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Speaking up – what we learned at the Sound Delivery Festival of Learning

By Beverley Campbell, Family Participation Officer 

I’m asking you to understand that we are all connected, through sight, sound and touch, and every time we look up, we see the same sky. We breathe the same air, and when we bleed, we bleed the same colour.’ 

These are the words of poet and musical artist Lady Unchained, who stole the show at the first Sound Delivery Media Festival of Learning, as a lead act among a fabulous two weeks of informative and practical sessions designed to encourage and inspire attendees to step into lived experience storytelling.  

Her performance and speaker slot gave hope to many of us who attended from Family Rights Group as she showed – in both her actions and words – that it’s possible to take what might seem to many to be an irreconcilably unfortunate tale and turn it into success.  

At Family Rights Group, people with lived experience are the beating heart of our organisation. To be honest, more than that, they are also the blood, brain and the guts too – their knowledge and guiding hand runs through everything we do. But sometimes, despite us consistently reinforcing the fact that we know how important they are, that we appreciate their worth, I know they still forget why their contributions matter so much.  

From our Kinship Panel, (arelative, family friend or other connected person who is looking after a child who cannot live with their parents) Adelaide, a great aunt who has cared for her nephew for more than 10 years joined the session online. She said: ‘Lady Unchained’s words reminded me that all is not lost. Whatever difficult position we are in, we can turn it into a positive.” 

Jody-Lee, kinship carer to her younger brother for the last seven years, said: ‘I attended [the Festival of Learning event] in person, and honestly it was incredible to meet all these people, and to change tables and talk to those we didn’t know, comparing and contrasting our backgrounds. It’s amazing knowing there are people out there who have risked their lives to support others, like the women who were part of the network supporting those escaping domestic slavery. Just such impressive people.’   

Beverley and Jody-Lee meeting Lady Unchained at the Sound Delivery event

Events like this one really show the importance to our panel members of believing that they have something to say – but also that they feel comfortable and aided to share at their own pace. Some are ready to get up on stage and shout loud and proud, but for others I like to remind them that it’s slowly, slowly. Revisiting events from traumatic times takes energy and commitment and can have an impact that is not revealed for a while, despite a feeling of enthusiasm and willingness in the moment.  

I like to say that, actually, attendance is an achievement: just turning up and being in the room, or reaching out and signing in online. It might be all you can manage in that moment. But after a while someone might become more willing to share their thoughts out loud, knowing they are in a safe place. It reminded me again of the importance of a bonded group that can support each other to move forward together, the type of situation offered in our panels.   

Who knows then what might come later? The blogs, vlogs, poetry, writing, recordings, myriad ways of expressing these raw and relevant feelings. And again, those giving out these insights might think it’s small – just a tiny view into their lives – but when you put your heart into it, whatever you give can become special and influential.  

On that note I’d absolutely like to thank Sound Delivery for the multitude of sessions that they put together – from what’s needed for campaign success, to how to pitch opinion pieces, to social media for advocacy – I can’t list them all. There are many I plan to watch back and keep for future reference.  

And of course, although I’ve spoken about Lady Unchained, I haven’t even mentioned the other contributors, the wonderful BBC presenter and journalist Ashley John Baptiste, who was also totally open, candid and available to us all. Interviewed by the brilliant Sophia Hall, deputy digital editor of the Big Issue, who is also care-experienced herself – he described the emotional process that was putting together his first written memoir.   

In fact, if you’re upset that you missed out on this year’s festival, you can still register – and  access all of the recordings for the next year. Finally, don’t forget that you can buy both Lady Unchained and Ashley John Baptiste’s books via the book partner Pages of Hackney bookshop – just two unmissable stories told at the festival, with many more to come from our Family Rights Group panellists.    

See more from our panel members:

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