Esk Valley community gets together while staying apart

30 September 2020 · Categories: Events, People Can

With Covid restrictions in force across the country communities have been finding creative ways to get together. Over in the Esk Valley, Botton Village Champions – a partnership of local individuals and organisations – came up with the idea of an all-day online event jam packed with interactive activities for the whole community to enjoy, many of whom are rurally isolated.

“It was fantastic to see so many people of all age and abilities leading sessions, contributing to the discussions and sharing ideas and positive stories from across our communities.”

Excitement at the event

The Esk Valley Together Virtual Rurality event took place on 31st July 2020. It was a full day of activities, hosted on Zoom and included group discussions around local issues such as: working together in response to COVID-19, keeping local volunteers involved beyond the pandemic to help communities to bounce back better, and listening to the voices of young people in communities.

Other fun activities from the day included imaginative music and exercise sessions hosted by Botton Village Champions, who include partners: Community Catalysts, Camphill Village Trust, North Yorkshire Stronger Communities, North York Moors National Park Authority, Esk Moors Caring, Heather Hopper, Esk Valley Rail, Moorsbus and local volunteers from Botton Village and the wider Esk Valley.

“A very enjoyable and informative day”

The event started with an inclusive warm-up exercise from North Yorkshire Sport, followed by Musical Memories who led a sing-along and trip down memory lane. Jim Hall, a volunteer from the North York Moors National Park Authority, took the group on a virtual walk and Camphill Village Trust gave a tour of the farm. Then, in the afternoon, interactive discussions on the theme of ‘Re-imagining the future’ were led by The People’s Powerhouse, CaVCA, Rebecca Morgan, Youth MP and Claire Morgan, Julie Macey and Debbie Swales from Ryedale VCS Leader’s Forum.

The event also saw the film premiere of ‘Esk Valley Together – A Time Like No Other’ which highlighted fantastic stories of a community response to COVID-19 from across the Esk Valley.

The day closed with a final thought and a short silence, led by Reverend Sally Wilson followed by a musical celebration led by fantastic musician Dave Crabtree and his brother Mikey.

“Well done on a wonderfully interactive event today and I really enjoyed being able to participate in it”

What happened next…

At the event so many people shared their stories about helping their communities, either by formally volunteering or simply by reaching out to neighbours to offer support. Everyone was keen for the sense of togetherness to continue and during the ‘Re-imagining the future’ discussions at the event people explored ways to do this. As a direct result of these discussions we’ve seen:

More partnership working with different partners agreeing to meet up separately to discuss and deliver potential projects together
An increase in donations to one organisation, following the film premiere in which they featured
Communities embracing new technology for events and in other innovative ways within the community. Zoom has been a particularly useful platform to share good ideas and influence each other on ways to support the community and/or develop collaboration
Continuation of the virtual walks from Jim Hall at North York Moors National Park Authority to care homes via Zoom
More activities and community interaction have been developed using ideas that were shared on the day

It is difficult to say when another meeting in person will be available, but as Zoom worked so well, it is certainly possible for another event to take place online.

What happened before…

The Esk Valley Together Virtual Rurality event in July followed on from a smaller Esk Valley Together conference which was held in November 2019. The previous event was organised by Community Catalysts and North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities Team in conjunction with the Botton Village Champions group. The event was hosted by Camphill Village Trust at Botton Village and was attended by over 40 organisations. You can find out more about what happened at the 2019 event here.

The recent online event helped to progress some of the pre-pandemic actions from the previous Esk Valley Together conference in November 2019, such as setting up a working group for transport providers across the Esk Valley.

Find out more…

You can find out more about the project and get involved here or contact Debbie John on

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