Beds, Herts & Bucks

What makes Bedford so generous?

Image caption Bedford is a county town about 50 miles north of London

Bedford, a market town with a population of just under 80,000 people, has been classed as the most generous in the UK, according to donation site JustGiving.

BBC News went to the town, famous for Ronnie Barker and Italian food, to find out why people living there are more willing to give money to people in need than anywhere else.

'Generous place'

Martin Sharp, who has been a full-time volunteer since retirement, agrees that people in Bedford are willing to help others more than people in other towns.

"It's a very generous place, we do tend to look after each other and we're always there for each other's backs, particularly with those less fortunate.

"I don't support much financially, but I support with time. I do whatever I can working with the homeless, providing them with food, clothes etc.

"I don't do it for medals, but I do go home and think, 'Yes, I'm satisfied with that'".

'Little surprised'

Tuncay Aykac came over from Turkey 10 years ago to live in Bedford and runs a supermarket selling food from across Eastern Europe.

"I am surprised, but now people are seeing around the world fighting and not getting along with each other I suppose when they see it on the TV and the news they like to help each other more.

"I am a little surprised with Bedford, but they're kind, nice people around here.

"You can see people from all around the world here and they're getting on. They're nice to each other and help each other. People understand different cultures and nationalities and religions and they respect each other."

Bedford facts

  • While the town itself has a population of 79,150, about 161,382 people live in the wider borough
  • Almost 30% of the town's population is of at least partial Italian descent, with up to 100 different ethnic groups living within its boundaries
  • Christian 17th Century author John Bunyan spent 12 years in Bedford County Gaol, where he wrote Pilgrim's Progress
  • The BBC was evacuated to Bedford during World War Two in 1942
  • American Big Band star Glenn Miller was billeted to Bedford in 1944
  • Famous names from Bedford include the comedian Ronnie Barker and marathon champion Paula Radcliffe

Sources: Bedford Borough Council, BBC

'Strong sense of giving'

Helen Mudd, who works at the Tourist Information office, has lived in the area since 1978.

"I've not used that particular website [JustGiving], but I know quite a lot of people and we give quite a bit to charity, so maybe it's not so surprising.

"It's quite a high ethnic mix in Bedford, many religions have quite a strong sense of giving to other causes. There's quite a large Sikh population.

"I work in the tourist information centre and people who go in there generally seem to find it quite a welcoming place."

'Really big hearts'

Miss Johnson, who declined to be photographed or give her full name, told BBC News she was raised in Bedford and came back to the town five years ago to raise her children.

"There's a lot of charity shops here, a lot of organisations that do a lot of positive things for people around the world. Even in churches there's a lot of things like missions across the world.

"It's quite a surprise to me to be honest [being rated most generous] because I would never have known it if I didn't see it on the news, but it's a positive thing for Bedford.

"I know a lot of people in the community and they've got really big hearts. For example, I've worked with the African Caribbean forum and they're always trying to do things to support the community and help people less fortunate than themselves.

"Growing up it wasn't like this in Bedford. My mum had the first black family in our area and it was more of an English white town, but as the years have progressed you've had more ethnicities come in - for example, Italians, Polish people, Asians.

"I think because you've got so many diverse communities in Bedford that's why it has become this way, because they have seen the need for it to be like this."

'People still want to help'

Amanda Rochester helps run the Keech Hospice charity shop to raise money for terminally ill adults and children in the local area.

"I would say people are definitely generous, we do get a lot of donations from the public, not just for the charity shop but cash donations as well. We are very, very privileged.

"Even with the climate as it is, people still want to help. I think because we're local as well, people are looking to give local rather than national."

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