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What a weekend we have had in Stockton… People zipping over the tees, rat-racing through the river, picnic’ing and bouncing to the Wildcats and showing what they’ve got in Preston Park. Did we break any records??? Sadly no – no official ones anyway. Did it matter – not a jot. The record attempts were real – official and meticulously organised but the key to it all – like all of the weekend’s activities was bringing people together. I say it time and time again, but when Stockton’s community come out to play there is not a better place in the UK. We buy into what is going on. We accept work in progress and support those giving it a go – because actually, we possess fantastic community spirit. That thing that people say has vanished has NOT in my opinion. What is no longer there are the chances to show it. We are living in a secularised, marginalised and digitalised age which reduces our potential to show what fantastic people we can be. We have become a society where our humanity is being dumbed down – and we are become apathetic of who we could actually be.
On Sunday night I saw families having a great time together. People commented that the music was great – but greater still was the opportunity to come out and spend time with each other. I remember the days of going along to the P&E club in Eaglescliffe and entering fancy dress competitions; of gasping through smokey fun days at the YMCA in Stockton; of bonfire night it preston park… days where nothing really happened – but that were the best of days.
And then on Monday I saw people going for broke to break a world record! Not a Usain Bolt style record that would make the world sit up and notice, just trivial ones that brought people together. From the shaking body of a doctor who lookalike sweatily forcing down a 12 inch pizza to the athletic prowess of our space hopping nearest record breaker, ( he came within 10 bounces of hero status), people took part for the very best reason – to make people smile. The admin / media team worked for nothing. Pizzas were painstakingly weighed and made by Domino’s for nothing. Our time keeper spontaneously decided to sponsor each record attempt – because he ‘liked the concept’. Business people turned up on a rare day off – because it would be fun. Not one person cared about breaking a world record – because everyone gathered in and around a small gazebo in Preston Park became the best in the world for an afternoon.
The question is – how is all of this activity maintained, grown and embedded? How do we help an obvious appetite for community spirited activity continue to expand? Can one ‘formalise’ and germinate such growth. And should we even bother?
Operation #smile is about to move into phase 2. A little less conversation and a whole lot more action. Who is with me? Dedication’s what we need…