People rallying to the support of neighbours and strangers has been part of the way the country has responded to terrorism and tragedy.
Some years ago, we updated research that was conducted for the Sunday Times back in 1982 on neighbourliness in Britain. So, this year, for Co-operatives Fortnight, we thought we would take another look with some fresh polling.
The results suggest that, while we know less neighbours than a generation ago, Britain remains a co-operative nation.
So, yes, the number of the neighbours people in Britain know by name has halved over the last three decades (down to six people, on average) and the number of people who do not know any of the neighbours’ names has increased five-fold – from 2% to 9%. The younger you are, the less likely you are to know your neighbours. Whereas only 3% of over-55s could not name a neighbour, 22% of under-34 year olds did not know any of the people who lived around them.
But the number of people who say that neighbours help them has stayed steady (80% in 1982, reducing to 77% in 2017). 22% of people say they keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours to see if they need any help.
And we do help out neighbours in new ways. There is a rise in help doing DIY and around seven in ten people help out by accepting mail or parcels for neighbours. Online shopping might be destroying the high street, but is it possible that in the back streets, home deliveries are prompting a tad more contact between neighbours?
There are disputes and they can be bitter, of course, but most of us (58%) have never had problems with any of our neighbours.
Based on the survey data, I estimate that there are around twenty million conversations every day between neighbours (19.7 million).
Tragedy brings people together, as does celebration – such as the Great Get Together / Big Lunch two weeks ago with perhaps around 100,000 local events inspired by the life and example of Jo Cox MP.
Short of those, the most co-operative thing you can do in a street – beyond popping to the Co-op – is to say hello and introduce yourself to your neighbour.
One co-op, Chelmsford Star in Essex, which was itself started by neighbours around the London Road Iron Works, exactly 150 years ago, has produced a creative Neighbour Introduction form that you can print off and use.
Pop it through the neighbour’s door. Start a new conversation!