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As one is an alliance of community organisations, faith organisations, local authorities, businesses, schools and residents, united in the belief that community spirit and supportive community are vital. Both Covid 19 and the Platinum Jublilee showed how many people are community-minded, ready to be friendly, helpful and kind. What we now need to do is to encourage and facilitate the creation of vibrant, community, street-by-street, across the UK, not just for a crisis or for an occasional national celebration, but for the long-term as part of who we are.

The initiative has been developed by Uturn UK C.I.C, which since 2010 has pioneered Street Associations and in 2018 also created and coordinated Birmingham’s Permission to Smile campaign.  Led by Martin and Gina Graham, Uturn UK exists to promote greater friendliness (as opposed to ‘keep oneself to oneself’) and to stimulate the restoration of true community at the grass-roots level, especially amongst neigbhours who live on the same street.

The Permission to Smile campaign, supported by 158 Birmingham organizations including the council, chamber of commerce, civic society and voluntary services council, faith groups and schools, had a high profile in Birmingham from 2018-20 and provided something of a ‘template’ for As One, with the Covid-19 crisis giving a sense of both urgency and opportunity, stimulating wider action.  

The key is to ‘capture’ something of the community spirit that clearly exists – to harness it and to help it to become a permanent feature of streets up and down the country.  

Martin Graham was previously director of On the Move International (1998-2009), which brought ecumenical groups of churches together to look outwards and put on free barbecue events for the wider community and did so in 157 locations in the UK and also in 27 countries. Before that, he was CEO of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1993-98), Deputy Director of the Conservative Research Department (1991-93) and Public Affairs Director of the British Chambers of Commerce (1988-91). Martin holds an M Litt from Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Uturn UK CIC is governed by a board of directors, who are: Alasdhair Hedges (chairman, Oxford), Irene Elias (Birmingham), Loraine Hedges (Oxford) Ray Buick (Essex) and Nick Hoult (Birmingham).

Our thanks to the many networks, local authorities and others who are helping pull this together. Particular thanks, also, to Peter Bellingham for banner designs and animations.

Below is a video message Sir Lenny Henry kindly did in support of Permission to Smile; and, below that, a video message by Hugh Osgood, recently co-president of Churches Together in England, encouraging churches to embrace the As One vision.


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