400 words #009: Shared purpose

A couple of weeks ago, in the baking heat, I was running through rural Kent and I came across a community orchard.

Jeskyns Orchards is part of Jeskyns Community Woodlands, was set up in 2007 and “has over 900 different varieties of cherry, plum, apple and pear trees planted to make up the 2504 tree traditional orchard”.

There were friendly signs dotted around telling folks to take whatever fruit they liked.

It got me thinking about community, and a sense of shared purpose. Something which seems to be missing from so much of modern British life.

Or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.

In a previous post I wrote about my (joyous) involvement in some of the Cultural Olympiad in 2012, and the other day I watched 59 Productions’ latest showreel, which contains footage of the (still stunning and moving) London 2012 opening ceremony.

More recently I have been reading ultra-runner Scott Jurek’s book, North in which he describes the hugely positive ‘tribal’ experience he gets out of running with people.

Elsewhere I have spoken with people involved in Hull’s year-long European City of Culture celebration in 2017 about the enormous levels of participation and excitement they saw from local communities.

I’m sure there are many, many other examples you could point to.

I don’t really know what my point is. That it’s nice to do things with other people? And this is even nicer if you can do it on a city or country-wide scale? And that this sort of thing is best if you’re involved in something which feels like it’s bigger than yourself?

After the year we’ve had so far, with a pandemic removing our ability to share physical space with other people, it feels like maybe a focus on community, on shared experiences, on shared purpose is what we need more of?

I don’t know. But that orchard, and its 900 different varieties of fruit got me thinking.

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