Helen Osman, founder of community website n21online.com, on why we should make the most of what our ‘local patch’ has to offer
It has been said that in the modern world most of us live in networks, connected only remotely to the people we have shared interests with; whether at work, rest or play.
Does that mean that we no longer feel the need to belong to the local area in which we actually reside? Maybe you see your home as your sanctuary, where you can shut the world out, so it is irrelevant what is going on in the streets and green spaces near where you live.
When you are heading off to work, or going out at weekends, are you inclined to stick in your ear buds and walk around in your own little bubble, oblivious of your surroundings? Guilty?
London is often described as a city made up of hundreds of small villages. For centuries, the village green or town marketplace was the centre of the local community; somewhere for people to meet, somewhere for people to trade. The pub and the church were at the heart of most people’s lives. Yet both of these institutions have been declining for decades; their elaborate façades re-purposed for new uses.
Does that mean our local communities are also in decline? No, far from it. Your local area may no longer feel like a village, but there is almost certainly masses going on; although you might have to work harder to catch up with local gossip.
Our church halls, pubs and cafés are important venues for classes, workshops, live music and drama, and community and campaign groups, which are all contributing to your local community and local economy.
Look again at your local shops, they may not be funky coffee shops but they are still vital to a fully functioning community, for people of all ages. Strapping the baby in the buggy and popping down to the shops or to a sing-along class can be a welcome break from the social isolation of new parenthood. Popping out to the local shops may be the only social contact some elderly people have all day. A resolution for 2019; use them or lose them. Think how sterile the area would be if they weren’t there.
The new year is the perfect time to take a fresh look at what your local patch has to offer and, dare I say it, what you could offer your community. Start using online forums and the scores of flyers on community notice boards around your local area.
There is plenty of scientific evidence that being part of real social networks is good for our mental and physical wellbeing. We are living in a more uncertain world, which is being reshaped by politics, global economic and technological trends over which we have no control; perhaps putting down roots in your local patch isn’t such a bad idea?