COVID-19 brought a dormant Lake House Estate WhatsApp group to life. Then, group chat helped organise a jumble trail, a Halloween trail and an Advent trail. Now, Frances Hills hopes the chat will continue
It all started with a WhatsApp group. A sleepy WhatsApp group with a confusingly long name and rarely any messages. And then Covid-19 hit. Suddenly, there was a surge of activity; people wanting to help isolating neighbours, a more acute awareness of the need for the Tin in a Bin donations, and just a general need for checking in like there wasn’t before.
We all put rainbows in our windows and clapped on a Thursday night. But naturally, we started to check in on the WhatsApp group less and less. However, we had started something. Our small community, that isn’t quite part of Leytonstone, Wanstead, Forest Gate or Aldersbrook, had developed like it hadn’t quite developed before.
August came, and finally, we were given the go-ahead to host a socially distanced Jumble Trail, which was a huge success, and got the neighbours talking face-to-face again. I’ve got happy plants reminding me of what a nice (and very hot!) day that was.
The nights grew darker, and Halloween approached. I’d seen that Wanstead was doing a Halloween window trail, which looked perfect for the kids who would otherwise be feeling let down by a lack of trick or treating. I suggested we have one on the WhatsApp group, and the uptake was brilliant. One night with a lit-up window and suddenly the neighbours were chatting enthusiastically again, thanking each other for a lovely evening walk.
Time for another suggestion. This one was a big one though… an Advent window trail. I had no idea how this would go. Unsurprisingly, the residents were keen. It only took a few days for all of the dates to get signed up while the anticipation mounted.
For those that don’t know, an Advent window trail is where a different house decorates their window on one of the days of Advent and include the relevant date. Every day, there was a new window to walk to and admire, along with a lovely hubbub within the WhatsApp group. Neighbours were taking their children out for an evening stroll, spotting Christmas trees and numbered windows, and then sending lovely messages of thanks to each other on the WhatsApp group afterwards.
It’s started a bond within the community that wasn’t really there before, and we can only hope that long after the Covid-19 nightmare comes to an end, the community events and the sense of belonging within the group continue. There’s nothing better than feeling connected to your neighbours, especially in times like these. Thank you to all of the Lake House Estate residents for taking part.