Interview with Claire Sheppard, Green Party candidate and community campaigner
Can you tell us a bit about Nunhead Knocks?
It was started by a handful of folks local to Nunhead who had skills in tech, community connections and backgrounds in organising who wanted to find a way to help the many people in our neighbourhood who have been affected by the virus.
How did you get the idea for Nunhead Knocks? Is it just you?
I’ve been an admin for the community group Nunhead Rocks for 4 or 5 years and as soon as the Coronavirus crisis started I thought it would be a good idea if people who are self-isolating could be matched with very local people – ideally in their street. It struck me that you might not want to say “I need help” on a Facebook group and have some random person show up.
If you could be matched up with someone you recognise because they live across the street that would be a lot more reassuring. Through Nunhead Rocks I knew that we have a community of about 5,500 decent, kind people, who help each other out.
And the name?
Well, Nunhead Knocks rhymes with Nunhead Rocks, which is the name of our community Facebook page.
Why did you create a whole website? Why not just set up a Facebook page or a WhatsApp group?
Actually, I did start with Facebook. I created an email account and asked for help via Nunhead Rocks. At first, I thought I could manage it all on a spreadsheet. With my knowledge from Green Party campaigning I could co-ordinate people into different zones, using our leafleting maps. I wanted to combine my political campaigning with my community campaigning to help as many people as possible.
[interview continues below]
Watch Claire interviewed about Nunhead Knocks
by national party co-leader, Siân Berry
(starts about 3 minutes in)
How long did it take to set up Nunhead Knocks?
I ordered 5,000 leaflets a couple of Fridays ago, put a post on the Nunhead Rocks Facebook page and within 24 hours this amazing woman from Nunhead called Charlie got in touch. She said “This is a bit unwieldy. I could build you a website.” Within 36 hours of the Facebook post I was already getting overwhelmed with the volume of volunteers, so I said yes!
By the Sunday, Charlie and her partner Tom had built a website and we had created a small core team.
What area do you cover?
We cover the wards of Peckham Rye and Queens Road Peckham. We’ve broken them down into 29 hyper-local zones.
What help do you offer?
It’s based on my personal experience of being isolated at home when I had cancer 4 years ago. My 3 top priorities then were to make sure that
- I had food in the house
- My dog got walked
- I had people to talk to
Which is why we started with those 3 areas. But our volunteers have a huge range of skills.
How many volunteers have you got?
At the last count it was over 1450.
Can you give us some examples of people you’ve matched?
- a woman who is over 65, blind, and worried about getting food she normally gets meals from a local cafe that is now closed, with a volunteer to help her get meals.
- An oncologist whose local tube station had closed and needed to borrow a car to get to work, to someone who loaned them a car.
- A woman who told us that she has no children or friends, so feels very alone while self-isolating, to a volunteer who will chat with her regularly.
- A local pharmacy to volunteers to help them deliver prescriptions directly.
Is it safe to volunteer or ask for help? Will my personal data be protected?
This is something I feel very strongly about! My background is in market research and I used to work with the Central Office of Information before it was closed down. We could really do with their expertise in communication strategy for setting up this kind of social programme. I know the importance of building in safeguarding systems to protect personal data.
We’ve all been told to stay at home. How can I help without leaving the house?
There’s lots you can do! Part of the service is hooking people up with a neighbour who will check in with them every few days so that’s something a volunteer can do from home. There are also admin jobs – coordinating volunteers, putting systems and logistics in place…
It sounds like a great idea; can other people use your model?
Absolutely, it’s been designed with that in mind and we really want as many people as possible to use it.
How can people get involved?
If you’re in Nunhead or Peckham, go to https://www.nunheadknocks.com/
There is also have an offshoot in London Bridge and West Bermondsey https://www.londonbridgecommunity.com/ that was set up by Lib Dem Councillor, Humaira Ali who saw a post on the Southwark Mutual Aid Covid 19 Facebook page and got in touch about using our model.
A final word?
We really want to spread our model as widely as possible, not just London but nationwide. If anyone thinks they can help, get in touch via the website https://www.nunheadknocks.com/!
Thank you to Claire for sparing the time for this interview and for all the great work you and your team are doing!