- Some of the UK’s biggest organisations from worlds of sport, culture, faith and business call for a ‘decade of reconnection’.
- Open letter signed by leaders including Sir Hugh Robertson of British Olympic Association; Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis; Carolyn Fairburn of CBI; Mike Sharrock of British Paralympic Association; Matt Hyde of Scouts Association and Angela Salt of Girlguiding.
- People encouraged to join New Year’s resolution to connect positively with others and leave behind the past ‘decade of division’.
The new decade of the 2020s must become a ‘decade of reconnection’ to heal divides in our society, according to key leaders from across faith, culture, sport, civil society and business.
In an open letter, they urge citizens and institutions across the UK to make a New Year’s resolution for the new decade “to start rebuilding connections between neighbours and fellow citizens”.
The letter, jointly signed by names such as Glastonbury Festival’s Emily Eavis, the Young Vic’s artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, Carolyn Fairbairn of the CBI, calls on every citizen to “reach out to just one person we don’t know, or from whom we have drifted apart.” It comes ahead of a major initiative launching later this year to increase social connection across the country, which will involve national and local organisations as well as the public.
Signatories to the letter range from leaders of different faiths to the heads of the Scouts, Girl Guides, business, trade unions, sporting and cultural institutions, and major charities. It also includes former heads of the Leave and Remain referendum campaigns, Matthew Elliot and Will Straw.
They all acknowledge that “our country feels more fragmented than any of us would like” and that it falls to all of us to do something about it. But their message is also one of hope, stating: “While our politics and media have become more polarised we, as people, have not. There is much that we share with each other.”
Recent surveys have shown there is a sense of division and disconnection in the country today, with 69 per cent of people saying they are angrier about politics and society than they were before the EU referendum and 21% of the adult population – nearly 11 million people – reporting that they often or always feel lonely. Yet trust in each other remains high and has even increased: 82% of people agree that their area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.
The full text of the open letter reads as follows:
As we start this new year and new decade, our country feels more fragmented than any of us would like. Too often we hear that our divisions – by class or geography, by politics, age, race or by faith – have come to define us.
If we are not happy with the state of our society, it falls to us all to do something about it. New Year is the time for resolutions and on this first day of the 2020s, we urge others to join us in making a resolution for the new decade.
Our resolution is to reconnect. To reach out to just one person we don’t know, or from whom we have drifted apart. To start rebuilding connections between neighbours and fellow citizens.
While our politics and media have become more polarised we, as people, have not. There is much that we share with each other: sit any two people down together and they will find some common ground.
So the power of reconnection will depend on how many of us, as citizens, step up together. Every institution, too – not just government but education, business, sport, civic society and faith – should play its part in helping bridge social divides.
Today is about a small first step that we can all take – to leave behind a decade of division and begin our decade of reconnection.
Amanda Watkin, General Secretary, Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland;
Angela Salt OBE, Chief Executive, Girlguiding;
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General, CBI;
Emily Eavis, Organiser, Glastonbury Festival;
Sir Hugh Robertson, Chair, British Olympic Association;
Jacqui Smith, Chair, Jo Cox Foundation;
James Mitchinson, Editor, Yorkshire Post;
Jasvir Singh OBE, Chair, City Sikhs
John E McGrath, Artistic Director, Manchester International Festival.
Karl Wilding, Chief Executive, NCVO;
Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, Artistic Director, Young Vic;
Lynne Stubbings, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes;
Matt Hyde, Chief Executive, Scouts Association;
Matthew Elliott, former Chief Executive, Vote Leave;
Maurice Ostro OBE, Vice Chair, Council of Christians and Jews
Mike Sharrock, Chief Executive, British Paralympic Association;
Mustafa Field OBE, Director, Faiths Forum for London
Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds;
Rabbi Nicky Liss, Chair, Rabbinic Council of the United Synagogue and Rabbi of Highgate United Synagogue;
Paul Reddish, Chief Executive, Volunteering Matters;
Imam Qari Asim MBE, Chair, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board;
Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council;
Sanjay Jagatia, Chair, Hindu Think Tank UK
Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future;
Professor Ted Cantle CBE, Chair, Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network;
Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB;
Dr Victoria Winckler, Director, The Bevan Foundation;
Will Straw CBE, former Executive Director, Britain Stronger in Europe.