Jacksons Lane 'reaching more people than ever' during pandemic

Freddie (left) and Amelia and Becky (right) were all part of an unusual Jacksons Lane Christmas dinner this year.

Freddie (left) and Amelia and Becky (right) were all part of an unusual Jacksons Lane Christmas dinner this year. - Credit: Jacksons Lane

The Jacksons Lane arts centre is famous for circus skills, but during lockdown it has expanded its community work in a bid to combat loneliness.

With "lockdown lunches", a befriending programme and, somehow, a bigger Christmas dinner event than ever before, the centre has played a key community role during the pandemic.

Artistic director Adrian Berry said: "We have realised that with some of the online stuff we can reach more people. 

"We are always going to be going out to the community, that's just what we do. We are just doing that differently."

The Jacksons Lane Christmas Day dinner has run for more than 40 years. This year a mammoth delivery operation helped hundreds of vulnerable people enjoy a top class meal.

Jennifer Oliver runs the centre's Christmas Day and Feeling Good befriending program.

She said: "It became quite evident even in the summer last year that we wouldn't be able to do our usual sit down lunch. And obviously it's been going on for 40 years, we were always going to find a way of helping the people we usually do. 

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"We started to plan a delivery service and a it became obvious that there was demand much larger than we've seen before. Before I could believe it our list had ballooned to 250."

Luckily, volunteers flooded in, and with help from the likes of Edible London, Collectiv Food and even Deliveroo, meals were prepared and delivered to those in need.

Jennifer added: "We knew we had to do a delivery model, but wanted it to be as close to a sit-down dinner. Some of these people have barely had anyone to talk to for months, and we wanted to make it special."

Sabelo with her carefully packed Christmas lunch.

Sabelo with her carefully packed Jacksons Lane Christmas lunch - Credit: Jacksons Lane

Also donated were 20 PCR Covid-19 tests, which enabled a small number of volunteers to safely visit some of the Christmas dinner recipients and spend a few socially-distanced minutes with them.

The social action work at Jacksons Lane has expanded well beyond Christmas though. Jennifer explained how the Feeling Good programme had "taken on a life of its own".

Artists impression of the new foyer at Jacksons Lane Highgate

Jacksons Lane is currently being redeveloped, and could look like this when it reopens, hopefully later this year. - Credit: Archant

"We had all this information on people who were coming to us at Christmas and felt a responsibility to them the rest of the year," she said.

"It's about communication and companionship. We match people with volunteer members of the community and ask for a minimum of 30 minutes contact a week."

To support Feeling Good, visit jacksonslane.org.uk/donate-support/feeling-good