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A Comedian's Lockdown

By Paul Kerensa | 13 November 2020

Before lockdown, writer and stand-up comedian Paul Kerensa spent a lot more of his time sitting down than standing up. Zigzagging across the country via innumerable motorway service stations, he performed in venues UK-wide.

 

Before ‘all this’, I was on the road three nights and days a week, which meant lots of stopping for refreshment and refuelling, then meeting the people at the venue. Often that venue was a church. I was uniquely positioned to see a lot of community work in action. Pre-lockdown, it gave me a sense of what the neighbourhood was all about. Many churches were working with young families, others supported the elderly, there were lots of volunteer drivers, men’s groups and community hubs.

 

In this strange new normal in which we find ourselves, lots of those things can’t happen anymore but there are new way that communities are looking out for each other.

 

For a stand-up like me, lockdown spelt the end of touring. The sum total of my comedic appearances for 2020 is my weekly online show on Facebook Live and one gig in a car park back in the summer! My wife now works at the local hospital and my new job title is stay-at-home dad and writer.

 

From my new work hub, I’m seeing a whole heap of generosity stories unfolding before my eyes. Our neighbours have all rallied round to help where necessary. Our church started a Community Support Project, giving out hundreds of free meals a week to those who needed them. All this time at home has meant lots of clearing out. Our charity shop pile grew to such an alarming size that we put it all out at the end of our drive in a variety of cardboard boxes and invited passers-by to help themselves.

 

It was joyous to see families out for their daily walk (back when it was one daily walk allowed), pause by our boxes and have a rummage. We’d watch as a child walked away with a toy, beaming, or the parents grabbed a jigsaw. Our stuff was being re-homed and re-loved. Other neighbours started doing the same. Before long, pre-loved items were being announced on our local Facebook group. “Football boots, a bike and board games outside Number 12.” Sometimes, we’d see the post and sprint down the street if it was something we needed! Shopping and exercise combined.

 

Meanwhile, other neighbours were engaged in edible acts of generosity. Our next-door neighbour has been keeping the entire street in jam (she’s got hundreds of jars of the stuff), while other households are stepping in with home-cooked meals, shopping trips and pharmacy runs for those shielding. It’s joyous to see!

 

Someone in the next town to us has started, ‘Free My Meal’ - she made too much chilli one night, offered it on her local Facebook group, and had the idea to go big with it. People post whatever they’ve made too much of, those who need a meal send a private message, no questions asked, and they get a nice home-cooked meal. It’s delicious generosity in action!

 

We’re adapting, innovating, but still being community. We may be unable to meet up in our usual neighbourhood hubs for now, but community’s still at the heart of it, as is generosity. And if it’s not where you are, I hope and pray that it can be and will be.


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