How people from different walks of life spent the lockdown in Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:27 30 June 2020
From frontline to fruit stall with a boogie in between, we hail some of Yorkshire’s lockdown stalwarts.
Dancing in Driveways
Like many communities, when lockdown struck dance teacher Charlotte Armitage’s Sheffield street, a WhatsApp support group was instantly set up to keep residents in touch with each other, to provide a central hub to share news and ask for help – particularly for those in isolation or shielding.
Charlotte, or Charlie, as she is known to her neighbours, was initially concerned about people who were living alone, who didn’t have access to the internet or exercise at all. As a community dance artist she regularly works with many older or more vulnerable adults and children – all of which stopped overnight as lockdown was implemented.
‘I lost all my freelance community dance work immediately,’ Charlie says. ‘I decided to make the most of my newly acquired free time and offer my own street a daily 20 minute dance session each day at 10.30am.
‘I wanted to get everyone out in the fresh air together for some fitness, fun and for a chance to see each other – at a safe distance – from their own driveways and gardens.
‘Dance has a real way of physically and mentally making you feel better, and through a project like this we can emotionally and socially make people feel better,’ she says.
To say it was a hit with the neighbours up and down the street is an understatement.
More than 50 people a day have been showing up to join in with Charlie every day. ‘It’s just been brilliant – there’s people as far as the eye can see and all of us have made friends with neighbours we didn’t even know before lockdown.
‘Everyone chats after the session – at a distance of course – and some really lovely friendships have been formed,’ she says, happily.
‘We have neighbours from five months to 93 years joining in and I have had so many telling me they feel both physically and mentally better for having the opportunity to dance everyday.
‘Everyone inputs their music choices and they do it with so much enthusiasm,’ she says. ‘We all share a huge sense of fun and have learned how much love and support we all have right here on our doorstep.
‘It is just so joyful to have a set time each day to just get outside and dance together. It’s become a much needed routine for many who aren’t working and for those who wouldn’t see anyone else through the day.
‘Out of all the upset, anxiety and trauma surrounding this pandemic, we have found so much comfort and joy in dancing together.’
Former Royal Air Force senior aircraftman serving on the coronavirus frontline
Having enlisted in the RAF fresh from high school, Dean Mills was devastated to find his ten-year military career at an end due to a serious accident during a mountain rescue training mission in Wales in 1993. He severely injured his leg and hand after falling down a deep crevass. Despite an extensive 18-month rehabilitation programme he was forced to leave the service he loved.
He went on to join the International Rescue Corps, which runs missions to disaster zones around the world, where he developed a keen interest in medicine and decided to re-train as a nurse.
Despite having enduring issues with his leg, for which he has considered an amputation at times, he’s now a key member of the ICU team treating Covid-19 patients at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.
‘I had to leave the service, which I found very difficult,’ says Dean. ‘It was a big adjustment because the RAF was my life at the time. I was always interested in the medical aspect of search and rescue so I decided to retrain to become a nurse, which is ongoing.
‘The leg is a bit of an issue and I’ve thought about amputation, but I also think I’m luckier than a lot in that I still have some use of it.’
Dean was working at the hospital’s theatres department as a perioperative assistant nurse when he was called to join the effort to cope with a surge of seriously ill patients as the virus spread around the nation. ‘It has been very tough,’ he says, describing the 13-hours shifts with up to 11 hours spent in full protective gear and face mask. The parallels between this work and life in the military are not lost on him.
‘We have lost some people but, thankfully, we’ve seen lots go back to their families. We do our best every shift and the professionalism here is outstanding.
‘We work as a team, so it is like being back in the forces; I look after my lot and they look after me. We make sure we have the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on and help each other – there’s a huge sense of pride in what we do.’
Camaraderie and team spirit within the units have been well reported all over the UK and, of course, the NHS is no stranger to working in crisis; rising to unique challenges in fast-paced environments and ever-changing landscapes. However, never before has it had to rise to a situation quite like Covid-19.
‘There is an intensity to it which is draining and being in the PPE is hot and exhausting,’ says Dean. ‘It’s not nice, you do feel claustrophobic and, at times, it is scary for some people, but help is there if we need it and we all keep each other’s spirits up.
‘I’m a bit of a joker so I have a laugh and help keep morale up. I’m originally from Kent so there is a bit of banter about soft Southerners with some of the patients here,’ he jokes.
‘It is good to lighten the mood and have personal contact when you can, and again, it’s like the forces in that you have bad days and good days and have a laugh whenever possible.’
John and Sue Rudden
Grassington House – Rudden’s Rations
Like many self-employed people, boutique hoteliers John and Sue Rudden, of award-winning Grassington House, found themselves facing the most inhospitable of situations ever encountered in their 34 years in business.
Having excelled at the art of welcoming the world into theirs with open arms, the abrupt abyss of lockdown looked grim – more so when the couple discovered, despite being one of the highest rate payers in the area, they fell through every crack for Government support. ‘It was horrendous, really, really awful,’ says Sue, recalling the day. ‘When our last hope – the bank – rang and said they weren’t going to support businesses in our industry, I was physically sick.’
Despite the despair, they dug deep, gathered themselves up and within 48 hours of closing the doors they were out on the street with a survival plan – not only for themselves – but for their local community too.
With no village store in Grassington open at the time and a kitchen full of produce, it made perfect sense to chef, John, to transform the hotel terrace into a pop-up outdoor shop. It was ideal for the local community, many of whom were elderly or had been advised to self-isolate immediately or were struggling to get basic items due to restrictions and the stockpiling frenzy that ensued.
And so, Rudden’s Rations was born. The mini-market supplies fresh produce in a safe environment, with the terrace railings providing a natural social distancing barrier. Locals can buy seven types of flour, yeast, oil and other ingredients – all available to take away in their own containers – along with meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy produce.
‘It’s been amazing,’ said Sue. ‘Considering we were literally sick to our stomachs in the beginning, we could never have known how wonderful this would turn out. It’s been very hard of course, but people are just incredible; we’re helping them wherever we can and they’re helping us in return for produce, it’s amazing.’
John and Sue work tirelessly outside on the terrace – six days a week – rain, hail or shine and have managed to protect their much-valued supply chain in the process. When it became clear Covid-19 was here to stay a while longer, the couple evolved the business to cater for emerging needs, as the villagers clamoured for the fine dining experience they missed in lockdown.
John’s signature dishes such as ‘rag pudding’ were available for customers to re-heat, with side dishes and desserts to provide a gastronomic dining experience at home. And then came the pies! ‘It started with two and word quickly spread, so John made another batch of 17 and they flew off the stall,’ laughed Sue ‘We’re now selling more than 200 pies a week!’
Sue has earned herself the nickname of ‘super Suey the fruit lady’ after giving all visiting children a free piece of fresh fruit. Many of these youngsters have produced artwork for Sue and John, which they intend to have made into a special collage to be a lasting reminder of how their community pulled together.
And the good news? The market stall is here to stay even after restrictions have been lifted: ‘This was a lifeline for all of us here when we all needed it,’ says Sue. ‘To take it away would be very wrong and besides, the friends we’ve made and the businesses we’ve been able to help, it’s wonderful and it will most definitely continue.’