LEGO people help Bradford Town Council spread coronavirus advice

TOWN council staff have been helped spread safety messages through the pandemic with posters and leaflets and even a Lego video after receiving a grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

Bradford on Avon Town Council was awarded £1,000 from the from the community foundation’s Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund. The appeal has raised £580,110 so far and has already awarded more than £325,000 to more than 90 voluntary groups across the county to help them respond to the crisis.

Director of operations Ian Brown said: “When we set up our response to the crisis, we looked at and how we were going to manage the services we are responsible for and how we were going to communicate with the public.

“We have quite an old population here but quite a few of them are silver surfers and we get a reasonable following online.”

“We needed to get the message out about what was closed and what was open and also reinforce the message about social distancing and looking after people who were shielding.”

The council produced safe distancing posters to go up in the narrow streets of the historic town. “We have got some very narrow lanes, so we have placed a lot of information posters there. The Wiltshire Community Foundation grant has been really useful and helped us to spread the safety message,” said Mr Brown.

The most attention-grabbing initiative has been a series of films made by communications contractor Joe Venables, using Lego characters to reinforce the stay safe messages.

Said Mr Brown: “We wanted a unique approach to our comms and came up with the Lego movies as a way of catching peoples’ attention. The first one was about social distancing because we’ve got the river and the canal and there are a lot of boaters mooring on the canal. People have been using the footpaths for exercise, so the video was about social distancing and being respectful of others and the etiquette of waiting for people and get it across in a fun way.

“The second video was about shielding and helping the older people do their shopping. We have held the third one while we were waiting for the next government advice.”

The council has also co-ordinated a network of 300 volunteers who have been dubbed Street Champions and look after their neighbours.

Mr Brown said: “We have a lot of volunteer groups who help us anyway so we thought we would harness that quickly and show a bit of community leadership and coordination.” We could see there would be a problem if we didn’t step in because of the age profile of the town.

“We have dealt with around 500 calls now and what we are trying to encourage is once people have got a relationship with their local Street Champion, they don’t need to call us and that is working. We are still getting at ten to 15 calls a day from people asking for help.”

He said the requests from elderly or vulnerable people in isolation have been varied. “We have been organising the collection and distribution of prescriptions, we have been organising peoples’ shopping and all sorts of other things – someone had sat on their glasses and broke them, so we organised new ones from the opticians,” said Mr Brown.

“We have had people calling saying they’d like someone to talk to them, so we arranged for someone to give them a ring for a chat. For a small town like Bradford on Avon, 300 volunteers is quite a high number, people have been falling over themselves to volunteer which has been really positive, they have been brilliant.”

For more details about the council’s services go to bradfordonavontowncouncil.gov.uk and to see the council’s videos search for the council’s YouTube channel.

Wiltshire Community Foundation interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “This is yet another example of volunteers, who give so freely of their time, stepping up to meet the demands of this crisis and helping to keep their communities safe.

“We are delighted that we can help match the generosity of the people of Wiltshire and Swindon with the commitment of the town council. There are so many more groups doing similarly vital work that we can help, but we are still relying on support for our appeal to enable us to keep on doing it.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Appeal or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.

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