Social Togetherness: Paula Day

We talk to Paula Day about life during the pandemic, the powerful wake-up call it has provided and running the Robin and Lucienne Day foundation from her Cumbria home.

Social Togetherness: Paula Day

Where’s home for you?

I live in a beautiful quiet part of Cumbria. I share my father’s passion for the outdoors and my mother’s for gardening – I’m so privileged to have been able make my home where my heart is.

What are the highlights of your home-working day?

The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation’s office is at my home, so my work as Chair has continued very much as usual – except that I attend meetings by video conferencing instead of making monthly trips to London.

Before starting work first thing in the morning I walk round the garden to see what’s happening. At present the big wild cherry tree is festive with blossom, tulips are flaming, bees browse the pulmonaria flowers and birds are busy nesting – its heaven! After work I usually exercise by climbing the fell above my house, to look out across the valley and catch the last of the sunshine.

What creative pursuits are you doing now that you ordinarily wouldn’t manage if the world were at its normal pace?

I have a bit more time for what I have always loved doing – sowing vegetable seeds, pruning, planting, watering, weeding… I think of it as collaborating with nature!

What positive change might come from Covid-19 for you, or your wider community, or the world at large?

Covid-19 is giving us a foretaste of what it’s like when our fragile human edifice is rocked by forces we’ve unleashed and can’t control. Even if it were possible, we must not go back to what we thought of as ‘normal’ – a way of life which was dragging us inexorably towards climate catastrophe and human suffering on a much greater scale.  

My parents lived through the devastation of World War II and the great social and cultural reconstruction which they helped celebrate at the Festival of Britain in 1951. This new order included the founding of the NHS in Britain, and the global establishment of the United Nations and World Health Organisation, which we still rely on.

Like my parents’ generation of survivors, out of tragedy, we have the opportunity to join together to create a better society. One which supports all human beings equally and protects our shared home – the Earth. 

We’re already learning some of the skills we need. Instead of piling on carbon emissions by flying, we are video conferencing. Instead of driving private cars to distant destinations, we are exercising from our doorsteps. We’re appreciating the key work carried out by people who are paid least. And we’re discovering that we don’t haveto keep up with consumer fashion.

My father had always understood the ethical imperatives of design:

Things should be made because they are better and with regard to the limited resources of the planet, so they should be re-usable and long-lasting. People often think that mere newness is innovation, but it isn’t.’ (Robin Day, 1999).

Any interesting projects, exhibitions or launches for later this year that you can share?

There are some exciting projects on the way – we’ll announce them when we can in our quarterly Newsletter.

Many thanks to Paula for taking the time to speak to us.

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