My goodness, what a week. Last Friday, Alex and I decided to postpone the Incubator. We did this with a heavy heart, but it was the only thing to do. We couldn’t risk endangering any of our participants. It had always been the plan to update everyone on Monday 16 March, which Alex then did. And he got so many lovely messages in response. About how sad everyone was, what a brilliant programme he’d put together and how everyone was really looking forward to the new dates in September.
Later that evening, our government here finally moved. Asking everyone to stay at home and warning of further measures to come. The National Trust (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) immediately announced it would close its buildings (houses, restaurants, shops). But that it would keep open its parks and gardens as long as possible. What could be better for the nation at this time than fresh air? And nature, beauty and history?
And so it began. Well, it had begun weeks ago of course but I think we all suddenly realised that things had to really change. And what’s more, that we each have our part to play. Over the course of the week here, the government introduced ever more stringent measures. On Tuesday, we were advised against non-essential overseas travel. The next day, the prime minister announced that schools would close. Then we were urged to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants, to stay at home and keep washing our hands. By Saturday, they were all to be closed. And on Sunday, the National Trust had to close its gated gardens and parks. Quite simply too many people had taken the opportunity to visit and it was no longer safe.
I know other countries are taking similar measures and that we are not alone in any of this. Last Friday we mailed INTO members to express our support for them all. It’s a really difficult time for everyone. No one knows what COVID-19 will mean for the people and places we care for as an international National Trust movement.
And the virus even seems to strike at the heart of the things we particularly value at INTO. Like coming together, networking and community. Moreover, it was important to say that, whilst global connectivity has been blamed, we know from experience that things are better when we work together. As a global community.
Many INTO members responded. We heard stories of site closures, keeping people safe – especially elderly volunteers – remote working, engaging with people who are self-isolating at home, and many more heroic endeavours to help protect our communities.
We also heard that people are feeling worried and isolated at this difficult time. Which underlined for me the need to support each other, as individuals, as a network and a movement.
So, we’re holding a webinar on Monday 23 March at 1pm GMT where INTO members can share strategies and feel part of the wider NT family response. There’s no particular agenda, just an opportunity to share experiences and stories. And/or concerns that could benefit from the collective wisdom of the INTO membership.
Life has shifted for all of us. Last week was full of webinars and teleconferences. That’s pretty much business and usual for us here at INTO. (Here I am on an Interreg Europe webinar on Thursday!) But for many of our colleagues, being confined to barracks is very new and unsettling.
As we stand in solidarity with members of the international National Trust movement, now’s the time to work together. To share ideas and approaches, concerns and worries. And to think of things we can do to help each other in these extraordinary times.
Keep well, everyone and look forward to speaking tomorrow!