‘Haverhill has more community spirit than any town I’ve ever worked in’

Haverhill Christmas lights switch-on

This column, in keeping with the time of year, was going to be a look back and also a look forward, writes Andy Hunter, Chairman of ONE Haverhill Partnership.

To review 2021 for ONE Haverhill Partnership and, in particular, my first nine months as chair of an organisation that has achieved so much.

And to consider what this organisation with so much potential might achieve in the next ten years.

But the events of the last few days once again mean that organisations everywhere need to focus not on plans for the future, but on ways of adjusting with the present.

Within a few days of the Omicron variant being discovered, the Government has again made face coverings mandatory in shops and public transport.

Prior to this, many of our schools had already brought back face coverings in communal areas and it’s fair to say that, while it isn’t currently a substantial problem in Haverhill, student and staff absence continues to be a major challenge across the country.

Lots of us will be pleased that the Government has reduced the time between the second jabs and booster vaccinations, but disappointed that once again we face a slightly uncertain Christmas, especially if you were planning to travel abroad or welcome visitors from outside of the UK.

Whether you have been vaccinated or not, whether you agree with face coverings or not, there is room in this community for your opinion. Masks are a nuisance, but if wearing one today will save a life tomorrow, then I know we will all do the right thing.

For many, it will be a difficult few weeks as we await more news about the new variant.

For me, the pandemic has actually shown the best of our communities. We are tolerant and patient. We smile and pull together. We don’t let things get us down. We look after our neighbours. We look after our families. We are good in adversity.

There has been a lot said about strengthening communities over the last two years. Not every town has a strong community. But Haverhill has more community spirit than any town I’ve ever worked in, with more people working for the good of the town and its citizens than I’ve ever seen.

We are all sick to the back teeth of the pandemic, but our town makes me proud and optimistic. I hope you feel the same way too.

As I write this, Haverhill prepares to celebrate its annual late-night Christmas shopping event followed by a weekend of festive activities.

There are decorations going up all over town – in shops and schools, offices and GP surgeries, pubs and restaurants, laboratories and factories. I hope that all of those little lights will serve as a reminder of the warmth of our community.

For some it may be a touch early, but as this is my last column for 2021, may I wish you all a very peaceful and relaxing Christmas and New Year.