Wigan arts hub in the running for award for Covid-19 response

The Old Courts is in the final shortlist for the Community Mindfulness category in the Great British Pub Awards.

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 7:00 am
Volunteers from The Old Courts delivering a food parcel

There is not long left for Wiganers wanting to support the organisation to vote, with the deadline falling at midnight tonight (Wednesday).

The Crawford Street culture hub’s team of volunteers responded to this year’s unprecedented health emergency by helping to deliver hundreds of food parcels and place welfare calls to Wiganers anxious, struggling to cope or scared by the pandemic.

The Old Courts said winning the award, voting for which closes at midnight tonight, would be an acknowledgement of all those who gave up their time to help.

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The organisation, which has bars, gig venues, rehearsal spaces,a theatre and a gallery in the town’s Victorian former court building, also spoke of some of the emotional and difficult situations they encountered as they supported borough residents living on the breadline through the coronavirus crisis.

The Old Courts director Jonny Davenport said: “We’ve gone from providing arts and cultural events and entertainment to using our resources and ideas to do something infinitely more vital over the past few months.

“It would be fantastic to win the award, it would be recognition for the people who’ve volunteered their time to help others. What they have done is incredible and it’s nice to get third-party acknowledgement of that.

“We were never going to just do nothing when we were able to do something.

“The volunteers have shown incredible resilience and commitment. It would be forgivable for our staff to say they had been furloughed or dealing with things but they’ve given their time, energy, passion and skills.

“There has been a real range of emotions. It has been a privilege to help but it has also been difficult and a lot of work.

“Some of it has been a real eye-opener too. We got a call from a single mum with five kids and they had no food in the house. We took parcels round and that was the only food they had. You think that is something you see on the TV or something that happened a long time ago, not right now in Wigan.”

The Old Courts contacted Wigan Council to see if it could help soon after lockdown was imposed and was told the town hall was inundated with calls for assistance and wellbeing checks.

The cultural hub swung into action, even though it had been forced to furlough all but five of its 50-strong team of employees, receiving food parcels from Fur Clemt to deliver across the borough.

The team also carried out welfare calls, checking in with some people on an almost daily basis.

The Old Courts even had to check up on elderly Wiganers whose worried relatives living elsewhere in the country had temporarily lost contact with them.

To organise this huge response The Old Courts was able to adapt its existing computer software used behind the scenes for co-ordination of the Covid-19 relief effort.

The venue is now one of six places up for the Community Mindfulness award, with the others being establishments in Leeds, Nottingham, Newquay, Knowsley and Norfolk.

Voting closes at midnight tonight (Wednesday August 26). Cast a vote at surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GBPA-Community-Mindfulness