Over the past year there have been many comparisons with what life was like during World War 2 and during the present pandemic. Looking at some of the local accounts, the evidence supports the belief that life under the pandemic does indeed show similarities with what was experienced between 1939-1945.
The first similarity was in the reaction of Dulwich people (and of course, elsewhere) at the start. From March, last year, big efforts were made to look out, on a regular basis, for the welfare of neighbours and offers of shopping for the elderly. Some of this continues but perhaps with not quite the same enthusiasm. The stop-start of lockdowns has perhaps diluted individual effort. Like wartime, a more resigned feeling has set in, as we realise that our lives and freedom will continue to be disrupted for some time to come.
In 1939 it was the same. Initially people flocked to ‘do their bit’, whether to enlist in civil defence, or other auxiliary services, knit socks for sailors, raise funds for new aircraft or ships. This initial enthusiasm was gradually replaced by a determination to ‘see it through’. Perhaps that is the feeling today.
That is not to say that then or now, a large number of local clubs and institutions have not come up with inspired ideas to continue to engage with their members in order to keep both morale and numbers up. The Dulwich Society has been in the forefront of such local efforts with a regular programme of well-received talks. These efforts continue. The pages of this Journal bear out a tangible sense of community. With more opportunities to observe local flora and fauna, new reports have flowed in. to be shared with the membership. The admonishments to ‘stay local’ has meant that more people are taking a closer interest in Dulwich itself; the Local History Group has attempted to answer a larger than usual number of enquiries about people and places. Gardening has of course been a positive feature of Dulwich life in the past year and it is good to report that, enclosed with this issue of the Journal, is the new Dulwich Open Gardens booklet for visiting gardens later this year when it is hoped conditions for easing restrictions will have improved. In this issue of the Journal, we also offer two novel features during these difficult times - a challenging and scenic eight mile route for walkers or runners around Dulwich’s surrounding hills and green spaces and a shorter family ’bubble’ Treasure Hunt (see pages 16 & 22)
Both The Arts Society and Dulwich U3A have continued to offer regular online lectures and classes while the Dulwich Players not only managed to stage an open air ‘actual’ production of Grimm’s Fairy Tales at Bell House last summer, but have also entertained its membership with a regular menu of quizzes, readings, and zoom dramatic performances. When lockdown restrictions closed local churches, they have turned to various online methods to stay connected with their congregations. The Dulwich Festival and Artists’ Open House both report a full programme of virtual events and exhibitions from May.7th - 16th.
As with all communities, however good relations are, there will be some instances of dissention. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the ongoing battle between the opposing camps of those who are pro-traffic restrictions and those who are opposed to them. The latter body have been encouraged by a legal ruling that local councils’ actions in closing roads without consultation is unlawful. Certainly, judging by the number of vehicles oblivious to Dulwich Village’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood restrictions, something is clearly wrong with its implementation. Yet the new, quieter atmosphere in Dulwich, as people stroll. jog or cycle for exercise has much to be said for it.