Awake at 5am, Maud and I shook ourselves out of bed and hopped on a train to Liverpool. Despite the early start, we arrived late, making it just in time for the break, but missing out on the morning session (which, I heard, was pretty deep for a Saturday pre-lunch, delving right into reflection on, and definition of, our values.
The moment I walked in, I was FEELING the good vibes. That’s one of the things I love most about Bright Green Future: it’s a collection of really really genuinely lovely people who radiate kindness. I was immediately comfortable in this little room full of people with big ideas.
My day began with us getting into groups and imagining our ideal community. We discussed our values, ‘inclusivity’, ‘creativity’ and ‘sustainability’ cropping up several times - and if that doesn’t tell you exactly what kind of people I’m talking about, I have no idea what will! We considered what we need in a community and how to ensure our values were fulfilled. Then we shared these creations with the rest of the group.
Then we took a break for lunch. And what a LUNCH it was - a vegan paradise of salad and boiled potatoes and three types of houmous and a HEAVENLY spiced parsnip soup, all thanks to the wonderful staff at the Squash cafe.
Having flexed our creative muscle, it was time to get the others moving - we started the next session with a spot of taiko drumming, a traditional Japanese percussive art that involves the face and the voice and the hands. Then Simon Melhuish, from Foundationma, launched into his talk, describing the journey that led to the creation of a social enterprise (despite having no previous experience of business) that seeks to help others through martial arts training. He introduced us to various Japanese concepts, with the stand-out being the idea of ‘Ikigai’ - the thing that you live for, purpose. Everyone has passion (‘a strong and barely controllable emotion’) and everyone possesses the fire that drives what we do - and it is what fuels that fire, our purpose, that is the most important. He told us to picture it this way: if you were to find yourself on a Saturday with all plans cancelled and nothing to do, what would you do? He suggested that we employ ‘kanzen’ the embracement of continuous change for better and shared how he sees loss as an opportunity to learn, rather than as ‘failure’.
Our day proved to be pretty jam-packed - following this, we had a chance to stretch our legs, being led around the Baltic Triangle by Tristan, owner of Hobo Kiosk, an underground bar that is an edgy hangout for edgy adults. He told us bits and pieces about the history of the area, chatting about its decline after the de-industrialisation of Liverpool and the recent resurgence of the city after funding was pumped into the arts and culture sector, rejuvenating and repurposing old builds for the use of new and exciting enterprises.
For dinner, we stopped by Homebaked, a local enterprise producing baked goods at affordable prices for the people who live, work and head to the football matches in the area (the famed Anfield stadium is a mere stone’s throw away from the glass-fronted shop and they benefit from the periodic influx of hungry football fans). The food was LUSH. Vegan scouse pie. Yes.
We’d walked, we’d eaten, we’d chatted - but the day wasn’t over yet! We were ferried onto a coach and zoomed off to the Playhouse, where we saw ‘Crowd’, a production imagining a dystopian future, devised and performed by a group of young people aged 14-25. I was stunned by the high level of acting, the beauty of the well-thought-out set and sound and lighting. But the messages conveyed were what stuck with me most: ‘Crowd’ unapologetically and brilliantly tackled a stream of issues affecting us in contemporary society: homophobia, abortion, individual freedom, oppressive governments, and mental illness being among them. The slam poetry style narration was so poignant and gripping - I was absolutely captivated for the entire performance. A real highlight of the weekend for me.
On the Sunday, we walked from the hostel to a restaurant called ‘The Brink’, a ‘dry bar’ that offers a place to dine and socialise where alcohol isn’t served. This social enterprise was started with the support of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and also hosts performances and provides space for groups to meet.
We were lucky enough to be treated to a workshop by Ash Nugent, founder of RiseUp, an organisation working in prisons and schools to deliver a message of empowerment, helping people finding a way out of the rut they’ve found themselves in, or working to prevent that happening in the first place. He told us stories about his life, about the things he has struggled with and the things he has overcome and about the thing that turned his life around - finding his purpose: poetry and rap. How did he make the change? “Mindset is the difference that makes the difference.”
Then he used our contributions to create a freestyle rap - we gave him words describing how the people that end up committing crimes might feel, then gave him more words that we believed would describe our perfect community. He took the mic, we agreed on a beat, and he was away, spitting lyrics touching on issues in society and our reaction to it - the main message was that we are “open to change”. He was so full of energy, bouncing around the stage, his charm and charisma and optimism infecting every single person in the room. Truly incredible.
We had lunch - and OH MY LORD, wasn’t it just WONDERFUL! Falafels and sweet potato and pasta and salad and cakes and cakes and cakes. And then it was time to recap and reflect and say goodbye. Surrounded as I was by these new friends, these creative thinkers, these kind, kind souls, I was sad to leave. I felt so content. So comfortable. So full of love.
My eyes have been opened to opportunities and possibilities - the weekend gave me a glimpse into the alternative careers I could enter into. I can do something that I love. I can do something that helps people. I can do something that fulfils me. It’ll take passion and hard work and creativity and risk-taking and setbacks but if I’m resilient and persistent and brave, I can shape the future I want for myself and others. Life is about making the most of what we have. Life is about making connections with other people. Life is about collaboration and sharing ideas and working together to create something that benefits us as a local or national or global community.
A HUGE thank you to the team who made this possible
Bright Green Future is a FREE year-long environmental training programme for 14-17 year olds which aims to give you the tools, knowledge and skills to make change and empower you to do the things that really matter. Through Bright Green Future you can learn about the most effective ways to fight climate change, gain confidence and meet loads of like-minded young people.
Applications for our new 2019 cohort are OPEN NOW Click here to apply.