ABSOLUTELY Fabulous star Joanna Lumley says modern life has destroyed community spirit in the UK.
The actress was in Edinburgh today to launch a new campaign encouraging people to donate their time to help local community projects.
Lumley, 69, said big cities, including Scotland’s capital, could benefit the most from neighbourhood schemes.
“I think that community spirit is something that has dripped out of our lives, because modern life has taken it away from us - maybe hi-rise living, cell phones - where you think you are talking to people, well you are kind of, but it’s not the same as being with people,” Lumley said, speaking at the Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre which manager Robert said would be nothing without its volunteers, where she was helping out at the centre’s garden.
“This is bring back much more the way we used to be - maybe 150 years ago where we depended on each other all the time. And if somebody in your street or your neighbourhood needed help looking after their three little children under four, you might be able to help. Nowadays you might not even know about it. Places like this, you can see what needs doing and you can help, everybody can help.
“Bringing that community spirit back into places is terribly important, and not only places like the Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre - here you’ve got trees and we’re in the rural outskirts of Edinburgh. But particularly in inner cities - you may think how can you be lonely in a city? Very easily, almost more easily than you can in the countryside actually.
“Just remember that, even the biggest cities or the smallest towns may have communities - and there’s these groups of people of all ages, not just one strand of age, all ages depending on each other and looking after people. There’s grannies here - I’m a granny - and these people know how to look after little children and how to help.”
Edinburgh is the first city in Scotland to host an M&S Spark Something Good event. The project will see 24 projects take place across 24 cities in the UK and Ireland, over the course of 24 months.
The campaign, which aims to inspire and motivate M&S employees and customers to take action for social good by donating time to their local communities, saw Joanna jump at the chance to visit Edinburgh to volunteer at some of the capital’s key charitable projects.
Lumley said: “I think what I love is the community feel of all this. It seems to join people of all ages, and people who have all different gifts to bring, because everyone is good at something and they sometimes don’t know what - but coming here, you can help with anything; cooking, flower arranging, there’s kids to be read to, and planting to be done in the garden.
“It’s a comforting and safe place for people who might be lonely, burdened, stressed or need some focus in their lives.”
The actress will also make appearances at The Yard, an organisation which supports disabled children and young people, and Social Bite, a charity that supports the homeless.
Having a whistle-stop tour around Edinburgh left Ms Lumley feeling a bit nostalgic.
“I love Edinburgh. Every time I come to the city, I immediately want to live here, and get involved in it.
“I love Scotland anyway because I’m frequently in Scotland. My son lives in Lossiemouth, my mother is buried up here, and when I got married, we got a cottage in Dumfries - we feel we’ve got huge Scottish roots all around us.”
Ms Lumley also said she is excited for the release of the Absolutely Fabulous film this summer.
“I think people are really going to like it - it’s got all the old core gang, the five J’s - as well as a mass of other people. It’s funny and glamorous and ridiculous.”
Volunteers can also sign up for Spark Something Good Edinburgh, by calling 0117 915 1279.