Chamber Chat with Alastair Richards

July 19, 2021 - 12:00am

Chamber Chat with Alastair Richards

Freedom day?

In the 1920s, T.S Eliot wrote his poem The Hollow Men which includes the now famous line ‘This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper.’

I’m writing this on what the press has named ‘Freedom Day’ when almost all government regulations as a result of Covid-19 are removed. It’s a day that many are welcoming as a return to normality while others are approaching it with trepidation.

But how did you imagine this would look?

Thinking back to March 2020, didn’t we all wonder if there would be a day when a siren would sound and the people of our town would celebrate? There would be joy, celebration, mourning, remembering a shared experience, and above all, the certain knowledge that the experience of the pandemic was behind us and we were safe.

The reality seems to be somewhat different. Yes, the restrictions are being relaxed, but many will continue to wear masks and behave differently for some time to come. We’re so much more conscious of illness and how it spreads than we were before and for many, a crowded office or a networking room is something to be feared rather than embraced.

That will change over time.

Over-time, strong feelings fade away and people will return to their old ways. But, that will be a gradual process marked over months and maybe years. This part of the pandemic is ending not with a bang, not with a siren, not with a celebration, but with a whimper.

For my organisation, North West Cancer Research, charities and many businesses we need a return to normality. We need people to embrace the activities they haven’t taken part in for almost 18-months and to ensure that they can do it safely.

Creating the bang, sounding the siren, will be up to us. As businesses we’re going to have to remind people of some of the things that they used to enjoy and still can – to provide a great experience to overcome the fear and to persuade people that we’ve thought about their safety.

It’s a time for great organisations to do what they do best.

Alastair is the Chief Executive of North West Cancer Research and is also is a director of the Chamber.