How a Facebook group carried a village through Covid lockdowns

villagers gathering for VE Day

VE Day on Potter's Drive, Hopton - Credit: Rebecca Turner

Villagers who "never knew each other before lockdown" have told how a Facebook group ignited community spirit at a time of uncertainty.

Initially the brainchild of a woman who just wanted to find a window cleaner, Hopton-on-Sea Residents Facebook group was set up in 2018 by Potters Drive resident Claire Randall - a DJ and entertainer.

villagers sitting outside their house in hopton

Neighbours gathering outside for one of Hopton's many doorstep events this year - Credit: Rebecca Turner

At first, membership rose slowly. But once the national lockdown was announced it boomed, reaching 1.1k by the end of 2020.

Operating a strict "residents only" rule, the group's admin, alongside co-admins Carole and Ian Wall, began using the platform to organise "doorstep" events.

villagers dancing

'Dance on Your Doorstep' at Hopton-on-Sea - Credit: Steve Siegert

Mrs Wall, from Julian Way, said: "It all started with the 'Dance on your Doorstep' we did every Sunday between April and May, taking inspiration from Clap for Carers.

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"Those of us who had DJ'ing equipment would play songs for our neighbours. Most of the time, people stayed out for an hour or so afterwards, chatting from a distance.

"I'd lived here for four years without knowing many of my neighbours. But people who felt lonely before don't anymore."

Man and woman standing in front of Christmas tree

Ian and Carole Wall, who have organised a lot of the doorstep events in Hopton this year - Credit: Carole Wall

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Following the success of 'Dance on your Doorstep', more activities were organised: VE Day on your doorstep, pumpkin carving on your doorstep, Remembrance Sunday on your doorstep, Carols on your doorstep and a Christmas Eve jingle on your doorstep.

Meanwhile a 'Hopton in Lights' Christmas competition was sponsored by Potter's Resort, MB Electricals and Graze White Horse in Beccles.

villagers gathering

Doorstep celebrations in Hopton on Sea this year - Credit: Serena Curtis

Another doorstep event was organised for New Year's Eve.

Samantha Stedman-Jones, who has lived in a cul-de-sac near Julian Way for six and a half years, said what the group's admins had done for the village was "absolutely brilliant".

"Most people, until this year, were pretty insular", she said. "Whereas before you might say hello to your neighbour and scurry inside, we're actually friends with one another now.

"It's like the pandemic was telling us to slow down and rebalance - to make time for the people around us."

VE Day celebrations

VE Day celebrations in Hopton - Credit: Steve Siegert

hopton celebrations

VE Day celebrations in Hopton - Credit: Rebecca Turner

Rebecca Turner, a widow in her 50s who lives on Potter's Drive, said she's "never felt so welcome" since moving to the village in 2004.

She said: "I'm a carer, and my husband died seven years ago next month. There's been times where I've felt so low, and was generally spending a lot of time by myself.

"But because of the group, I now know there's so many people I can turn to for help. It truly saved me."

ve day celebrations hopton

VE Day celebrations in Hopton - Credit: Steve Siegert

hopton on sea villagers dancing

Villagers dancing in the street for VE Day - Credit: Rebecca Turner

VE Day poster

VE Day celebrations and artwork by Hopton residents - Credit: Daniel Harvey

poster Hopton

Lockdown artwork in Hopton - Credit: Daniel Harvey

trophies for hopton in lights

Awards for the 'Hopton in Lights' Christmas competition sponsored by Potter's Resort, MB Electricals and Graze White Horse in Beccles - Credit: Carole Wall

christmas deorations

Hopton in Lights Christmas decorations - Credit: Carole Wall

christmas decorations

Hopton in Lights Christmas decorations - Credit: Carole Wall

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