For well over 20 years, the Interfaith Contact Group of Brighton and Hove (which I chair) has been serving our City, bringing all the various faiths together to share ideas, and events and generally find common causes we can talk about. A couple of years back we ran a competition to find The Angel of Brighton & Hove, which was a fun exercise that proved a big success with adults and children alike. Last year we ran a Tree of Life event that also revealed the spiritual wisdom that comes from different faiths and the importance of the tree as a spiritual symbol.
This year we set off singing and dancing, intending to celebrate the year on the theme of light. With the help of Brighton Museum and its curators, we planned to hold a family day celebrating light with music, talks, games and all manner of jolly activities. We also planned to draw attention to religious festivals like Diwali and Hanukka where light plays an inspirational part in the lives of people from the Hindu and Jewish faiths.
But, of course, it was not to be. When the Coronavirus struck, and we went into lockdown, everything came to an abrupt halt. We responded to the crisis as best we could, staying in contact with members and friends. We set up a weekly poetry, prayer and reading service called Words of Connection which features topical items alongside historical and related topics. The feedback was amazing, and thanks to the help of various supporters we were able to present Words of Connection in different formats – as a weekly email, and also as a blog on our Website.
But the greatest record of the faith’s response to Covid-19 came from a brilliant documentary film made by Sarah West of West Creative. Entitled Light in the Lockdown, it lasts just 17 minutes, and tells the story about how the people in our City are looking after each other, in every sense, both physically and spiritually. I urge you to look at it. It is both compassionate and moving.
I would never have thought that to go out I would need little or no cash, a phone and a mask as essential items to travel with. But thus it has come to be. Today I have to walk into town, and this is the weird shopping list I have strapped to my mind, as I contemplate dancing around all and sundry.
Also… I would never have though that my age would single me out in some way, because like so many older people I have not, as yet got used to the idea of being old ; I was always a late starter. But Covid and our glorious Government say that older people must be careful, so I am following the rules. I follow the rules for the benefit of people working in the NHS, and nice people, not those broken by non-electable non-ministers in charge of everything.
In fact, the pandemic has made me fitter. I have taken to walking every day. The tedium of having to avoid people in the street has driven me out at 5.30 every morning to walk alone, if possible without the interruption of dancing warily around sweaty joggers or dog walkers. The solitude of the park in the early morning is a treat and an education. I have come to know the local fox that hangs around. He is a sad, solitary and mangy young thing who is constantly having arguments with the local bird population. Meanwhile all the beasts in the park fight over the stuff left by humans – the bits of bread and pizza, and over the weekends this is spread far and wide for all to see, but during the week the park is good and clean.
Maybe the most lovely part about haunting the park at the crack of dawn is the reaction of the wildlife. Originally all the birds and squirrels would scatter, sometimes warning each other of a stranger’s impending arrival. Now they just can’t be bothered. I reckon they say to each other “Oh it’s her again, don’t bother,” and I find myself having to walk around them while they forage. One way or another, it looks as though from now on I’m always going to be walking round a human, or a bird or some wild beasty thing. The only birds that still fly off hysterically (as though they’ve never seen me before) are the blobby woodpigeons, but I was always thought of them as bird brains.