A personal message from Dan Williamson, Chair of FoSPH
I sincerely hope you are all keeping well and safe in these most unusual and difficult of circumstances. The global impact COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and the economic and social impact on our lives are felt by us all and of course at Stretford Public Hall too. Our primary concern is the health of our staff, members, board, volunteers, friends, and indeed the whole of our local community in Stretford, Trafford and beyond.
Please ensure you follow government guidelines during this period of lockdown; Stay at Home, only go outside for food, health reasons or work (if you can not work from home). If you go out, stay 2m from other people and wash your hands as soon as you are home. Do not meet friends or family. Remember you can spread the virus even if you don't have symptoms. Save Lives, Protect our NHS.
The situation has been changing extremely fast and we have had to adapt our operations and outlook to keep in line with national guidance and local needs. It has always been our intention that our operations are able to adapt to the needs of the local community. It is part of our mission to provide ‘activities that meet Stretford’s needs’ and ‘improve the lives of residents’. When these were written and agreed we never envisioned we would be implementing them in quite the way we are now, but this crisis now cemements them as fundamental cornerstones of why we exist.
According to the United Nations, there are four key qualities that we should reach for in times of crisis: kindness, generosity, empathy, and solidarity. So keeping that in mind, I would like to update you on the measures we are putting in place in this crisis.
What FoSPH are doing
- Stretford Community Response Hub We are proud to be working collaboratively with our partners across Trafford to serve as one of five community response hubs. These hubs are resourced with expertise including our staff and volunteers to offer frontline services to those who are self-isolating or who are at risk. Over the past week, we have set up a new online call handling system and have trained a team of volunteers to staff our community response phone line.
The Hall is being used as a preparation space for food parcels to be packaged up and distributed to those that are vulnerable or self isolating, as well as serving as a distribution point for FoodBank parcels. We are also operating a ‘wellbeing check-in’ service, offering regular phone calls to those needing assistance or a friendly chat from time to time, and helping to collect and deliver prescriptions to those in need.
If you live alone, are struggling to make ends meet, are self-isolating or generally in need of advice or support please contact 0300 330 9073 (8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday).
- Stretford Mutual Aid Network We have started to map all the very local and informal community aid groups in Stretford. It is amazing to see how many kind and compassionate people there are in the community and how everyone is pulling together to support their neighbors in their time of need. People have been leafleting their streets to provide a contact people can turn to for help. We have collated all these onto a map so that people can see who to contact for local support and friendship in their area at this time and friends and relatives of those that need support can find someone local to help. It has been amazing to see the map grow over the last two weeks. To join the network on social media please use this Facebook link or you can go straight to the website and map here:
- Business continuity / financial position. The Hall is now of course closed to the public, usual activities and bookings canceled for the next few months. Where possible staff are working from home. The loss of income from our events, activities, hires, co-working space and artists studios is of course having a monumental impact on our finances and we are monitoring this carefully including re-forcasting our budgets to fully understand the situation and plan accordingly. We are fortunate to be in a good financial position and are able to continue to pay staff as we have adequate reserves. We are looking at the Government measures and support available to businesses and other sources of funding and support. We’ve been speaking to our existing funders, lenders and suppliers to ask for flexibility in the current situation. We are a Charitable Community Benefit Society and are always open to new members, donations and regular giving. We recognise it is a challenging and uncertain time for everyone financially, but if you are able and willing to donate, this can be done through our website here. https://www.stretfordpublichall.org.uk/donate
Any support is greatly appreciated.
- Staff team, ways of working - We are incredibly fortunate during this time to have such a dedicated, hardworking and loyal staff team and we appreciate the commitment that they are all giving to ensure work gets done. Our amazing staff team have been working long hours and have adjusted to more flexible and remote working. I found it truly inspirational that at moments notice our staff team have agreed to largely change their job descriptions to respond to the help required in the community and become key workers. We wanted to publicly thank you all - we are lucky to work with such a great group of people so passionate about our organisation and community. I would also like to thank our board members for being so proactive, amenable and adaptable to our response on top of their work commitments. We have now increased our board meetings from monthly to weekly to keep on top of this fast moving situation. Our fantastic team of volunteers, without whom this would project would not be possible, have also stepped up to help with our response. Massive thanks to you.
- Ballroom refurbishment / renovation. At the present time we are still planning to proceed with our planned renovations to the Ballroom over the coming months – we have ‘restricted’ funding allocated to this but we will need to monitor this carefully as it is fully dependent on achieving planning permission, being able to secure contractors and the ability for contractors to work on site safely. We would like to thank our architects Buttress for their advice, support and guidance navigating the implications for this project. We will do everything we can to try to keep to the schedule set out, but we also have contingency plans in place if the situation changes and factors out of our control mean that our timeline is no longer viable. We are extremely grateful to our funders, Power to Change, Architectural Heritage Fund, Viridor and the Co-op Foundation for being so flexible with their offers to us to support the continuation of this project and our work.
- Future opportunities, new ways of working – the cost of the hall closing can’t just be measured in financial terms and we appreciate the human and social impact as this is a place for social gathering and fun, wellbeing and creativity. We have moved some of our Wellbeing classes online so please check our Facebook and Youtube accounts to connect with these so you can keep working out at home. Our fantastic community choir Stretford Singers is now being delivered on Facebook Live. Please join the group here to request to take part. It is hard to predict how things will be on the other side of this crisis, but we will monitor the situation as it unfolds and continue to respond accordingly. However, we will use this time to plan and develop ideas for how our beautiful building can continue to contribute to supporting our community through the recovery period and into the future.
We recognise things are going to get more difficult before they improve, but I am humbled by the response from everyone involved in FoSPH pulling together to respond with such proactive positivity to this situation, let’s make sure we continue this incredible effort.
For now though, please stay home, stay safe and look after those around you.
Dan Willamson and all at Stretford Public Hall.
Chair, Friends of Stretford Public Hall