Week 10: Chair’s Blog – History and Connection

We’ve dug into the past elsewhere on the website but it’s important to recall that the Wimbledon Community Association (WCA) came about just after the Second World War in 1946.

Back then the overwhelming purpose was to try and bind communities together as the country forged its way out of the devastation left by the war.  Local authorities were encouraged to set up and develop local community associations and were given government support to do so.

The WCA then was more like the charitable arm of the old Wimbledon Borough Council with the Mayor as President, four vice presidents (councillors and aldermen), a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Press and Publicity Officer, Admin Assistant and Organising Secretary plus an Executive made up of 12 people!

The original constitution had as its primary object ‘to promote as widely as possible the well-being of the community by associating local authorities, voluntary organisations and residents in Wimbledon (the ‘surrounding area’ was added later) in a common effort to further cultural, social and physical welfare; and to foster a spirit of mutual service and friendship.’

It also said that the ‘Association shall be non-party political and non-sectarian’.  Other parts were added to the constitution later (the latest version was written in 1999) but at the core this is still what the charity is about.  For the first ten years or so of its existence it actually operated from the Wimbledon Guild offices on Worple Road, with whom the Association had very close links.  The main function those days was to keep a directory of local member groups, organise a programme of events and disseminate that to the local population.

I’ve spoken elsewhere of the reasons I got involved but that original object was also a key factor in drawing me in.  Ironically with the closure and then the demolition of the community centre in 2013, we find ourselves back where it started in the Association’s first decade of operation, without a permanent home.

These days of course we all work from home and virtually all our dissemination of information is via the website, social media and the internet, but as I said last week I think the importance of face-to-face communication is as vital now as it’s ever been. If there’s one thing that we’ve learnt from lockdown it’s the need for real human engagement.  Sadly, we still seem to spend so much of our time looking at screens, small and large.

What we say in writing on the internet or via text can often be misconstrued.  We are social beings at heart, and I think a lot of the world’s problems come from the failure to connect on a personal level.  Whilst social media and the internet have an important place in providing information, they are not, in my view, a particularly good channel for communicating feelings.

I almost wonder sometimes whether we’re losing that facility to connect in person.  Communication as social animals is not of course just about the words we use.  We are emotional creatures.

There was a study by a psychologist called Mehrabian in 1971 that suggested just 7% of communication is through the spoken word, 38% is the way we say things and 55% through our body language.  Whilst there are differences in opinion as to how valid these percentages are, it is undoubtedly the case that human connection goes far beyond the words we use.

I completed a course in acting about five years ago, as a passion of mine. At each session, we deliberately turned off our phones and simply connected with our fellow actors in person using a simple repetition exercise. The results were astonishing. I would love to see us as a society do more of that. I’ll delve a little more into that theme next time.

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