As one of the team behind The Pantry – a community initiative, started by villagers in the small Oxfordshire village of Piddington, to promote local goods and services and create a social hub for the village – the news that a group of neighbouring villages in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland have decided to dig a 40-mile trench and lay their own broadband struck a chord with me.
As Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent, puts it: ‘After deciding that they were never likely to get a fast broadband connection from one of the major suppliers, a group of local people across this sparsely populated area decided that sitting around moaning about it was not an option. Instead they began a DIY effort, digging channels across the fields and laying fibre optic cables. They have exploited all sorts of local expertise – from the Lancaster University professor who is an expert in computer networks to the farmer’s wife who has just retired from a career in IT support. The cooperation of local landowners has been vital – free access to fields has made it much cheaper to roll out the network.’
It’s so inspiring to hear about this type of pulling together to get something done. It also made me think of the indomitable spirit of the ordinary British people as portrayed in so many films in the 1940s. Some of these films were funny – and it’s tempting to see something of the Ealing comedies about the idea of a small community pitting itself against a huge corporation and winning. But perhaps this old-fashioned image does contain a grain of truth about people. They’ll always surprise the cynics and display community spirit, altruism, optimism and kindness – and when they do, watch out, anything can happen!
I first heard about this project on the radio, but you can read more about it here: