During the Covid-19 Pandemic, many of Merton’s community venues have had to close their doors to the public and find alternative ways of connecting with their users and local communities. Whilst many of them are keen to open their doors and engage with us again, there is still much uncertainty as to when they will safely be able to do so, and what this might look like.
To keep us all connected virtually, we have created this article to show what our listed community venues are up to at the moment, and how you can continue to connect with them and support them during the current circumstances.
Merton Libraries (Wimbledon, Colliers Wood, Mitcham, Morden, Raynes Park, Pollards Hill and West Barnes) – All sites have been closed but they are offering a range of services including e-books, audiobooks, and virtual events. We wrote about their current online services here.
A number of churches across Merton offer spaces to hire alongside their religious services. Although many of their buildings remain closed, many are providing online church services, and some are offering additional help to those in need.
Of our listed venues, those offering online prayer services include the Hillside Church in Wimbledon, St Mark’s Church in Wimbledon (also offering phone prayer services,) Holy Trinity Church on The Broadway, Christ Church in West Wimbledon, St Matthew’s Church in Raynes Park, St Andrew’s Church in Merton Park, Holy Cross Church in Motspur Park, Everyday Church in Wimbledon and the Wimbledon Quakers.
St Mary’s Church Merton are offering pastoral support and arranging the delivery of food parcels, similarly to St Saviour’s Church in Raynes Park who are offering prayer services online as well as delivering food parcels to those in need.
As well as having additional online services, churches such as All Saints Church in Wimbledon have created Facebook groups to connect with their members. Christ the King Church in Wimbledon Park also have a closed Facebook group for their members and are encouraging their members to share skills, time, and resources through initiatives such as having a phone twin.
We have faith that we will get through this together and are delighted to see so many of our Wimblecomm Members staying connected online. Whilst it has been impossible to stay open to provide their core services, some of our community venues are still doing physical work in the form of running outreach services.
The Commonside Trust (New Horizon Centre) in Mitcham is closed to the public. With approximately 50% of their usual staff and volunteers they continue to provide some vital support services to the community, such as making reassurance phone calls to isolated people and offering help with sorting family budgets, benefits and housing. All of these services are provided on the phone. In addition, the centre runs the Wimbledon Foodbank (Pollards Hill satellite) twice a week and delivers hot meals to local older people daily. These services are delivered in a manner that is fully approved by Health and Trading Standards. Staff are using the appropriate PPE and observe social distancing rules at all times when working in the building and when out delivering meals.
Likewise, the Wimbledon Guild are delivering essential items to isolated customers and giving food vouchers to those on low incomes or unable to work. They have also partnered with Two Teaspoons UK to deliver home cooked meals in exchange for donations.
Speaking of partnerships and working together, we have seen great teamwork between some of our venues and other local organisations to keep Merton going during this pandemic. Age UK Merton have been working with Merton Council and the MVSC to deliver emergency care packages to local households and have been running a food parcel service from Vestry Hall in Mitcham. Additionally, the Old Rutlishians in Merton Park have transformed their venue into a food and distribution centre for the Dons Local Action Group.
Primary schools such as Pelham, Bishop Gilpin, and Sacred Heart remain closed and are only open for the children of keyworkers. As teachers work extremely hard to provide schooling services virtually, and we all try to keep Merton’s kids connected, secondary schools Wimbledon College, Ricards Lodge, Raynes Park, Rutlish, and Harris Academy also remain closed.
With uncertainty across the board, many of Merton’s community venues remain closed and without income until government advice changes and it is safe to re-open. The situation has already forced some to furlough staff, and some have now started to ask for donations and support to keep them going. We have outlined the ones that we are aware of below;
Tooting & Mitcham United FC are crowdfunding to enable the club to continue their activities next season. As a thank you, everyone who donates will be entered into their prize draw with prizes such as a pair of season tickets or a Michail Antonio signed shirt.
Other community venues in Merton that are listed on Wimblecomm but remain closed to the public include the South Wimbledon Community Association (SWCA), William Morris House, South Park Gardens, YMCA Wimbledon, YMCA POD2, South London Irish Association, South Mitcham Community Centre, Chaucer Centre, Wandle Valley Centre and the 19th Wimbledon Scout Hall.
As of the recent slight ease of lockdown, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Cranleigh Tennis Club who are now partially open for tennis court hire if you want to get back into sports. As we look to brighter days ahead for more of our community venues, it is worth noting that Abbey Mills’ Colour House Theatre plan to re-open with their Children’s Theatre schedule in September. In the meantime, you can still get your dose of theatre fun from the Lantern Arts Centre as they continue to run a few singing and drama workshops online, alongside some interactive quizzes. The Polka Theatre have also launched the Polka Online in recent weeks which is sure to keep the young ones entertained and interacting whilst learning.
We look forward to updating you on more exciting activities and action from community venues across Merton in the coming months, and encourage you to keep an eye on our What’s On page for lots of virtual events to keep the whole family entertained at home.
Thank you to all of our listed venues included in this article. We look forward to working with you more in the future, as we prepare to take the necessary steps to keep us all safely connecting moving forwards.
Written by Genevieve Etienne-Farrell