One of our Lived Experience Leadership Forum members, Ali Davenport, has created a special festival for the month of December. It’s called Connection Fest and everyone is welcome to join in. Here’s what Ali has to say:
Connection Fest grew out of an idea I had for something else. I decided to run with it because I wanted to do something – more so once we hit lockdown again.
It’s a festival exploring connection and what it means to us, especially at this time. I see it as a light in the winter. It’s a way of spreading hope and positivity to help us through.
It’s a very recent idea so this means it isn’t a nice, neatly-packaged festival. It’s evolving as we go through December. I wanted it to fit in with where people are in their lives right now, so people are just doing what they can. Unlike other festivals, there aren’t any headline acts. Anyone can take part and every contribution has equal value – whether that’s an event, a blog, social media post, or poem.
It’s being supported by the Camerados, a movement of people who believe in looking out for one another.
The response has been amazing. I thought if I get 50 activities on the programme by the end of the month, I’ll be happy. It’s already at 70 and growing. I think it’s really touched something in people – a need maybe to connect at the end of an extraordinary year and reflect on the shared experience.
It’s had such a positive impact on my own wellbeing. I’ve connected with more people in the last few weeks than since the beginning of the pandemic. As someone with lived – and living – experience of anxiety and depression, I’ve found it incredibly nourishing and feel more hopeful about 2021.
One of my aims with the festival is to encourage people to connect – and keep connecting. As the pandemic has gone on and we’ve moved into winter, I understand that pull to withdraw and hibernate. But we can end up isolating ourselves and that isn’t always a mentally healthy place to be, especially at the moment. There’s something about nudging ourselves to connect with others, even if we don’t feel like it.
Of course, the majority of opportunities to connect are in the virtual world at present. This is another area where some of us need to gently urge ourselves. Up until September, I just wasn’t engaging with Zoom and other platforms. I found it so alienating, seeing people in little boxes on the screen. But when it hit home that the pandemic was going on for some time, I knew I had to overcome my barriers. I bought myself a cheap webcam and dived in, starting with IMHN’s Lived Experience Leadership Forum. Connection Fest has taken me to another level. I’ve realised that I can connect with people virtually and it can be both rewarding and fun.
The festival has sparked some brilliant conversations about connection and I already have ideas about how we can continue the exploration next year. It runs until the end of the month so there’s still time to get involved, whether to create an activity or just take part. It all contributes!
Published on December 16, 2020 at 4:20 pm