Story two – 

Follow the news and you may be forgiven that the abiding image we have of panic-struck supermarkets serves as leitmotif for a world that has lost its way. On the contrary, the salutary effect of COVID-19 has been a supercharging of everything fundamental to the making of the good community.

A wonderful example of this is the re-appropriation of that already wonderful bottom-up community institution, the Little Free Library. Having commandeered telephone boxes and the likes as tiny neighbourhood libraries for the last decade, the book-share scheme has over the last few years begun to metamorphose into the Little Free Pantry, a change-up turbo-charged by the present crisis. Now 75,000 strong and showing no sign of slowing down, the COVID-driven proliferation of the Little Free Pantry plays stormtrooper to urban planner Richard Sennett’s observation that we are becoming increasingly aware of desires for more human contact, and in particular with the (seemingly) unlike-us and the barely-known.

The Free Pantry is a living social artefact of a deep collective need to reach out – beyond our doors, our privacy, our safety nets. Born of a need to give, to share, to experience a connectedness powered by our capacity for empathy, it tells us – charmingly, locally, uniquely – what it is to be a community. It is the echo chamber undone. Developers, urban planners, designers, take note: we have much to learn.


Words by Adam Scott and Dave Waddell
Illustration Jessica Watson
Photograph credits Little Pantry



About AfterCOVID

The historian Peter Hennessy recently observed that future historians will divide post-divide society into BC and AC – Before COVID and After COVID. It is in exactly this spirit that AfterCOVID seeks to celebrate how the world’s largest shared experience has given us the most extraordinary stories of what it means to live beautifully. Together, they are the clues to creating the future we all hope for.

About FreeState

FreeState is planning for a post-COVID future. Share your story with us – really, we’d love to talk. In the meantime, stay well.