Little Lights – Why Community Matters to Manston Right Now

Little Lights – Why Community Matters to Manston Right Now December 23, 2020

Image credit: Katie Gerrard @ Manic Pagan Dream Grrl for Patheos

As I write an undetermined number of lorries sit stationary at Manston Airfield, near the port of Dover. Currently the port remains closed with the hope of re-opening as soon as possible once it has been deemed safe to do so.

Manston sits within the parish of Thanet, a small borough mostly known for its seaside towns of Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. Once a fashionable holiday hotspot, particularly loved by those escaping the London smog, its tourist numbers aren’t enough these days to stop some areas falling into deprivation.

And yet the overburdened and underfunded council works hard to create an enjoyable place to live with community veg plots and befriending schemes a-plenty.

This year food banks are striving to ensure all residents are fed and the Thanet Winter Shelter and Salvation Army are working hard to keep people out of the worst of the weather.

In this midst of a particularly hard season financially, the closing of Dover days before Christmas means a new need has been created.

Thanet council, and the Thanet people are not responsible for the lorries the government have parked within its boundaries. Yet humanity means they cannot stand by and watch as drivers go hungry in scenes resembling refugee aid queues.

Priti Patel yesterday claimed just shy of 900 lorries. Local people took aerial photographs which suggested it was unlikley the number could be this low. This morning the rumour was all 4000 available parking bays had been filled.

The government itself voted back in October to refuse to continue feeding their own hungry schoolchildren over the school holidays.

Priti Patel and her colleagues’ views on aid and charity are clear.

But instead of arriving at Westminster, cold, tired, and separated from their families, the lorry drivers ‘landed’ in Thanet.

And Thanet people, overwhelmingly, are a strong community. They are truly remarkable within a crisis and have enormous humanity and kindness.

They couldn’t have wanted for a more loving place to be.

You see Thanet, whilst the news remembers the rise of Farage and anti-European sentiment within the area, really isn’t like that.

We’re a caring, community focused place where most people know their neighbours and look out for each other. Where litter picks on the beach are multi-political-party events and there’s always someone to walk your dog when you’re sick.

Thanks in part to the high speed trainline to London we’re also fast becoming a diverse and accepting community.

Sure, there are a number of people whose thoughts and attitudes aren’t community minded but they are, I’m pleased to say in the minority. Sometimes they feel quite loud, like the people complaining about the noise from the airfield some of which I suspect have been pro opening the new (likely to be hugely noisy) airport.

(You can follow the judicial review of the airport decision and pledge funds to reverse it here)

On the whole, Thanet also prides itself on being excellent within a crisis.

The Dunkirk rescue and “little ships” were a shining example of this.

Dunkirk spirit to me is not about Royal Britannia, it’s about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It’s about people coming together in a crisis.

That night in Ramsgate, this is exactly what happened. Local people worked together, not just to save the soldiers, but to feed them and clothe them when they arrived. Again, whilst barely having enough resources to feed and clothe their own townspeople.

The little ships weren’t just British people saved by British people. Faced with a government who were only able to do too little too late, everyday people gave tiny amounts of time each. Little actions. Little lights.

What’s so often forgotten is the Little Ships didn’t discriminate between soldiers. They saved French and Belgian allied soldiers too, taking them to safety and looking after them in our tiny town.

Dunkirk spirit is not about jingoism and nationalism. It’s about humanity.

Thanet, so famous for this already, has made me proud once again this week.

Little lights.

Every action matters.


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