In the 6 weeks following Hallowe’en we’ve facilitated 4 Zoom participative workshops. We’ve been cooking-along, creating and crafting, writing and sharing poems, all in real time. We’ve been building skills, discussing and responding between friends, strangers and generations.

‘Distant Socialising, not Social Distancing’: we’ve been thinking about how this phrase sums up the experience of these online workshops during this winter of the pandemic.  Physical distancing is necessary of course. ‘Distant socialising’ feels proactive & positive, but ‘social distancing’ – what’s that? Your next thought may be ‘is that what we want?’. 

The workshops were remarkable experiences all round because of what was produced (poems, dishes and meals, decorations, presents) and because of how the interaction worked (goodwill, laughter, invitations, sharing, working alongside rather than telling what to do).

As a legacy of the fourth event we’ve created The ReSparkle! Booklet – all invited to see what we did and how you can make lovely things at home this week. Download it here.

Each of these events was 2 hours long – that sounds like a lot of screen time but the activities and groups were diverse and time flew by. They were not always predictable and linear – there was some uncertainty and some gentle chaos. 

It helped to be tolerant and simply enjoy – like a relaxed performance in theatre. You could be active or do simply watch…one person said ‘I wouldn’t have joined a live event doing this’, so an online workshop may allow for individual preferences in a different way than face-to-face.

We felt participants were taking the opportunity to reach out (maybe taking a small risk) rather than being constrained by limitations in the pandemic: creating something new that’s unique, fun and energising. 

We felt both welcomed and connected to strangers and friends across all ages. It’s a suprisingly intimate and personal experience – you are invited into others’ homes; people may drift in and out; questions and comments fly back and forth; participants proudly show what they have created. 

We had up to 15 screens active in each of these 4 events – some peope solo, sometimes several from one family, sometimes people joining from beyond London and from outside the UK.

What did we do?

In first of these 4 workshops we celebrated Hallowe’en as if outdoors at the Tooting Community Garden, with potato printing, leaf lantern making and ghostly poetry-writing. The finale was cooking pumpkin soup outside on a fire in the dark (a family in Chicago cooked-along using butternut squash). Facilitation was by Becky, Chuck, Nikki and Barbara.


The next 2 workshops were both offered under the umbrella of Vegetanuary! our Facebook wellbeing and connection group based on vegetarian food (all welcome to join).

In the 2nd workshop we made delicious Ethiopian shiro wat and a robust salad with November veg box ingredients. 

We cooked-along to create dishes from scratch, peered at the screen to keep up – and learned how to create hand shadow puppets. We were led by Nikki, Chuck. Becky and Barbara

A fortnight later, the 3rd workshop also focused on live cooking. After writing poems using words shared from the group, we created two kinds of pakoras and a raita. We continued to make a refreshing pomegranate and orange salad. In each kitchen there were probably unfamiliar ingredients, the smells of hot oil and spices and the challenge of opening a pomegranate without cutting the juicy seeds. 

Our group facilitated in new roles: Barbara led the poetry writing, Nazma and Nikki led creating the dishes. The rest of us experienced cooking-along. There were some lovely-looking meals created within the workshop time.

The 4th workshop on December 13th was an online version of ReSparkle! – our Christmas connection and creativity event which we’ve offered locally in Tooting LIbrary since 2012. In this Zoom version we invited all-comers to a mix of crafting and sharing skills to demonstrate how household and scrap materials can be transformed into beautiful decorations and presents..

Participants made fantastic things! One young person messaged ‘I feel accomplished’ after she had done all the activities. 

This photo is a page from The ReSparkle Booklet. You can download it to see what we made and learn how to create more decorations and presents yourself at home. Resina, Nikki, Nicola, Chuck and Jeni facilitated.



We’ll do more of these hybrid events and it would be great to explore ‘distant socializing’ and chat with other community groups about how others’ versions go. If you’ve not been involved in a creative online workshop, you may wonder ‘how does this work, is it productive, is it fun?’ Please look out for the next events and take the opportunity to join us in 2021.                          – Chuck W.