Covid-19: How our life has changed in Bedford during the pandemic

As today (Tuesday, March 23) marks one year since we went into what would be the first of three lockdowns, we take a look at how life has changed for Bedford

By Clare Turner
Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 10:50 am

Mental health, physical health, business and have all taken a hit with Covid figures soaring in the town last summer. Businesses have moved to delivery and online and the parks have never been so popular as we were allowed daily exercise.

Here, we catch up with the great and the good of Bedford to get their take on the extraordinary year and how they adapted.

Mohammad Yasin MP said: "I know that the last year has been incredibly difficult for so many people and businesses in Bedford and Kempston. We have all changed the way we act, work, and interact with others.

Kerry Cash meeting Boris Johnson when he visited Bedford

"However, I believe we have also seen the best of Bedfordians during this period.

"Whether it be our incredible NHS workers, our community coming together through the Community Hub to deliver food parcels to vulnerable residents, providing free meals for children during the school holidays, or donating IT equipment for home education, the people of Bedford and Kempston have shown that even though things may have changed during the last year, our community spirit remains."

Kerry Cash, founder of 5th Avenue Hair & Beauty Spa, in Howard Street, Bedford, said: “We’ve always pushed ourselves via social media platforms and emailers, so when the lockdowns started we ramped that up to keep in touch with clients.

“Particularly during this last long lockdown, many of our clients have said they were so happy to hear from us, as there is nothing like having a good old chat with your hairdresser or beauty therapist.

Kerry Cash, founder of 5th Avenue Hair & Beauty Spa

“We added to our retail services by launching the 5th Avenue Hair & Beauty Spa shop online. That took me hours and hours, with help from an expert technician, to load up a wide range of products and get the prices right against other online suppliers. Again, luckily, many of our clients have supported us by buying in this way and it is something we will now continue, as it enhances our sales which previously were restricted to the salon.

“The advantages we can take from lockdowns are two fold: Most of our clients have had to learn, or are more practised, in using social media for staying in touch with us and we will keep that up and that ladies are desperate to get their hair done, eyebrows tinted and toenails painted, so there is backlog of demand for professional services.

“However, if I met Boris again I would give him a piece of my mind about how the lockdowns have put a huge strain not just on hair and beauty business finances, but on their staff who are themselves ‘people people’ who want to be interacting face to face with clients. They want to be in the salon talking to, and helping women feel good about themselves.

“Boris is very welcome to come to us for his first professional hair cut on April 12. We will pass on comments from our clients about how they don’t want to be separated from their stylist again."

Ian Pryce CBE, principal and CEO of The Bedford College Group

Ian Pryce CBE, principal and CEO of The Bedford College Group, faced the most challenging experience of his leadership of two decades when Covid-19 caused the shutdown of college campuses across Beds and Northants.

He said: "Our staff made me even more proud with their responsiveness, resilience and commitment. It was no surprise we were named UK College of the Year during 2020.

"Teams and Zoom beat rush-hour traffic every time," he joked, "but I can’t make a latte as good as those from La Piazza on the market square in Bedford."

He added: "We take young people for granted. They’re brilliant. They’ve been hardest hit, socially and economically, yet they’ve followed the rules, volunteered to help and stayed positive."

Vicar Father Paul Messam, who arranged two drive-in services in the car park of the Red Lion at Christmas

Covid restrictions couldn’t quell the community spirit of Christmas at Elstow Abbey Church.

People were barred from singing in church and so they took to their cars in the village pub car park instead.

Vicar Father Paul Messam and friends arranged two drive-in services in the car park of the Red Lion to allow people to join voices for carol concerts.

He secured a special Ofcom Licence for a radio broadcast of both events to a one mile radius of the show, so people could tune in at home.

A hymn sheet was posted on the church website to allow people to download and sing along at home.

Father Paul said: “We managed to include all the elements of the services as they would be held in the Abbey at Christmas, but in such a way that people can raise their voices to celebrate in their own car. People miss being able to sing together in church and our numbers are limited by social distancing."