Tomorrow, I leave to go to Krakow, Poland with my bro & his girlfriend. It will be my 2nd time there. I can’t wait to eat more proper Polish food!
But I won’t be here in the UK for the last bit of the General Election campaign. I’ve spent a good few weeks knocking on doors, writing much too long facebook posts trying to debunk Tory lies and records for people, endless retweets, lots of leaflet posting. So, I’m both REALLY REALLY nervous for 8th June, but i’m also welcoming this social media break – where things can become a bit more distant.
So I write this post here, to ask you to consider helping Labour, or voting them in 8th June.
Last Monday, I was invited to the Houses of Lords reception to give a small speech. I was invited by Lord Professor Robert Winston, for Sheffield Hallam University – to talk about the “Hallam Difference” and what I think this is, and what it has meant for me. (File this under UNBELIEVABLE SMIZZ MOMENTS)
I talked about my challenging upbringing in poverty, that ended up including fleeing from domestic violence and homelessness. It included the low self-esteem I had ( & still have to be honest), the crushing imposter syndrome, the failing school *at the time* I came from to get to university, how I was the very first person in my family (& still am) to finish school and then go onto university and then later on after everything started going well, falling poorly and everything getting messed up again.
But within this was support networks that stopped me from falling into real despair, or getting lost in the cracks in the system. Hallam has outreach teams who worked with me to get to a university, a Labour government at the time had funded 1oo’s of policies and projects that stopped my life from being increasingly worse – such as Aim Higher, EMA, Sure Start Centres — all helped me stay on at school. Policies that helped my mom financially, a few more council houses that we don’t have at the moment (though it was bad then too). Maintenance grants so I didn’t end up in MASSive amounts of debt from university.
And once I got to university – the people made it everything. Hallam gave me the environment and the belief to build my confidence, to make friends for life; it made me feel seen / heard for the first time in my life. I felt like… I kind of… fitted in…. I was able to see a future for myself for the very first time in my life. Rather than just living day to day.
I was able to fulfil my whole life’s dream of being an artist and working in NYC in an amazing gallery, no less, with truly amazing people who became my mentors & inspire me to be better – and work with families of all kinds in Boston, doing art stuff – and when I fell sick, they paid for all of my medical bills when I was over there. Literally, they all came together to help to save my life.
When I came home, and I was angry at myself for becoming sick… for becoming broken… and not knowing how I could stop it, I just couldn’t figure out how to fix myself… my life had to be changed to adapt what was & contines to happen to me – and I was NOT happy about it. This jarring experience was eased when I met incredible NHS staff who helped me feel heard and understood in a way that really touched me. I can’t put into words how compassion makes you feel when you’re at your most vulnerable. And I realized I wanted to take all of these experiences, use my own skills, and give back that time and kindness to the NHS and its future.
And Hallam was there for me again.
I got to tell a whole room of important people at the Houses of Lords – people who can make a difference – how hard it is to get to university from precarious backgrounds. And just how my life has been transformed by these experiences.
I wasn’t sure how it was going to be recieved, but afterwards loads of people came over to meet me, and would share their stories of humble beginnings too. Which showed me there’s power in vulnerability sometimes.
But Why do I tell you all this? And what’s it got to do with voting and how we cast the vote?
Well, I’ve learnt that too often the world celebrates good heart without acknowledging the pain and hurt that shaped a person and their direction. Life may throw a thousand harsh storms your way but sometimes (not always) we can use them to grow and be better and be more good from it all.
You will be lost and unlost. Believe in your craft. Believe in your heart. Believe in your ability to become whatever it is you want to be and to overcome these challenges that lay ahead for us.
But we need OPPORTUNITY to help us to get there. we need support, we need networks, we need friends, we need hope to keep going – we need to be seen, and *really* heard.
And I genuinely believe that this Labour Government can DO IT for us. A lot of people are merely existing in the shadows. When I go convassing, some people say they’re not listened too – but here I am. Here is Corbyn – with a really truly compassionate (& costed) manifesto that really, really looks and understands some of the issues and problems and solutions to a myraid of issues within contemporary society and in all of our lives.
As my friend said tonight, watching Manchester Live makes me wonder at what point our counter-terrorism strategy finally evolves to include a massive investment in culture and the arts…
The Hallam Difference is a domino affect. Every act of kindness, I try (though sometimes I’m accidentally a dick) to pay forward. Every little action is big when we come together. Keep pouring your beautiful minds and hearts into what is right.
This week is a good week to flaunt your awesome. To show the world we’re compassionate, that we believe in people and not corporations.
That we are the difference in the world.
I will be watching the election progress from Poland at night, and I’ll arrive back to England to Exit Poll news. Let’s hope it’s better than 2015 – though as Ed Miliband said to me on the phone yesterday, “It’s the hope that really crushes you”.
I can’t cry again about another General Election outcome.