Bristol Meets The World on adapting to lockdown

Bristol Meets The World (BMTW) is a project run by the Bristol and Avon Chinese Women’s Group and was funded by BAB between 2018 to 31st March 2020. Due to an underspend, BAB extended funding to September 2020 and St Monica Trust provided a continuation sum for the project.

The BMTW project is focused on supporting individuals over 50 at risk of loneliness and achieves this by providing a cultural exchange for older people during cookery sessions which take place in sheltered living accommodation and in community centres. BMTW work in partnership with 91 Ways, Hanover Housing, Brunel Care and the Carers’ Support Centre.

At the beginning of March, BMTW held an end of project celebration at Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol. Partners, volunteers and participants from the project came together to celebrate all the work that had been accomplished.

A few short weeks later, the project had to close its face-to-face service due to the UK entering lockdown. We spoke to Anne Su, Project Coordinator, about how lockdown affected BMTW.  

“Because of the lockdown our work changed dramatically. We still had an underspend to use but the care home centres where two of our partner’s work could not allow us inside and we had to discuss how we could use the underspend when we couldn’t run face to face sessions.

We consulted with partners, tutors and participants and realised it would be too difficult to run the sessions over the telephone, but that we could consider an online format for the sessions, this way participants would still be able to see the food being cooked.

Our tutors filmed four sessions and shared the videos via Facebook. These sessions focused on Chinese, Indian, Bangladesh and Pakistani food and there have been 3,061 views of these videos on our Facebook page. With the new format online, we had new factors to consider such as how to engage with participants when they couldn’t touch and taste the food as they had in face to face sessions. We ran an online survey in May to gather feedback from participants.”


Feedback from participants:

‘Especially, in this difficult time of isolation, the entire community has been affected but older people could be the most vulnerable as they have very limited access to the outer world. They may be more stressed and feel more ‘down’ mentally. This can cause more anxiety to them. We can help them in different ways from not thinking too much to reducing their isolation. For example, BMTW online sessions, watching these sessions can be very interesting for them and they can prepare their own dishes. They can enjoy the preparation and the videos can keep them occupied mentally and physically.’ Shenaz, 67 years old, from the Pakistani community.

‘I was very happy with the way it was presented. I think one good way of keeping well socialised is sharing photos or videos of happy time on WhatsApp. This online session is definitely one of the options as we  can enjoy and share recipes from all backgrounds. I think further experience can improve once we have seen a few more cookery sessions.’ Tahira, 62 years old from the Pakistani community. 

‘I like the session because it makes me feel afresh. Simon and Ying (tutors) were confident and warm.I would welcome more of these sessions. This will help us keep active and creative.’ Manday, 58 years old from Mainland China. (Chinese community)

From the survey, Anne also found that the videos had an intergenerational audience as often the children or grandchildren of the participants would help with setting the computer up and accessing the Facebook page. The younger audiences reported enjoying watching the videos together with their older relatives.



Anne said that whilst her own work was largely unaffected by lockdown as she could continue to work remotely on her computer, she felt that lockdown had a big impact on participants at the project.

Many of the communities the BMTW project work with were in the shielding category and those that lived in care homes were locked down to avoid coming into contact with the virus. This meant a no visitors policy, and restricted access to communal rooms at the care home which led to many of the participants reporting an increased sense of loneliness and social isolation.

Key learning for the project has been the importance of accessing online opportunities and developing ways for online sessions to be more engaging and interactive. Anne has lots more ideas for the future including encouraging participants to film themselves cooking, making a competition and having participants vote for their favourite video. However, Anne is conscious that some of the older women will be shyer than others about footage of themselves going onto social media so a focus on hands rather than faces may be needed.

Depending on the virus, and on future funding bids, BMTW would like to continue to adapt and build on their online video collection to support older people in the community who may be continuing to shield.

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