Beating the social gathering ban from your sofa
With social distancing and self-isolating becoming the norm, the spread of coronavirus means more and more people are missing out on the activities they usually do with friends and family.
But events such as pub quizzes, choir practice, breastfeeding support groups and even dance classes can still carry on from the comfort of your own home.
Despite being miles apart, people are finding ways to boost their spirits and keep social gatherings alive.
‘People are happy to do something positive’
Inspired by the widely shared videos of people singing from their balconies in Italy, James Sills set up The Sofa Singers.
His weekly online event sees 500 people come together for a 45-minute rehearsal where they learn a classic song and sing it together.
Choir and vocal leader James, 37, said: “I put it out on my social feeds for the first one and the places were all taken in 10 minutes.
“We had people from all over England and from California, Mexico and even Kenya.
“I think people are really happy to do something that is positive and that they can feel part of.”
The Sofa Singers have already tackled the Bill Withers hit Lean On Me and 1960s classic Stand By Me.
“They can hear me and themselves in their headphones and see everyone else,” said James, who lives in North Wales.
“If I see someone who catches my eye then I unmute them and everyone can hear them.
“For the final performance I encourage people to ring someone they know as they sing or record it and share it online.”
‘We had the same level of banter’
Emma Clement and her friends Hanna and Amelia felt it would be irresponsible to continue running their pub quiz at the Free Trade Inn in Newcastle.
But their event has gone online to ensure customers do not miss out on their weekly fix.
“The teams can see and hear us and each other,” said Emma, 26, who works as a technology consultant.
“When we read out the questions they can fill in the answers on a Google form.
“The first one we did on Wednesday lasted about an hour and a half. We had the same level of banter between the teams so it was good fun.”
Emma said the pub was hoping to introduce takeaway beer and pizzas from a local food truck for next week’s quiz.
“It was a bit weird not having prizes but the winning team had a moral victory and we got everyone to clap them,” she added.
‘Anything I can do to help I will’
Retired midwife Sue Richards, 68, usually runs the Abingdon Baby Café from a church hall in the Oxfordshire town every Thursday afternoon.
The local group is no longer able to meet in person but instead Sue is using FaceTime or WhatsApp to conduct appointments with new mums.
“I am happy to have people ringing me whenever they want during the week,” said Sue, a midwife of 40 years and an international board-certified lactation consultant.
“It’s not as good as one-to-one, there isn’t the group support or the hug which they often need but it has still worked well this week. I have spoken to three mums since Wednesday.”
Sue is still able to help mothers with their breastfeeding queries or concerns and, using video calls, she can even watch them try out her suggestions in real time.
“The community midwives are snowed under” and “are doing all they can” she added.
“But I can do this to help and I am qualified to do it so anything I can do to help I will.”
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‘People can dip in and out all day’
Oli Shier had planned to spend his 28th birthday watching football in the pub before playing poker with his friends.
But he scrapped his plans for Saturday when he started self-isolating.
Instead he is using video-conferencing service Zoom to host an online house party for about 20 friends from his home in Clapham Junction, south London.
“I was thinking of ways we could still hang out so thought of getting everyone on a group chat, everyone with a drink in hand and we can play games,” said engineer Oli.
“We are going to play a horse racing game using a pack of cards which I can record and then take bets on as we all watch it.
“I’ve also made a quiz using everyone’s old Facebook statuses so you have to guess whose status it is, or a game where you have to guess who is cropped out of the photo.
“We plan to start at midday to 2pm and people can dip in and out all day, it will be mix of friends from home in Guernsey, some from uni and people I’ve met in London.”
‘It’s important to keep moving’
For Lisa Martin, who runs Song Squad Performing Arts Courses in Bedford, taking her classes online is a way of keeping some “normality” and making sure the daily routine of children is “not being spoilt”.
She ran her first session on Thursday evening and is now moving all her dance, drama and singing classes online.
“The first session was just amazing, it was meant to be an hour but ended up being an hour and twenty minutes as we were having so much fun,” she said.
“It’s hugely important for everyone to keep moving and stay connected as I don’t want people just sitting at home.”
She is planning on running a free daily video for everyone so “children who aren’t seeing their grandparents can send them a link so they can all do it together”.