2020 in Heaton Norris

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Throughout the month of October, The Viaduct will be publishing a series of articles on what life has been like in Stockport in 2020, since the town was placed under lockdown back in March following the initial outbreak of the Coronavirus.

From local businesses to social groups, schools to residents, we’ll be speaking to people from across the town to get a variety of perspectives on how this year has affected them.

To kick off this new series of features, we start with the place the editor of The Viaduct spent the first 18 years of his life – Heaton Norris.

Steve Unsworth
Admin Officer – Norris Bank Primary School

What has school life been like over the last few months?
School hasn’t been too dissimilar to previous terms, apart from children being confined to ‘class bubbles’. School assembly has been put on hold, as has any event the whole school would attend in a large group.

How has this year affected the pupils?
The children have taken the whole thing in their stride. There have been questions about the virus, and why they cannot play with their friends in other year groups, but on the whole they understand and have been amazing.

How has this year affected the staff?
The staff have rallied round and worked really hard to ensure school is a safe learning environment for the children. There are still obvious concerns regarding the spread of Covid.

How will the events of the last few months affect the new school year?
Similar to above, the staff will continue to work really hard to keep the environment as safe as can be. It’s brought a stronger TEAM feel.

Martin Hope
Owner – The Hope Inn

How has this year affected your business?
This year has affected my business in many ways. The most serious is probably my state of mind, which might sound dramatic, but due to the lockdown coming from nowhere with no warning I went from 100 miles an hour to 0 overnight! By this, I mean I’ve worked in the leisure industry for longer than I care to remember and I have never once closed a pub, even for a day. I’ve won numerous awards over the years and to just have that taken away by something overnight, let’s face it, by something we didn’t even understand at the beginning, was a major sucker punch mentally. To run a pub and brewery under the same roof is a lot of work, but since lockdown I’ve lost my love for brewing. I still like doing it, but I just don’t have that fire in my belly anymore.

Did your business close during lockdown, or were you able to carry on?
My business did close during lockdown. By the time I’d come to terms with what was happening and potentially how long it could last, I’d literally missed the boat to be able to do much about it. I tried to get hold of containers to be able to do takeout beer, but everywhere had sold out as every pub in the country had the same idea. Some websites stopped taking orders for these products completely. I eventually managed to get some mini kegs to sell some of my cask ales, but the majority went down the drain, about 2000 litres of waste beer!

How has your business adapted in the wake of this year?
We’ve had to change how we do things now. Obviously there are strict guidelines in place for how to run your business and how to serve customers. We try and keep things as normal as possible, but obviously sticking to the rules. It’s also changed in the sense of how often I brew. Because of the ongoing threat of another lockdown, I don’t do anywhere near as much brewing as I used to for fear of having so much waste again, so I generally only have three of my own beers on instead of six, as well as four guest ales.

From your business point of view, what are your thoughts on the government’s response this year?
The government’s response is a double-edged sword. Without the grant that was available from the local council, I would probably have already gone bust. But with everything in life, nothing is free. The government will want their pound of flesh, so when everything goes up, and it will – business rates, council tax, staff PAYE, mortgages etc – we will again be under massive pressure. Thousands will lose their jobs and as a result people won’t have as much disposable income. This could take two or three years before some businesses fold, whereas others won’t last that long. The fallout from this is going to be massive and have a huge effect worldwide.

Mike Bardsley
Owner – Open Outdoor Design

How has this year affected your business?
This year we’re actually around 25% ahead of projection, with no current signs of slowing down.

Did your business close during lockdown, or were you able to carry on?
I was poorly with Covid at the beginning of lockdown, so I wasn’t able to work for around six weeks. Since then it’s been non-stop.

How has your business adapted in the wake of this year?
For me personally, there haven’t really been any big changes. I work outside alone anyway, so I don’t require any access to a customer’s home or facilities. I follow the Covid hygiene rules, socially distance and only interact outside on that basis. All other forms of contact are electronically for formal quotations, invoicing and payment.

From your business point of view, what are your thoughts on the government’s response this year?
The government hasn’t done nearly enough for small businesses, and should have offered better financial support, rather than supporting the large corporations who should have been in a better position to weather the storm. (Although, because of the nature of my business, I’ve been fortunate enough for that to not really affect me personally yet). With Covid in general they’ve been too slow with many of their decisions, and not direct enough with the language used, which then left too much to interpretation. It now seems they are no longer following the science like before, and the next six months could be devastating for many more businesses having been weakened the first time round.

Thanks to Steve, Martin and Mike for their time. The Viaduct will be covering different areas of Stockport throughout October. If you’d like to contribute your thoughts, please email des@theviaduct.uk and we’ll include you in a future article.

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