We have all found new ways to connect during the pandemic, but how many have managed to meet someone from outside our own bubble?
We are relaunching our ground-breaking project Britain Talks – connecting those with different views.
In the past three years, with our partners the Daily Express, we’ve connected more than 10,000 people for a chat.
They include retired nurse Lynda Felton-Scott and student Jovan Nepaul, and lobster catcher Bob Roberts and cheese-making refugee Razan Alsous.
Our project was inspired by MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in June 2016.
Labour member Jo said we have “more in common with each other than things that divide us”.
But, as the Brexit process dragged on, it was as if we had forgotten how to speak to each other.
Britain Talks, based on an idea created by My Country Talks, is in partnership with The Great Get Together.
Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater said: “It’s brilliant to see the Mirror getting Britain talking. That’s how we discover just how much we have in common.”
If you want to join in, we will match you with someone who has different views and help you set up a video meeting on the weekend of June 19.
Here are some of the people who have taken part in the project over the past three years.
- To join in the conversation this year, simply fill in the questionnaire – above – and also see Mirror.co.uk/britaintalks for more
It was an honour to sit down and talk
Fisherman and Brexiteer Bob Roberts, 72, had plenty to discuss when he first met Syrian cheesemaker, Razan Alsous, 37, in 2019.
The two Yorkshire food producers – Bob sells crab and lobster he catches near his home in Scarborough while Razan founded a halloumi business in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorks – quickly bonded over business.
Immigration was a hot topic, with Bob moved to tears when told of Razan’s journey to the UK from war-torn Syria.
Now adjusting to the post-Brexit world, Bob says he often thinks back to their conversations.
He says: “I’m so glad we met. I really admire what she’s done.
“It was a real honour to be able to sit down and explain to each other where we were coming from. So much has happened since then. With the fishing industry, the Government could have been stronger. I think Covid has kicked the stuffing out of Boris.”
Razan has had a tough year – her business flooded, the family recently had Covid and she is recovering from a broken knee.
But she is still reminded of her chat with Bob whenever she sees a lobster, saying: “Meeting him was an experience I’ve never had before.”
Speaking to her opened my eyes
Dairy farmer Abi Reader and vegan campaigner, Sarah King, 28, found more middle ground than they imagined they would when they met.
Abi, 39, from South Wales says: “If you feel there are conversations that you can’t have then it’s probably important you do have them.
“Speaking to Sarah really opened my eyes, to be honest. We weren’t setting out to change each other but we were able to hear a different view.
“As a farmer that’s not always easy for me. I’ve only been off the farm 10 times in a year.
“So, it’s felt isolated. Brexit and Covid merged into one, we don’t export our milk, it goes into bottles so it’s been OK but cheese and yoghurt producers have been hit.”
Sarah, of Bristol, agrees.
She added: “It was such a great experience.
“I often think about things I should or could have said, maybe I’ll get the chance soon.
“There is something about meeting one on one that means you can talk and really listen, you can’t always do that on social media.”
Highlight from a year to forget
Jovan Nepaul and Lynda Felton-Scott, were having very different lockdowns when they met over Zoom.
Lynda, 76, a retired nurse, suffers from COPD so was shielding at home in Batley, West Yorks, while student Jovan, 24, was staying with his parents in Birmingham.
But despite the 50 years between them, they’ve become good pals.
Jovan, now studying for a masters at Cambridge, says: “Things I was worried about were so different from the challenges Lynda was facing. We never would have met in real life, but we got on.
“Conversation was easy. I learnt a lot from Lynda. I’m hoping we meet in person.”
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Lynda is equally positive about Jovan. “He’s a lovely guy and we’ve chatted since,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed watching his career and seeing what he’s doing.
“Like everyone, the last year had its ups and downs – Christmas Day was a bit of a disaster – but this was one of the highlights.
“I’m looking forward to catching up again.”
Ernest Goldie, 74, from Lincs
Found plenty to talk about when he matched with council worker Dan Johnson, 26, from West London.
Ernest says: “I felt very isolated because of lockdown.
“The project gave us a full view of what other people think.
“Generations can learn a lot from one another.
“We kept in contact with each other for a few months after our meet-up.”
Rev Edd Stock, 36, from London
Chatted to student Edel Anabwani, 52, from Cardiff about everyday life during Covid.
“By talking and listening we are always learning something new and this helps us to grow.
“It gives us a chance to listen to a different perspective from people.
“I would definitely recommend people take part in Britain Talks.”
Louise Adams, 60, an artist, from North Staffs
Remainer Louise had lots of questions for leaver William Alcock, a retired police officer from Stoke.
She says: “There were a lot of things on social media around Brexit and I felt it was important to discuss our views.
“After Britain Talks I carried on, keeping discussions going with people.”
Elsie Mumah, 33, a mum and student living in London
On the face of it, Elsie and former financier Mark Johnson, 54, of the New Forest, had little in common, she says.
But she adds: “Although we seemed opposite, we were very similar.
“He helps refugee families and I do a lot of campaign work around people who call the UK home.”
Falak Batak, 23, a Syrian refugee studying in Wales
Connected with London Rabbi Michael Hilton, 70.
Falak says: “When I came to this country I did not know many people so I am always interested to meet new people.
“It is good to have conversations.
“We should listen to each other.
“I think Michael was interested in my life too.”