I can’t follow that! I can follow them.

Today (8 July) I was able to attend the last hour of the event in Bradford covered in last week’s blog called #SelfCareEverywhere.

10 year old Jibrael strides up in front of 100 or so people to tell us that he has had an idea. Given the pressure on kids in his school he is setting up a “Happiness Champions” scheme based on buddying up and promoting listening and understanding. He’s brilliant.

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He’s up after Harris who has written a piece about his community, his experiences and his mental health having been inspired by the event. He raps along with no backing track as he explains he hasn’t had time to write and record one today. “We’ll beatbox for you” offer members of Speakers’ Corner, a group for women and girls. He laughs them off and soars away. He’s a natural and it’s compelling stuff.

Speakers Corner members were part of a workshop I attended on “Me, the Powerful” as were Youthwatch Leeds and others. It was run by politics student Rosema Nawaz who posed great questions on power, what it is and how it’s used. George Fielding – WizzKidz campaigner and now at Adjuvo – talked about activism and campaigning and forgiveness. The dialogue was passionate, respectful and insightful. People clapped and hollered at various points…

“Don’t put limits on yourself. If you think you have no power, then you will have no power”  Youthwatch member

One of ‘the Haters’ trolled our campaign about the brutal rape of the #Kashmir90 of Kunan Poshpora. I realised the best thing to do was to politely invite them down to the event” Speakers Corner Member

“I realised I had to stop thinking about being a wheelchair user in an able bodied world and start being me and campaigning for what I believe in” George Fielding 

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I could go on with the wisdom and energy that buzzed through the whole room. I picked up more ideas and energy in an hour than I have all week.

Rebel and Harris took to the stage to close matters with their performance about mental health and youth. And there it was – the generation gap. A brilliant performance of natural confidence in a young musical genre about a subject that is stigmatised in wider society. They really gave me hope for the future.

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Just before the end, I had to speak about why and how coproduction, passion and collaboration with children and young people matters. It’s barn door obvious isn’t it? Which is why it is a big part of our Sustainability and Transformation Partnership for West Yorkshire & Harrogate, and something that will be part of our work, as much as thinking about A&E, Cancer or Mental Health.

I stood up as the applause for Harris and Jibrael rang around and suggested I could never “follow that” – in the showbiz sense. A middle aged bloke in a suit talking about plans….. Fortunately I could draw on experiences of working on coproduction with Children and Young People. Adam Bojelian’s “What Does Good Care Look Like” also inspired everyone.  I challenged them all to know that they were the future.

And when it comes down to it, I know that while I could never “follow that”, I can always follow them – the wonderful, insightful and inspirational people who will in future be the NHS. 

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Thanks to NHS England for inviting me to speak

All photos courtesy of Twitter

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