Dundee Thegither recognised as lockdown heroes

A Dundee community project has won a Community Connectors Award from digital network provider Openreach in recognition of their support for the city’s vulnerable during lockdown.

Dundee Thegither, initially set up to celebrate Dundee's diversity, evolved into an emergency delivery service for vulnerable people in the city as the pandemic took hold. They receive the award for their initiatives to tackle isolation, raise spirits and distribute food parcels to the vulnerable during the pandemic.

The group, led by Siobhan Tolland and Lee Mills, both from Dundee, launched their Blether Line, making phone calls to people who were self-isolating or isolated because of the pandemic, to support their mental health. They went on to provide food parcels to the vulnerable, with more than 1,200 handed out to date. Volunteers even gave street performances to help boost people’s spirits.

Openreach launched the Community Connectors Awards in 2020 to recognise individuals and groups for their work supporting residents and vulnerable neighbours during lockdown. More than 130 nominations from MPs across the UK were judged by the panel including Openreach key workers and former Culture Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan of Cotes.

Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach, said: “We were inspired to launch the Community Connectors Awards by the efforts of our engineering team. The stories received from across the UK have been inspiring and show how many people are working to make a difference and support their neighbours during lockdown.

“The volunteers at Dundee Thegither haven’t sought recognition but they’re a wonderful example to their community. I’m delighted and very grateful to be able to thank them for everything they have done to support vulnerable people in Dundee.”

Siobhan Tolland from Dundee Thegither said: “We set up Dundee Thegither because we knew immediately the impact that lockdown would have on our most vulnerable in Dundee. Dundee is a strong city with great resilience but, for all of us who started this, our preoccupation was to help and support our community and ensure that no one was left behind in this pandemic.

“We have tried to bring a safety net to those struggling in these times, as well trying to reduce isolation. We also just wanted to bring some fun into people's lives. And what we found is that so many people approached us wanting to do similar. And that just made our city all the stronger.”

Lee Mills from Dundee Thegither added: “A massive thank you to Openreach’s Community Connectors Awards and Chris Law for nominating us. We have so many people to say thank you to – so many have donated time and stepped up to give us their help with no questions asked. They have been absolute stars. We will be forever indebted to you Dundee!"

Chris Law MP, who nominated the non-profit project for the award, said: A huge congratulations to Dundee Thegither for winning an Openreach Community Connectors award for their fantastic work during this really dreadful Covid-19 pandemic. There have been many great examples of people going to great lengths to help our communities through the pandemic. But personally, I can think of no-one more worthy of the Openreach award than Dundee Thegither, who’ve kept the City’s spirit alive through the pandemic and who’ve given out thousands of food packages to those most in need.”

As key workers, Openreach engineers have connected numerous field hospitals up and down the UK within days, also performing vital maintenance to keep families and businesses online and in contact during lockdown. Members of the engineering team have also camped out in remote parts of the UK to ensure local connectivity and volunteered in their spare time – performing roles including as delivery drivers for NHS blood supplies.

Pictured are Richard Tart (left) and Lee Mills of Dundee Thegither; and (separate image) Siobhan Tolland.