Time and again throughout this research, I am hearing about the acts and activities happening in communities and built on trust. Ilfracombe is another brilliant example of the possible extremes of this approach. Showing the seriousness of it alongside the silliness, and how being able to combine those two things is a wonderful characteristic of Table.
Depositing £250 with five local grocery shops does not at first seem like a particularly noteworthy story until you start to consider the context of COVID and poverty in our seaside communities and the theme at the time calling for Random Acts of Kindness.
During lockdown, Ilfracombe, along with pretty much every other Round Table, were thinking carefully about how to best help local people who were struggling with lost income, furlough and limited access to support.
Many Tables got active with food banks and food distribution, but this area needed a different and more targeted approach and so Table decided to hand over responsibility to their local grocery shops. They asked each one of the five selected to use their local knowledge, knowing their customers and who was most in need to use their discretion to pay for some or all their purchases, to be sure they were ok and wouldn’t go hungry.
It’s a very simple solution to a complex problem but describes brilliantly the way Table can work. Using its own discretion and local knowledge to respond quickly and discretely to support local people and communities. Because it is part of a known and trusted network it can do things within hours or days that other organisations might spend weeks considering. And this work represents much of the “quiet” impact of Table, dispensing cash and kindness not as a Victorian benefactor but rather as brothers and friends, alongside, not above, with and not from.
This relatively small splash act that it is unlikely anyone beyond the shops and direct beneficiaries know anything about is complemented by the rather larger splash that Ilfracombe Round Table are better known for – The Birdman Competition! Very much the highlight of the Table’s calendar and involving much of the Tables work for the year.
A £20 deposit will ensure the chance to throw yourself from a specially constructed “Jumping Platform” which acts as a runway from the pier either to the sky for those who can fly or the water below for those less fortunate at the Ilfracombe Birdman competition.
“It is about playing, having fun, making fools of ourselves and each other in the best possible way” David Williams from Table 327 explained. “We stopped charging an entry fee a few years ago, we wanted everyone to be able to come and knew that more visitors meant more income for other local businesses. We have live music, stalls, a bar, it’s an absolutely brilliant day that brings the whole community together.” The last time the event was staged properly saw between 14,000 and 15,000 visitors and David hopes to see those numbers again when the event hopefully returns in its full glory later this year.
“It raises money that we are then able to distribute to other local charities and to help people - like with the grocery shops; but it’s about much more than that. It’s about the whole community being able to have fun together, it’s about the Tablers really working hard and doing something for the community and it’s about being together, feeling like we are part of a bigger thing, trusting in each other.”
“It’s about friendship and banter, it boosts your wellbeing and it’s also about personal and professional development. I’ve learnt so much from other Tablers who have really helped me”
"I also had a really low point a little while back, I put a message out on our shared WhatsApp group and straight away another Tabler contacted me to talk. He wasn’t even from my Table, he was from miles away, but he just took time to talk to me. That means so much – knowing you can depend on people and that they are there for you. During lock-down we were all reaching out and helping each other like this – we did daft things like visiting loads of other Tables on Zoom we even created a new digital Table named after a Call of Duty location (that is still going strong with over 40 guys connecting from all over the place.)”
David is keen to share the backgrounds of his Table to show what an open and inclusive space it is. From Traffic Wardens to Electricians, Armed Forces and Police, Surveyors and Artists, the Table represents a space to combine having a laugh, building friendships and supporting your home, neighbourhood and community. Because he joined young David has time to continue in his Table work, he has already been part of the National Council and has lots more to contribute but is really enthusiastic to ensure more people understand Table and think about getting involved.
Round Table (RTBI) is a young man / men's club for those aged between 18 and 45. RTBI supports charities, the local community and its individual members through friendship and brotherhood. As part of the Round Table Family, RTBI is an inclusive organisation open to all individuals no matter their age or gender identification. To find out more visit our FAQs page or Contact Us.