Tim and Holly chat to us about a community sharing, swapping and borrowing its way through lockdown.
Hi Tim and Holly. Can you start by telling me what you both do for work. And how you’re finding lockdown?
Holly: I work in interior design. I’ve got a small business called Zeal Interiors. I make soft furnishings and advise people on home decor. Things aren’t that different for me – I work from home anyway, so it wasn’t that much of a shock.
Tim: I’m a Business Development Manager for Kier Construction West & Wales. It’s very un-normal for me!
How are you navigating working from home together?
Tim: I make a bit more noise, more phone calls. So we’ve had to split up. Holly’s got a studio upstairs and I’m working downstairs in the living/dining room. Holly comes down every so often for a cup of tea, so the kitchen is our meeting space now if you like. The weather’s been good, so we use the garden a lot too.
What are the challenges of spending so much time at home?
Tim: The challenge with these homes, given that they’re a three bed property on a fairly narrow footprint, is you have to use space wisely. Every cupboard has to be decked out with shelving. And any items passed their useful life, just have to go! You need all the space available.
Holly: Yeah, we have quite a minimal aesthetic. So I guess it’s been quite hard for me to make sure it’s nice and clear all the time. We’ve just got lots more stuff out.
Tim: We’ve got my son living with us at the moment too. But five weeks in and it’s working!
Has this experience opened your eyes to how you can use space differently?
Holly: I’m definitely getting more ideas. I’m constantly thinking, ‘Right, what’s next?’ So at the moment, I’m working on a bedroom revamp. I’m starting to put a moodboard together for paint options and I’m making a new headboard. But I am like that anyway, I am always thinking.
We’ve done quite a lot in the garden since lockdown too. We built extra storage on the bench. And I’ve painted the planters. It’s made such a difference. We have most of our meals out there now – when it’s not raining – which is lovely. The shrubs are getting tall and we get a lot of bats in the evening now!
Can you describe what life was like here before lockdown?
Holly: We’ve been living here for almost four years. I work for a lot of our neighbours – I’ve furnished tons of Paintworks houses – so we know lots of people. I’d say we are quite active in the community. I organise a party every Summer, which we have over on the piazza.
Tim: It started out small. We made some bunting, set up a barbecue and everyone brought down food and drink. But we’ve had a decent turnout every year.
What motivates you to start something like that?
Holly: I think curiosity is a big factor. There are a lot of creative people here, lots of people with interesting jobs, and lots of international people too. By having a party, you get to find out more about each other, it’s fascinating.
Tim: For me, it’s helpful to know neighbours because it gives you an added feeling of security, especially living in a city.
Holly: Yeah, I have felt more comfortable in this environment than I have living anywhere else. Everyone looks out for each other.
So, it sounds as though the community is thriving at Paintworks? Why do you think that is?
Holly: I’d say people are very proactive here, things happen – and swiftly as well. We just tend to get on with things. For example, there’s a really long stretch of wall that separates us from the cemetery. And people said, ‘Why don’t we plant it up?’ So everyone’s been contributing plants and shrubs to plant along the wall just to make it look prettier.
Tim: We were living in Clifton before and you just didn’t have the chance to meet people living nearby. Whereas here, the design philosophy of the development has made the community. The layout of the avenues and streets creates lots of opportunities to meet. It’s not as though we are in and out of each other’s houses 24/7. You can shut the door and mind your own business. But if you want to engage, people will.
How has life changed during lockdown?
Holly: People aren’t really shutting themselves away. It still feels active here, there’s just more chatting from doorsteps! I would say the difference really is that there is more sharing and swapping things at the moment, you know, flour and just those little things you can’t get hold of in the shops. We’ve got a little book and plant swap area down in the lobby where people can leave cuttings. And neighbours have been borrowing bits and bobs for their bikes.
I’ve seen posts about the plant swap on the Facebook group, it’s a great idea!
Holly: Yeah, the Facebook group is buoyant at the moment. It’s the best way to communicate in this situation. Someone recently posted where you could find some bedding plants, which was helpful as everyone’s wanting more time in the garden. There is a lot of humour on there as well, lots of banter and people sending little memes. So it’s really good fun.
Has there been any clapping for the NHS?
Holly: Oh yes. We stand up on our planters in the garden and look across waving at people that maybe we haven’t seen in a little while, so that’s nice. There seems to be fireworks and stuff happening every week!
Tim: When we first went into lockdown, one of our neighbours started up a Saturday Disco idea, compiling a playlist, which he encouraged everyone to play simultaneously at 4pm, and dance around in our gardens. It seemed to be a hit – and has been replicated on subsequent good weather weekends, varying the music genres each time.
Holly: It’s actually really interesting seeing how people have rallied around. The Paintworks directors have even set up food theme nights. They’ve been amazing in terms of coming up with interesting ideas to engage us with local businesses and food delivery outlets.
Have you been participating? I heard there was a burrito night…
Holly: We haven’t yet. Every time we have looked at the menu we’ve thought, ‘Oh, we only had pizza two nights ago!’ But when there is something we want to eat, we definitely will join in. The Paintworks directors set up a community delivery from the bakery across the other side of the river, so we ordered from them last week. It’s great to be pooling those resources.
Tim: We thought about doing a food night ourselves. We’ve got a pizza oven, so people could bring their ingredients and I’d bake it. I would rather do that, I am not a massive fan of takeway food.
Nice! Finally, could you sum up how you feel about living in Paintworks?
Holly: We really love it here. It’s been a lovely few years just getting to know everyone and seeing the community thrive.