2020 – COVID Can’t Stop Us!

Along with 2020 came the dreaded “C” word – COVID (or Corona virus as it was called in the early days). This pandemic brought a new order the like of the world had never seen! But that didn’t stop the NBA doing all we can for Newport.

After the initial chaos settled everyone teamed up to try and keep the ship afloat and continued meeting up on Zoom calls to share ideas.

In May, Utilita, the UK’s leading Smart Pay As You Go Energy supplier, ran ‘The Utilita Energy Hub-to-Hub Challenge’ in Newport to support the Independent Arts whose vital fundraising and community-building activities had been curbed by the coronavirus crisis.

The charity fundraiser kicked off on 18th May and included a team from the Newport Energy Hub either walking, running, cycling or skipping the equivalent distance from the Utilita Hub in Newport to the Hub in Leith in Edinburgh – totalling a whopping 516 miles. They clocked up the miles by making the most out of outdoor spaces, such as doing laps of their local park until they reach the 516-mile milestone. To promote positive physical and mental health during the lockdown, members of the Utilita Energy Hub team were also recording their weekly body mass index, to demonstrate the health benefits of the challenge.

Katherine Allen, Utilita Hub Manager in Newport said: “The Utilita Energy Hubs exist to give local communities a place to go to talk about reducing their energy usage, as well as providing a space free of charge where local community groups and good causes can host their own activities, so we wanted to fill that current void with something equally as community-centred, whilst keeping the staff active to promote positive physical and mental wellbeing.

“Each Energy Hub chose a local charity or support group to raise money for, reflecting Utilita’s ethos of engaging with and supporting local communities. The team in Newport chose to fundraise for the Independent Arts to support disadvantaged groups who are socially isolated or suffering with poor mental health. The charity improves the well-being, quality of life and reduces social isolation and helps reduce the strain on already limited resources.

“The energetic Hub team will happily put in the leg work and would be grateful for your donations via a dedicated JustGiving page to help them on their way.

Hannah Griffiths, Operations Manager at Independent Arts, commented on why the support of Utilita volunteers was so welcome during this time: “We are delighted to have been chosen as the Newport Hub team’s charity of choice. The funds raised will help us continue our work using the arts as a tool to improve health and wellbeing and change lives on the Isle of Wight at a time when our work is needed more than ever.

“A huge thank you to all those taking part in this challenge and generously donating to help improve the lives of people in their local island community.”



May also marked the Launch of Operation Geranium on the Isle Of Wight, a project to deliver pots of Geranium Plants to Island Residents shielding at home, one public exhibition gallery re opened with a brand new collection of Artworks some reflecting the experience of creating new Art in isolation.

The original idea of showing support to the most vulnerable and isolated elderly residents in our community through the simple act of gifting a plant, was begun by local IWNHS Healthcare Maintenance worker Steve Double.

The new Art Gallery Exhibition has been curated by Steve Double, at St Mary’s Hospital, in the Full Circle Gallery Art Space, along the corridor adjacent to the Staff Canteen and Restaurant.

The Exhibition includes works by Sandown based Street Artist Tony Trowbridge, who was commissioned to renew Artworks at Sandown Zoo. Tony obtained notoriety with his decoration of The Gothic Nightingale Hotel in Shanklin. Also on view are works by Paul Stone AKA MY DOG SIGHS, Paul famously projected a giant art image onto The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. The exhibition also features Rhys Ifans, a Swansea based artist, who depicts characters existing in an urban post apocalyptical landscape.

This is the 4th Hospital Art Exhibition put together by Steve, Previous exhibitions have featured works from Roy Lichtenstein to Captain Sensible. That alone demonstrate how art can be effective in creating ambient and positive vibes in public spaces.

Steve has been engaged previously in the commissioning of local Art by Stephen Butterfield to support the PALS Team in their office, to support them in their work liaising with patients.

Steve Double, an NBA member, has been involved in an initiative forged between Care In The Garden and Age UK, to help those older people in our community to know that people are thinking of them at this difficult time during lockdown.

That scheme is known as Operation Geranium. The idea is simply that older people are nominated by friends or family to receive a plant and then a delivery is made to brighten up the day.

Operation Geranium has been a great success, with many people across the Island touched by the initiative

NBA member Steve Double is Music Promoter and Art follower. Steve has been using his connections with artists to raise awareness and recognition of efforts made my people to support others through the pandemic.

Steve is looking to build on his powerful street art messages. There are lots more ways to help and inspire people through street art – but Steve needs more walls to work with.

So, if you have a wall as part of your business property that could be put to this amazing use, please contact Steve directly: stephen.double00@btinternet.com.  


Buying from local businesses and traders got a bit easier – even during lockdown – with the introduction of the Wight Gift Card. 

The new card, accepted only in selected Isle of Wight businesses, was launched in November in Cowes High Street when John Irvine, CEO of main sponsor WightFibre, made the first purchase with a Wight Gift Card in  Shorelines of Cowes. 

The Wight Gift Card works like a local currency, with each gift card a pre-paid Mastercard that can be redeemed at registered businesses on the Isle of Wight, for online purchases and in stores, if open. 

Shoppers can buy the card as a gift, and know that with a Wight Gift Card their recipient can choose their own selection from many of the Isle of Wight’s best-known brands and producers, right across the Island.

The new gift card scheme follows on from recent shop local initiatives on the Island such as Fiver Fest and Let’s Buy Local and will be available for customers to buy now for delivery from 24 November: in time for Christmas and the January sales.

The card is supported by the Isle of Wight Council, and will support the Isle of Wight’s post-COVID business recovery strategy, in a bid to encourage residents and visitors to shop locally and keep their money on the Island.

Councillor Wayne Whittle, cabinet member for regeneration at the Isle of Wight Council said: “There is a very strong sense of identity on the Island, and with the Wight Gift Card, we can express our support for where we are from.

“Instead of purchasing a product on Amazon, with the card we can buy on the Island instead, online as well as in shops.

“Normally, 30% of local expenditure on the Island will make its way out of the local economy. If we can plug that leak, then it means more money in the local economy.

“One positive from the pandemic is that more people are starting to shop locally again.

“This is a trend that we need to build on and develop.

“Thanks to WightFibre’s support, we have an opportunity to show customers a different way of shopping, keeping money in local economies and driving their recovery.

“In this way, we can help support the future of Island high streets.”

WightFibre’s chief executive John Irvine said: “WightFibre is delighted to join forces with the Isle of Wight Council to launch the Island’s Wight Gift Card.

“In this very difficult year of the COVID-19 pandemic it is even more important for us all to support Island businesses.

“As an Island business ourselves, WightFibre is happy to do our little bit to help and to make it easier for Islanders to keep their spend on the Island.”

Bob Seely MP said: “This is a great, innovative way of supporting Island businesses through a difficult time. Now more than ever the Island needs to support its local businesses, and this is a great way to do so.

“Not only will the card provide a gift idea but it also keeps money within the local economy.

“The Wight Gift Card gives us the opportunity to support our local businesses and economy but also to rediscover and make the most of some of the amazing produce we have here.

“It’s another example of the Island coming together and finding community solutions that work.

“Let’s think local and celebrate what the Island has to offer.”