“The times are tough now, just getting tougher,” sang Bruce Springsteen in 1983, and it has never seemed truer.

With climate change accelerating, the economy stagnating, and pandemic memories still fresh, the Neighbourhood Forum has been thinking about resilience.

Resilience is our ability to survive hard knocks. Some of that is infrastructure. We’re revising the Neighbourhood Plan to encourage solar panels, heatpumps and to improve wildlife corridors. But, as we all learned in the pandemic, resilience is also about looking out for each other when services we are used to relying on, whether public or private, simply can’t cope. Public service provisions have been falling for years and there is no reason to expect improvement anytime soon. 

Ham & High: Stephen Taylor says that resilience is our ability to survive hard knocksStephen Taylor says that resilience is our ability to survive hard knocks (Image: Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum)

At its core, the challenge is to our compassion; to our willingness to help those around us simply because they need it. The lockdown revealed that our willingness is very great. Greater perhaps, than we had all supposed. 

Neighbours and local tradesmen: sociologists call these connections ‘weak social ties’ and say they matter to our wellbeing far more than we realise. The “eyes on the street” do more to keep public spaces safe than police patrols ever could. And while emergency hospital admissions in Somerset rose over 28%, the Compassionate Frome Project saw admissions in the town drop 14%; while county healthcare costs rose 21%, in Frome they fell 21%. Loneliness matters.

If initiatives such as Compassionate Communities focus on physical health, it’s perhaps because health outcomes are clearly measured.

Much harder to measure is the sense of wellbeing you get from being greeted in the street. It’s far from planning and infrastructure issues, but that sense of being at home is part of the better village for walking around in that residents asked for when we held our very first public consultations.

What to do? We can all help create the world we want to live in. Look for the people around you who would get a lift from, a nod, a smile, or a hello. And conversations – they open new worlds!

  • Stephen Taylor is vice chair of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum (hampsteadforum.org)