“It’ll all be over by Christmas, just you wait and see!” – It’s fair to say that a lot of us thought the same when lockdown first began over 9 months ago.

Who among us can deny that, by now, we expected to be donning our Christmas jumpers, fixing our Christmas hats and sipping a few mulled wines as we headed out to ‘another’ Christmas party, fully out of lockdown and fully embracing the festive season?

Christmas is traditionally a time for getting together, and although things might be a bit different this year, we at Forever Manchester have been determined to keep the Christmas spirit alive and well. We have been Connecting Communities at Christmas right across Greater Manchester by providing funding to 100 local community groups; and our Community Building Team have also been keen to bring local people together too to help share some Christmas joy.

Our Community Building team ordinarily work out and about in communities, starting conversations with the people they meet, finding out what they’re passionate about, and connecting them to like-minded neighbours. Quite simply, their job is to make as many new friends as possible in the communities they work in and encourage new friendships to form, by introducing people to others and supporting residents to start their own new community activity.

As you might imagine, Christmas is great time for our Community Builders to support communities to come together and spread some festive joy. Under normal circumstance the team would be busy helping to organise Christmas events in the community and supporting residents to host their own parties and other Christmassy activities.

So, what did they do instead?

By utilising their newly honed online skills, our Community Builders hosted their first ever virtual Christmas Community Party where they were joined by 17 families from across Greater Manchester to engage with us and participate in fun, informal and exciting activities.

This provided the opportunity to meet new people, forge new friendships and above all have some fun. Patricia who was mentioned in a previous story, hosted a craft session resulting in the creation of 17 beautiful Christmas wreaths. And after a good old Christmas singalong, they all played a few games bingo!

We had a great response from people who attended the gathering.

“Thank you so much for today’s virtual gathering, I really enjoyed my time with everyone.”

“That was brill, loved it.”

“It was so lovely, I enjoyed a lot. I feel happy being with such lovely people.”

“That was really good today, hope there is more, I would like that.”

“Our first ever homemade wreath.”

“That was really good, I have never made anything like that before.”

It was a fantastic event, demonstrating that it is possible to stay connected during lockdown, meet new people and have a great time with your neighbours at Christmas! Following the event, two attendees are now planning to run their own virtual groups in the new year, with our support.

Our Community Builders are busy planning our next set of activity for the new year, with weekly Bingo Classes, resident-led craft sessions and a weeks-worth of family activity in the February half term!

If you’d like to get involved or explore how you can run your own virtual community activity, then join our Facebook group or get in touch with our Community Builders Lisa and Vikki to find out more. Why not give it a go and see if you can make some new friends whilst having some fun, just like we did! We hope you have a lovely Christmas and manage to stay connected with your loved ones safely and spread some Christmas joy.

“God Bless us, every one.”

Tiny Tim, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.

Date added: 22nd December 2020