Would you like to help tackle loneliness at Christmas time? Are you looking for a way to bring your neighbourhood together?
There is a strong connection between loneliness and mental health. Having a mental health problem increases your chances of feeling lonely; and feeling lonely has been recognised as a significant risk for your mental health.
Loneliness can be particularly difficult at Christmas time. It can seem like everyone else has a party to go to or friends and family to be with. Whilst loneliness can affect people anywhere, it is easy to feel lonely in a big city London where you can be surrounded by people and yet have no sense of connection to them. Feeling part of a community and having a sense of belonging in your neighbourhood is an important dimension to protecting mental health.
Whitehall Park Living Advent Calendar
In Whitehall Park, North London, a Christmas community art project has been creating connection within the neighbourhood since 2015.
The project gets volunteers from 24 houses and hubs in the local community to illuminate their windows with festive decorations in December. One window is ‘opened’ each day from the 1st to the 24th December and remains illuminated until 12th night.
At switch-on time each night, there is a small gathering on the pavement. Usually those who turn up are offered minced pies, mulled wine or some other form of festive cheer. Everyone living in the neighbourhood receives a copy of the timetable through their door, and is warmly invited to come along to the switch-on nights or tour the displays. You don’t need to be know people personally – there is an explicit welcome for to anyone in the local community to turn up and enjoy the displays together.
“So joyous – it has transformed the way I feel about the neighbourhood.”
“I’ve spoken to so many neighbours I never knew before.”
“It has made me feel safer when I’m walking around the streets – it feels like I’m living in a place that has warmth.”
“Such a magical way to bring the community together.”
The calendar was featured as a case study by the Eden Project, and has inspired similar projects in Manchester, Walthamstow, Weston-Super-Mare, Norwich and Somerset.
Want to do this yourself? Find our step-by-step guide here.