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Buddhafield 2020

“Holding to nothing whatever” was the theme of this year’s Buddhafield festival. It’s usually based in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Taunton in Somerset, with roots in the Triratna Buddhist Community.

I attended the gathering in person in 2015, which was also my first experience of camping and when the photographs in this blog post were taken. I’ve been on annual leave from work this past week so when I heard the festival was being held virtually this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it felt like a great opportunity to get involved once again.

The festival was held over five days, utilising technology with the likes of Zoom and Facebook live broadcasts. I’ve particularly enjoyed the talks, meditation sessions and musical performances. Personal highlights were sets from the band Hands of the Heron as well as soloist Susie Ro.

Although viewing over a screen, the sense of connectivity with others was still very much felt. The opening and closing ceremonies being memorable for this, with people joining in for the mantra. What struck me was that a sense of community is so much bigger than just our locality. A reflection that’s particularly pertinent during lockdown.

Some attendees commented that lockdown has felt like an enforced retreat for them. Another called it ‘the long pause’ – a lovely analogy that describes what quarantine has done for many of us, by offering time to re-evaluate our lives. For me, one of the positives is that it’s allowed a deeper connection to nature.

My first experience at Buddhafield, five years ago, has stuck with me because of the powerful spirituality that I felt. This was not lost by transferring online and I shall remember this year’s festival for the inspiration, innovation and compassion shown from everyone involved.

(All photographs taken at Buddhafield 2015.)

Making Mental Health Positive

I find one of the things I enjoy most about radio is the opportunities it gives me to meet many interesting and inspirational people. Dawn Perry would be included way up at the top of this list; we first got in touch after she listened to my shows on North Manchester FM and contacted me about promoting her Facebook page: Making Mental Health Positive.

The campaign is about eliminating discrimination and the societal stigma that surrounds mental health issues, providing a platform to encourage self-help through positive peer-to-peer discussion. It has been uplifting to see the page progress from its formation into a thriving social media community, with well over 1,700 members based all over the world and growing. Health and wellbeing issues have a strong community connection because it is something that is universal and could potentially affect anyone.

My background working in the area of mental health spans back quite a few years to when I worked for the charity Anxiety UK as their media liaison officer. I started at around about the same time that I became involved in student radio. The combination of the two sparked my interest in music therapy, especially to aid relaxation. Over the years ‘Chillout’ is a musical genre that I have become synonymous with, rolling out the format I developed to radio stations across Greater Manchester.

Working for Anxiety UK taught me about meditation, mindfulness and self-hypnosis techniques that I have since incorporated into my lifestyle. My work here let me explore these interests deeper as well as helping others and promoting the many case studies of recovery that were used in the media. Years later, when Dawn approached me with her Making Mental Health Positive campaign we already had common ground as Dawn had been a member of Anxiety UK on their mentor programme.

It’s been a privilege to be involved with the campaign; to watch it progress and see the positive affect that it has on members. I’m glad that I can use my broadcasting experience to give the campaign a voice and spread the word about the good it does for the local community and beyond. Now not only a virtual social media page, the campaign has a strong presence within the North-West, partnered with The Lowry in Salford Quays. Meet and create groups are being set up, using the arts as a stimulus to bring people together and creatively helping end mental health discrimination. The first meeting will be delivered by Stich Art textile artist Joanne Walker on Sunday the 22nd of July. The August workshop will focus on photography and September’s will use the art of drama.

To hear my report from a recent campaign strategy meeting CLICK HERE.

The team hard at work(!) in last month’s strategy meeting.