Q2 – what has changed in the last 12 months?
We’ve heard a lot about the need to ‘pivot’ in recent weeks, and whether pandemic-related or not, all our speakers have experienced significant change in their lives.
Paul Lewis became a dad some eight months ago with the arrival of a beautiful daughter.
For Andrew Vincent, the strong response to his talk has given him greater impetus in his professional life, where posing the right question is incredibly important for his clients.
Ali Foxon’s talk led to a commission to write a double-page magazine article and an interview on BBC radio.
Ellie reported a feeling of celebrity status within her existing network and the opening up of new conversations and relationships.
“I definitely feel more connected to the Bollington community,” says Charlotte. I hadn’t got involved that much locally beyond the community of my children’s school but I now feel more motivated to do more things for and with my community.”
Andrew Greenwood felt a little flat in the days immediately after the event, but was heartened by the many people who stopped him in the street afterwards to say they’d enjoyed his talk.
“I receive messages weekly,” says Andy Hall, “from local friends to strangers living far afield. Many have said my talk gave them the inspiration to speak up about mental illness.”
Like many, Andy has experienced changes to his routines and an increase in both anxiety and workload – “I have to listen to my own advice!”
Linton’s life took a new turn pre-COVID with the liquidation last year of the company he’d worked with for 17 years. Since then the airline industry has been rocked by the pandemic but, happily, Linton is still in the cockpit, working for a domestic carrier in Japan. In between flights he’s been illustrating a children’s book and writing for a Japanese newspaper about his experiences in Asia.
Q3) – is your topic more relevant now?
Andy Hall describes mental illness as the largest hidden symptom of the pandemic, with isolation and loneliness causing huge suffering. “People need to take control of their own mental well-being; we have to reconnect with each other sincerely, and with the natural environment too.
“I’ve never known people express so much gratitude for our beautiful countryside,” says Ali Foxon. But she warns, “As lockdown eases, we mustn’t forget how nature comforted us, and our responsibility to protect it. There’s never been a better time to start green sketching and doodle that daisy!”
For Andrew Vincent, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of asking good questions. “It’s been fascinating to watch politicians grapple (so badly) with this in the last 3 months, in part because they seem to have asked poor questions of the situation.”
Paul Lewis points to the pressure on relationships caused by the lockdown, with some teenagers feeling trapped and lonely and parents forced to confront issues they may have with their own children. Living in a multi-cultural area of Manchester, Paul sees more conversations happening around race and reminds us, “You cannot form connections with people when your opinion of them is negative before you even start.”
Ellie Pool addressed the use of social media in her talk and its role in helping people discuss mental health. “As we’ve all been forced to physically distance ourselves from one another, social media has become the go-to way for people to reconnect. Brands, influencers, small businesses and individuals have been checking in with others, offering advice and support.”
“We’ve all begun to notice what is special in our local environment,” says Andrew Greenwood. “My message last year was to listen, look and feel as we walk around our regular surroundings, and appreciate the positivity in the everyday.” It seems our forced confinement has underlined Andrew’s point.
From the curator…
I leave the last word to the woman who made all this possible, TEDx Bollington curator Sara Knowles. “As the last speaker walked off the stage I realised it was almost over; something we’d worked on for so long was coming to an end, and there was mixture of sadness and relief. It was such a wonderful day, the result of a lot of hard work and generosity by so many volunteers and sponsors.”
Sara drew on her TEDx experience to re-orientate her career, taking on a team-leader/manager role in her international trade work and standing (successfully) in the Bollington Town Council election. Since the lockdown she has worked with fellow councillors and the Town Hall team on the community’s response to COVID-19 and other resilience and strategic projects.
“This pandemic has definitely brought us closer together in so many ways. We may have been physically separated but somehow we’ve found a different kind of spiritual and emotional connection. There’s a stronger recognition of the need for collective well-being, not just relating to people but the natural world too. None of our speakers could have anticipated where we are now, but their themes have more relevance today than ever.”