As today marks the one year anniversary of the first COVID-19 National Lockdown, there is a lot to reflect on as a city.
Marie Curie have organised a National Day of Reflection in honour of the occasion, asking people to join in a minute's silence at midday. The BID team will be taking part, taking the opportunity to think about loved ones lost as well as the challenges that our city has faced.
With the Board of Directors making the decision to not send out invoices in Year 3, this saw the One Chelmsford team enter into a period of furlough in order to preserve the funds we had. Like so many across the world, we stayed at home watching with devastation as we saw businesses close their doors, the High Street emptied and Chelmsford became a ghost town. Huge national businesses collapsed which will change the landscape of our cities entirely - Debenhams being a huge loss for Chelmsford. Smaller independents making the heartbreaking decision to close their businesses entirely and the horrific impact on the hospitality sector as cinemas, theatres, pubs and clubs all closed their doors wondering 'how long for this time?'.
Although the devastating impact and challenges faced cannot be dismissed, on this day of reflection we feel it appropriate to focus and appreciate the many good things that have come from the last year as well. Despite many businesses lost, Chelmsford welcomed with open arms several new businesses into the city - Fete at Gray's Yard, The Garrison, Robin's Pie & Mash, Scum & RE:fill to name a few.
This year has also been one for adaptation and the sudden change in consumer trends saw many businesses take the leap into the digital world. Updating websites, creating online shops, offering click & collect or home delivery & takeaways; it has been incredible to watch the transformation of businesses this way, allowing them to not only remain open and generate income, but to thrive. Although we absolutely cannot wait to see those 'Open' signs on doors and customers back on the High Street, we know there is an uphill struggle ahead of us and online shopping will continue to change the dynamic of towns and cities. We are confident that these digital steps our businesses are taking now will go some way to adapt alongside the future of the High Street.
We must also mention the overwhelming sense of community that the last twelve months has brought. Once the privilege of human contact and elements of our freedom were seemingly removed from our lives, the simple things felt so much more important. The desire to support our local businesses, to chat to our neighbours and to stand on our doorsteps every Thursday evening to clap for our NHS Heroes and keyworkers, warmed the hearts of millions. It has certainly been emotional and moving to see the change across Chelmsford, the appetite of our residents and communities all pulling together to help each other and support the incredible local offering we have. Being almost forced into a slower-paced way of life for the last year, it has given us the rare opportunity to rediscover our city; the wonderful parks and countryside walks, the friendly neighbourhoods and the diverse local independent businesses we have all fought to keep alive.
So upon reflection, this year has been a struggle and a huge challenge. We have all suffered losses personally, financially, professionally and as a city. However we choose to focus on the good; to reopening Chelmsford and welcoming back our wonderful community of businesses and residents, who we are proud to support and who we stand together with as we rejunevate our city.