Looking back at 12 months and how Covid-19 lockdowns revealed numerous community heroes across Banbury

It has been 12 months from this day (March 23) last year when the UK was put into its first national lockdown by the Government due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 1:28 pm

We continue to live in uncertain times and the Banbury Guardian has reported on how much life has changed impacting the way businesses operate, and sadly how people have suffered throughout the pandemic.

Today we pause to remember those who have suffered, lost loved ones and take a few moments to reflect on the last year.

We are looking back at some of the stories we published over the past year.

An image of the empty streets of the Banbury town centre at the end of March 2020 (photo taken by Richard Savory)

Not long had the Government announced the lockdown when people within the communities of the Banbury area started pulling together to help others in need.

While the pandemic brought much suffering it also brought people together, particularly with unifying movements like the #Clapforourcarers initiative. It saw business owners and local residents stepping outside their homes to clap for the heroes of the NHS and other key workers who continued serving people during the pandemic.

One Banbury man, Wayne Cowley, and his family found a special way to show their gratitude to the NHS and the other key workers. He specially painted his car, an MG, with bright rainbow colours to honour the 'Healthcare Key and Volunteer Workers,' including fire, farmers, police and the NHS.

Wayne's wife, Laura Cowley, said: "We just wanted to show our thanks. We just wanted to thank all the people that are still working so hard including the farmers that are supplying and delivering food to local villages."

An image of the empty streets of the Banbury town centre at the end of March 2020 (photo taken by Richard Savory)

See the full story here: https://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/news/people/banbury-family-shows-thanks-nhs-and-other-key-workers-specially-painted-mg-2521351While the pandemic brought tough times there were people who went out of their way to help others smile like Gemma Whitton-Dews, who took to dancing in giant 7.5 foot tall dinosaur costume to help people smile. Gemma took requests from people as she posted videos of herself on Facebook dancing in her 7.5 foot tall dinosaur costume.

The dinosaur costume named 'G-Rex' first caught the attention of her neighbours after she wore it to deliver her Mother's Day gift and card to her own mother.

Gemma said: "I knew in the current climate it would cheer people up so I thought why not. It’s all about community spirit at a time like this. I walked to my parents house to deliver my mum's card and pressie and that's when everyone first saw me. After seeing that Joe Wicks was doing a PE session in the morning, I thought I’d do my own in the costume."

Pictures and videos of her dancing dinosaur routines quickly spread across the Banbury Facebook pages.

A look at the High Street in Banbury during the lockdown earlier this year in January 2021

Multiple nonprofit groups pitched in to help the vulnerable and those isolating during the pandemic too like The Sunshine Centre, the Banbury Mosque and CAC among others.

The Banbury Mosque and The Sunshine Centre were among several organisations, businesses and people who received 'Unsung Heroes' of the lockdown award in a campaign launched by Banbury MP Victoria Prentis.

Volunteers with the Banbury Mosque and the community fridge delivered thousands of isolation food packs to vulnerable people in the community during pandemic.

Gemma Whitton-Dews danced in a giant dinosaur costume last year to help people smile in her Banbury neighbourhood

One local resident Prabhu Natarajan,who works as a carer at a local care home, also received an 'Unsung Hero' award after delivering numerous food pack to the vulnerable in the community.

Prabhu and his son, Addhu, dressed as superheroes - Mr Incredible and Captain America - respectively as they give away packets of food and gifts for local children to celebrate his son's sixth birthday in January.

See the full story of how Prabhu and his son helped people smile here: https://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/news/people/banbury-father-and-son-dress-super-heroes-they-give-away-food-packs-community-during-ongoing-covid-19-pandemic-3102656While local schools were shut during much of the lockdowns it did not stop people associated with them from helping their community.

A group of volunteers, which included a team of alumni from Tudor Hall School served with a national Food4Heroes scheme helping to provide meals for the NHS. The school loaned out its new kitchen for the local Food4Heroes meal scheme.

The initiative was led by Hester Sale, and her daughter, Connie, 22, who had returned to the family home near the village of Brailes, after having been furloughed from her job in London.

The volunteers prepared, cooked and delivered 1,000 meals per week and delivered more than 7,350 home-made meals to NHS staff members at the Horton and JR Hospitals.

Prabhu Natarajan and his son Addhu dressed as superheroes as they delivered food packs to the community as way of marking his son's sixth birthday earlier this year

People from several schools across the Banbury helped by making personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff. Volunteers from Winchester House School made hundreds of face shields for health care workers to use during the pandemic.

Emma McGowan, the community relations manager for Winchester House School, said: "Alongside many other primary, prep and secondary schools we have gone into face shield production to ease the supply of face shields for the country's amazing key workers and other health care professionals."

For the full story on how Winchester House School pitched in making PPE see here: https://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/education/brackley-school-making-face-shields-help-protect-key-workers-and-health-professionals-during-coronavirus-pandemic-2533724But Covid-19 did cause people to suffer and the Banbury Guardian reported the death of several people due to Covid.

Among those who died locally from Covid-19 were Barry Pocock, aged 37, who was loyal supporter of Banbury United Football Club in town.

A BUFC spokesperson posted the following message as part of its fundraiser, which said: "Banbury United FC were deeply saddened in late January when we heard the news that one of our young loyal supporters Barry Pocock had passed away suddenly from Covid 19."

But there were also amazing survival stories too.

A Banbury business owner and area pilot shared their stories of surviving Covid-19 with the Banbury Guardian earlier this year.

Rob Hutt, who owns Flash Buzz marketing agency in town, spent nearly a week in hospital due to Covid-19 shared a moving heartfelt testimonial of his experience with the illness.

He said: "I wanted to share my experience because I believe the more real it feels for people the more likely they are to protect themselves and others from it."

He wrote a harrowing yet honest account of his experience, which can be read here: https://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/health/banbury-man-shares-harrowing-moving-experience-having-covid-19-3131018

There are still months of living under restrictions ahead but Boris Johnson has announced a road-map for the country which hopefully, means we will soon be out of lockdown good.

Today (Tuesday March 23) a minute's silence and a national doorstep vigil will form part of a day of reflection to mark the anniversary of the UK's first Covid lockdown.

Volunteers from the Banbury Mosque delivered and gave away thousands of food packs to people in the community during the pandemic
At left, Banbury business owner Rob Hutt in hospital and at right Rob with his son, Finley upon returning home
The car painted by Banbury man, Wayne Cowley, to thanks the NHS and other key workers during the coronavirus. Pictured: Wayne and Laura Cowley's children: Ti, Theo and Chiana