Blog Post by Sarah Medina

Eynsham News in the pandemic

Eynsham News was published as a free, 20-page newsletter from its inception in 2013 until – well, until the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020. Suddenly, it was all change.

We, the Eynsham News team, found ourselves in uncharted waters. How best to respond to the needs of the village during lockdown? Eynsham News is delivered by a team of volunteers to every house and village in Eynsham Parish. Many deliverers are retired and fall into the category of those who are at high risk of complications from Covid-19. Effectively, they were brought to a standstill. In any case, we asked ourselves, was it even safe to deliver Eynsham News – for the recipients as well as the deliverers? It was known that the virus could remain on certain surfaces for some time, perhaps even for up to three days – so would we risk infecting people by hand delivering Eynsham News on paper?

We quickly made the decision to publish a weekly 2page newsletter, in order to keep people up to date with what was happening – and also to provide some ‘lighter’ content and activities for people to do whilst on lockdown. Because normal post was still being delivered, we concluded that we would deliver print copies as long as we still thought it safe to do so. But how? Who could do the deliveries when our own team was out of action?

At the same time as we were working out our response, a number of villagers set up the Eynsham Volunteers group, working with Eynsham Good Neighbours to provide help to people who were shielding. Ten ‘areas’ within the village were established, with volunteers allocated to, and a WhatsApp group created for, each one. These volunteers agreed to take on delivery of our weekly news sheets. And so Issues 1 and 2 of our weekly newsletter were published and delivered by the Eynsham Volunteers team.

As the pandemic was getting worse, with cases growing rapidly, we at Eynsham News decided that it was too risky to deliver the newsletters until further notice. (The levels of postal deliveries were down from normal, too.) Weekly publication would continue – but on our website only. We worried that a large part of the readership would be unable to access the newsletter online – and that, sadly, turned out to be the case. Although some villagers kindly printed out copies of the newsletters for ‘offline’ friends and neighbours who requested them, we know that publishing online only cut the readership by about 85–90%. We felt awful – this was completely against the entire purpose of Eynsham News – but we knew it was better to be safe than sorry.

On the date of writing (24 June 2020), we have continued to publish Eynsham News online, at first weekly, then – as people became more informed about what was happening in the village and how they could get support – fortnightly and, for the very last online issue, monthly. This final online issue will be published on 26 June 2020.

So, what next? Well, lockdown is gradually being relaxed in the drive to get the economy back up and running. The post has gone back to normal levels of delivery. And we, too, are returning to print. However, life is by no means back to normal, and many people are continuing to shield. So, for a 12-month trial period, Eynsham News will be published as an 8-page monthly newsletter. It will continue to be delivered by the Eynsham Volunteers – supported, when the time is right, by members of our own delivery team.

By publishing once a month instead of once every two months, we believe that we can support our lovely community to the best of our ability. This way, we can keep people informed about current village news and activities. For those who continue to shield, we can provide enjoyable reading matter and a range of activities they can do. As before, the newsletter will reach more than 2,000 homes and businesses – bringing together all of us who are fortunate enough to live in this wonderful community.

Author: Eynsham Lockdown Editor