy recalled real differences in the Play Park and the scenery with flowers was beautiful. Volunteers Tim, Julia, Andrew and staff member James thoroughly enjoyed the day too. Andrew O’Brien said: On the walk around Pinner on Friday last week, it was very good to see old friends again. 4 August - Phone-in with Onkar Sahota AM On 4 August, Connecting communities welcomed the London Assembly Member for Hillingdon and Ealing, Dr Onkar Sahota to a phone-in session. Dr Sahota, who is also a GP talked about the coronavirus and how the London Assembly has been responding to the pandemic. Members of the group also took part in a question and answer session him. Edward, a staff member said: Onkar Sahota is my local London representative, it was nice to be able to speak to him as a constituent of his. 17 August - Tea Club "The Ritz at Pinner Green" On Monday 17 August the team hosted a fabulous tea club at Pinner Green Activity Centre, with a delicious main course of shepherd's pie. Guests enjoyed the tea so much, they compared it to having afternoon tea at The Ritz. Our volunteer Janet said: Just enjoyed an outstanding Tea Club with Lena's five-star shepherd's pie, freshly cooked green vegetables and gravy followed by fresh fruit salad and ice cream. I commented that it was a better meal than the one we had yesterday in Hatch End for £25! Well done to the team. Many thanks for a great afternoon with lovely company. 18 August – A Pizza Picnic with a Thunderstorm! On 18 August a group of clients, volunteers, staff and others enjoyed a homemade pizza picnic lunch in the park near Pinner Green Activity Centre. Before long, an unexpected thunderstorm started! This did not dampen the mood though! While the clients continued their lunch inside the centre, the volunteers took cover and enjoyed the rest of their pizzas under a shelter. Once the weather had fined up, the group went on to enjoy a healthy walk. Syed who has been a Harrow Mencap client for 10 years, and regularly volunteers with Connecting Communities, chaired some of the events during festival. Syed said: I liked chairing the activities, and the music sessions with John. I love the quizzes and leading the books beyond words project. 28 August - Haste Hill Nursery Garden Centre On 28 August, a group of clients and volunteers had a great time at Haste Hill Nurseries Garden Centre. The group picked vegetables and enjoyed an afternoon tea under cover from the rain. Two local councillors John Hinkley from Hillingdon and Jean Lammiman from Harrow as well as volunteer Bridget O’Sullivan gave talks for the group. The team are developing a new partnership with Wendy, who works at the garden centre. They are planning to work together to offer fresh vegetable picking as a new Connecting Communities activity. 11 September - Walk and talk with Bob Blackman MP The Connecting Communities team welcomed Harrow East MP Bob Blackman to give a talk on one of their healthy walks. Harrow Mencap client Susan enjoyed having the chance to meet and engage with her local MP during the session. 14 September Tea club and chicken korma On 14 September, a group of clients and volunteers came together for another meal and tea club at Pinner Green, this time the main meal was chicken korma. Our volunteer Janet said: A really exceptional three-course meal with chicken korma as the main course. Thanks to Lena and her apprentice and Charles. The Memory Game from Jeremy was also very engaging. Thanks to the Team for a delightful Tea Club. 15 September Pizza Lunch and Violinist in Pinner Green Park One of the final events of the festival was another pizza picnic lunch in the Park near Pinner Green. The guests also enjoyed musical accompaniment played by volunteer and violinist Jill. Jill said: That was a lovely outing and picnic you organised for today. Well done. I am sure everybody appreciated it and all you do for the organisation. David said: I really enjoyed the entertainment and walks in and around Harrow every Tuesday.