In my work, trying to resolve some of the challenges we face in providing healthcare for our homeless population, I am frequently reminded by those who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness just how lonely living on the streets can be. How days can go by when no one makes eye contact or says hello. Recreating that human connection is one of the simplest and most meaningful things that any of us can do to show we care…

‘Loneliness is the new cancer.’ An incredibly powerful statement from a respected colleague, made to an important gathering, very recently. At the time it was painful to hear, and I deliberately chose to push it away, but there is no escaping the reality and context of the need to repeat this statement out loud. Because I am here, at a time in my life where I am frequently alone, and awaiting My Cancer, and wondering what this means for many of us who have inherited places in this world that we didn’t exactly choose.

I slept out last night. I slept out, with valued colleagues and friends to raise money for and awareness of the spiralling number of people who face homelessness in our ‘civilised’ society. And, as I had almost certainly anticipated, I met my demons at 3 am.

My own life has, somewhat of my own volition, been difficult of late. And, were it not for an upbringing that strongly emphasised the equality of women in our society, I too could be facing imminent or, even, current homelessness. This visceral experience landed hard as I lay in a damp, dark abyss, staring up at the cathedral roof, listening to homeward bound revellers & the urgent sirens of our emergency services. Feeling insecure and unsafe, despite the 500 other committed individuals who tried to sleep around me.

So what is Loneliness? And what is Being Alone? Are they a different entity, or one and the same?

I hope they are different. I spend my days surrounded by lovely, amazing, inspirational people. I have vibrancy and pleasurable challenge in my life. I am respected and valued. I have purpose. And this is a wonderful thing.

But I am also frequently brought back to a space that only I can inhabit and control. Where only the thoughts in my head can alter and influence the path that I am on.

What I think is different is that I am only a ever a moment away from reaching out. From asking for human contact and help. There are many people who I can, could and do turn to for solace in moments where being alone is simply too much to bear. And when I do, a blanket of love wraps around me and I know that I am valued, supported and safe. And then things are okay. For a little while, at least.

What was impressed upon me so clearly in the short time last night that I was expected to emulate the life of one living without a home is that not everyone has that safe place or person to turn to. And that thinking of home, as disrupted as it may have been for me in recent times, was enough to see me through some dark and disturbing hours on one cold, damp November night.

So, as I shift my world view to even further align with what I know deep down in my heart is right, and what in our society is so incredibly unjust, I think I see that there is a difference between Loneliness and Being Alone. The two may coexist, but for some of us, the latter comes at a price but is not without its liberation. The former occurs when ‘aloneness’ becomes an unavoidable and intractable state of affairs.

There is no moral to this tale. Merely observation. And a need to capture a powerful life experience that laid me bare and accentuated my vulnerability to a painful point that, were it not for the scaffold in my life, I could easily fail to return from.

As I lay out in the cold at 5 am, my friends awoke and drew me back to a place where I was valued and supported. I was chivied to rise and to pack up and return home. I am not broken because life has been kind enough to allow me to find purpose enough to carry on. But for a few fleeting moments, I could have stayed on that wind swept, leaf strewn ground. And, for a few fleeting moments, I saw and felt what many others have to bear…


#TwitterDisco: t’gift that keeps on giving

I haven’t blogged for a while. Over recent months, my life has been complicated and messy and just staying upright has been a challenge some days. My soundtrack has drifted along with me & candlelit #KitchenDisco-ing has, on many occasions, been a more necessary solace. Life’s losses have caught up on me, and there has been [an enormous amount of] stufF to deal with. But, within my gloom there has been a constant light, something to truly celebrate. And that is you, our #Discoteers…an open community of warm and loving and vibrant folk. Folk who want to save the world every bit as much as me.

Some of you have been asking for an up-to-date precis of who we are, what we do, and what we stand for. So I’ve dusted off my typewriter, and here is a short #TwitterDisco retro-bloomin’-spective…with a bit of hope for the future thrown in for good measure…

A few years ago, wondering how to navigate Twitter whilst still adhering to the GMC’s expectations of doctors who brave the social media landscape, music created a safe space. Emboldened by Enam Haque’s mutual love for Boyzone, I started to share my love for the 1980’s with the world. I refer you to my earlier missives.

Thankfully I am not alone in this 1980’s love, or the love of leg warmers & other ridiculous fancy dress paraphernalia. And in no time at all, I had met my musical soulmates, Louise Brady & John Walsh…each of us equally honoured to be The Three Discoteers. I have no idea where the inspiration for having a #TwitterDisco came from but I am assuming you like it too, either that or you unfollowed me long ago or have me safely positioned on ‘mute’. As for the rest of you, Three became Many & that is just how we like it around these parts.

Lou & John & I could never have anticipated where we would have come to in such a short space of time. And we will be forever indebted. “Who’d have thunk it?” as a great woman once exclaimed.

For any newcomers, the rules are non-existent and the structure as simple as it gets. All you need to do is get yourselves onto The Twitter and follow #TwitterDisco. We aren’t about false promises but most days of the week something unanticipated & marvellous is likely to transpire. If you want to Go Big[ish] and have a disco in the safety of your own home, then we guarantee to give you that too. Wobbly bits are de rigueur and there is no auditioning of your musical tastes or dancing ability.

So what are we and where have we come to?

We are radical in many ways; most definitely a fringe event. But we’re aligned and united in our desire for a different culture for our NHS. One that allows us to give our Professional Best whilst retaining our human-ness and right to be cared for too. And we have found an amazing group of colleagues, patients, carers and friends who also believe that this is an acceptable aspiration for the 21st Century NHS. So many amazing people, my eyes brim with tears just writing it down, and we feel truly blessed. Collectively, we have nurtured and created a safe & compassionate space where we can explore our thoughts and ideas about our working lives, and the world at large. And most splendid of all…we know how to have a blimmin’ good disco.

It’s almost exactly a year since our first live dancefloor…since Lou gave #TwitterDisco form & purpose and since our adventure truly began…

And what have we done with that year?

We have held a monthly #TwitterDisco. Usually on a Friday night, from 9pm until, well, basically, whatever time we feel like. We are grown-ups afterall. With the odd ‘pop-up’ moment in between…who remembers the Space inspired Bank Holiday adventure?

When we take to the dancefloor, we always trend…and, in actual fact, spent one memorable night safely nestled under the shenanigans of  a certain President.

We’ve had over 192.5 million impressions, 2735 participants & 41,520 tweets in the last 12 months.

I’m still entirely hazy as to what any of that actually means but it is, apparently, quite some reach!

We have fundraised…Sepsis UK, The Cavell Nurses Trust, British Lung Foundation, Manchester Arena & Grenfell Tower created natural allegiances and inspired generous giving.

We hit the decks for a night of anthems from powerful women on #IWD17.

We have supported survivors of Child Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation and remain extremely proud to have been brave in this respect.

Last Spring, we wrote and recorded a song which we later performed live on The Bridgewater Hall stage. We’ve a tram station to our honour…’Wythie Park to light your spark’ will never make it to Number 1 but it was a life-changing experience for those of us lucky enough to be involved.

We have gathered together on more than one occasion. Lou & I even tried our hand at Fame last summer.

Shortly before Christmas, we had The Best #TwitterDisco Party Evarrrrh.

Live from my Fairy Glen.


And then…just last week…we only went and won a bloomin’ award.

I have never won an award before!


If that wasn’t enough to be getting on with, we even made it into the GP National Press. I am still blown away by being heralded as a GP Hero…but have tried my best to rise to the challenge and the requisite costumery has been moSt fun of all!

Amongst this structure and activity, there has been enduring support, interest and concern. On-line, off-line and [my favourite and my best] in real life, and I for one have met some of the most inspiring people I have ever known. And it is the Who We Are that is everything that matters about #TwitterDisco. Highly professional professionals who know how to share that little bit more of themselves with the world, whose ability to be vulnerable allows others to feel that they might succeed in their wake. An early morning call of love and inspiration for the day, a night-night after a long, hard day, and sO many other things in between. Megathreads that have lasted days and covered topics as serious as Moral Leadership and as earthshattering as Mankinis. Tony even helped me fix my downstairs toilet! And we love each and every one of you for what you bring to Our Party.

It’s okay to ‘just be’ with #TwitterDisco but we have ever more exciting plans for 2018 and we hope that you’ll continue to abide with us, challenge us, have fun with us and revive with us.

So what next?

On Thursday 8th March, we’re collaborating with #DivaManc, sharing in a celebration of #StrongMcRWomen for #IWD18. Then on Friday 23rd March we’ve a 1990’s fuelled Friday night curated by Manchester Medical School teaching staff [what were we thinking?].

We’ve DJ’s lined up for every month until 2019. We’ve plenty more tricks up our sleeves including a live #TwitterDisco at my Fairy Glen to celebrate #NHS70 in the summer. And there are some pretty big ‘reveals’ to share in the not too distant future.

#TwitterDisco ain’t going away anytime soon. With an established community of our many incredible & fantastic #Discoteers, how can it possibly be anything other that our gift that keeps on giving?

And so, with a mahoosive thank-you for everything that has gone before, and a sense of impending excitement at what is yet to come, all we ask is that you continue to watch this space!

Go Forth & Go Big,

Your Three Discoteers x


#TwitterDisco supports #purplefriday

As you know, at #TwitterDisco, we like a plan! And here are the details of a plan that we have given much thought and consideration to as we continue to try to use our highly valued and very special community of Discoteers to provide support wherever it is needed.

Perhaps we responded with our hearts when we agreed to show solidarity with David Lean & Sharon Norths’ amazing campaign to raise awareness of both CSA and CSE. But, we have also realised the need for some careful consideration of the implications of our involvement. As a result, we have regrouped and done our research and we feel that we have reached a position whereby we can offer the support that we had hoped to from the outset.

The survivorship demonstrated by David and many other members of both our real-life and Twitter communities is nothing less than immensely impressive and our appreciation is framed by the professional responsibilities and experiences that John, Louise & I share. We all work, in our own way, with vunerable communities, and have significant Safeguarding experience. It is never appropriate to share details about the intricacies of our working lives within our outings on Twitter but I state this here in order to demonstrate that we are fully aware that these are challenging issues that are in no way intended to be trivialised by our disco format. They require careful handling and sensitive consideration and we are well aware of the difficult lives that many of those that have experience of CSA and CSE have had, and often continue to lead.

We are grateful for the knowledge shared and the caution expressed by some, and also reassured by the support that has been offered by colleagues working alongside us in our professional fields. We have, after much agonising, decided that, on balance, the need for a raised profile for the well-being & safety of all of our children, and the need for heightened awareness of the issues raised by, and the preventative measures that should be advocated, for both CSA and CSE, outweighs a natural desire to shy away from controversy and difficult social issues.

We would never, in any way, intend to do harm, and so it is with this in mind that we share these thoughts about the context of our involvement in #purplefriday.

So, what is #purplefriday? On the 15th September, David Lean and Sharon North are encouraging people to support their message by wearing purple and posting pictures. David tells us that the colour purple has been significant to CSA Survivors for over 20 years, encompassing calming emotions, spiritual healing, imagination and dreams. David describes himself as a ‘football survivor’ and is passionately campaigning to connect people via social media and raise awareness of this topic.

We are asking our #TwitterDisco team to consider turning purple too, as we help to support David and Sharon in their quest. As we know, for many of us, music is a healing force, a force for good. And #TwitterDisco is ultimately about using music to promote friendship, care, kindness and social connections. We are proud to offer ourselves as the ‘warm-up act’ to David & Sharons’ big day, using our 8 million reach to encourage others to don purple and support their cause on Friday 15th September.

On Friday 8th September, from 7-8pm, we propose an hour of #TwitterDisco, using a set play list, chosen by David and his team, to show that survivors are not alone, to increase the signposting to #purplefriday, and to remind participants throughout of the support and help that is available should this be required by anyone in contact with #TwitterDisco on the night or in the subsequent days. We will be sharing relevant resources throughout #TwitterDisco on that night.

We know and trust that all of you who choose to join us will approach this event in the same vein. And that we will all remain cautious and respectful throughout our ‘broadcast’.

This is a sobering issue, as the tone of this message no doubt indicates, but within that, there is love and compassion and an opportunity for healing. And that is what we hope to be able to share.

Louise, John & Ruth

#TwitterDisco needs yoU…

A humongous thank-you to those who joined us for #Music4McR last night. It felt very special and really quite emotional from where I was sitting.

At the risk of achieving #TwitterDisco overload…our live performance on Sunday 9th July at The BridgeWater Hall is looming and we need help from our Discoteers.

Our #TramTracks song is written & recorded [cringe] but we need…

(1) …as many of you as possible to learn our song and then come & join us on stage to sing it somewhat raucously. AnD it goes without saying that there will simply have to be an after show celebration!

(2)…for those of you who can’t join us on stage…we want you to learn the chorus or a teensy bit of rap [we have a middle 8 and eveRything] & then record yourself singing it on camera…a phone or computer will be fine. We are going to make a film that will be played [without sound, which may reassure you, or not] behind us as we perform on stage. Think Perfect Day & Children in Need meets #TwitterDisco Chaos! Feel free to go biG on t’costume front.

[WARNING: you will need a doctor’s note to be excused from option 1 but choosing 1 aNd 2 is alLowed].

Please DM me, Louise or John if you’re in & we will email further destructions. At the very least, you’ll get to fall off your chair laughing at our singing accomplishments!

Happy Saturday,

Louise, John & Ruth

#TwitterDisco does #Music4McR

Since our last blog, further shocking events have occurred, and it is important to say that our thoughts and hearts go out to everyone in London following the awful attacks there.

We live in extremely difficult times and, as such, it feels hard to plan more than a day ahead at the moment. But, all things being equal, we hope that, as previously mooted, we will be able to share some Manchester tunes amongst our Twitter friends tomorrow night from 9pm. Contrary to earlier messages, a 10.30pm finish seems highly unlikely given the plethora of fab music that Manchester can call its own so, we’ll keep going until we feel like stopping!

A few things to know…

So we can Storify our outing, we’d like you to use both of the # in this title…#TwitterDisco #Music4McR  [a really big thanks to @jomwlever for the latter #].

Although the We Love Manchester fund has already done amazingly well, & probably won’t notice our little drop in the ocean, if you haven’t already, we’d love it if folk who join us consider donating via Vanessa’s Health & Care Community just giving site… or directly to The Red Cross.

We have a playlist that we have collated from all your suggestions so far but feel free to curate a few ‘sharers’ of your own for on the night.

Most importantly, we’d love to hear your messages of solidarity, support and care for all those affected by the bomb and its aftermath. We aspire to an atmosphere of togetherness and healing, particularly for those of our Manchester colleagues who will be joining us… ‘caring for those that care‘.

We’re looking forward to spending time with you all again.

#TwitterDisco…fundraising for Manchester?

My love for my home city is well documented and I have shared in my city’s devastation during the aftermath of the terrorist attack that has taken lives and left many injured. My thoughts, since I learned of the events on the evening of the 22nd May, have been with the families and friends who have lost loved ones, those injured, the emergency services who responded on the night itself, and throughout the subsequent days, and with my colleagues who continue to care for patients despite their own traumatic reactions to the work they have under-taken.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, we have been asked to consider using #TwitterDisco as a vehicle for support and fund-raising. In light of the life-changing events that have befallen so many, I remain in two minds about whether a disco is an appropriate vehicle for this. However, in view of the fact that so many people have turned to music to soothe their way through these darks days, I am prepared for us to consider a way in which #TwitterDisco might be able to contribute to the overall sum of money that the Red Cross hopes & needs to raise through its ‘We Love Manchester’ emergency fund.

Whilst thinking this through, I have taken advice from trusted friends & colleagues, including those directly involved in the care of the many patients who remain within our hospitals. Their counsel and advice have been necessary and welcome. If we are to do this, we must get it right.

To quote from a wise source… “what I would like to see from #Twitterdisco is a night of ‘healing’ – the power of music to heal in an inclusive and broad sense. Great if you can help raise some cash that will help heal”.

And so…John, Louise & I tentatively propose that we run an evening of Manchester Music on Friday 9th June between 9 & 10.30pm with the express purpose of raising funds for this important cause. The tone will need to be different to our usual outings but I do wonder whether we can create a powerful narrative within our tweets to offer support for those who are hurting. This does not deviate from our usual motivations [‘caring for those that care‘]; rather, it is complementary to what we already aspire to achieve.

Should we go ahead, I would suggest that we have a set playlist and ask those who participate to donate on the night. By re-working our usual format, we could hope to offer our thoughts and condolensces to those so deeply affected by this horrific event and offer the start of a healing process for those who are providing care. We would have a chance to demonstrate our soldarity…sharing & seeking support. Most importantly, we could add to the fundraising process in a way that we already know works well. We would, however, need to be vigilant to remaining respectful throughout our ‘broadcast’.

Given my uncertainty, I am very willing to listen to dissent. If this is a terrible idea, we will not proceed but will think of another way to represent our support in due course. We are a virtual community that operates with no walls so please do add your opinion to whether this goes ahead or not.

If the general consensus is to hold an event, then we will. If not, we will ‘see’ you all for our #TwitterDisco ‘in support of BBC Music Day’ on Friday 16th June at 9pm.

We also have some further news & an ‘ask’ to share but will release details of this a little further down the line.

With a sad heart & very best wishes,


Hold that thought…

So Discoteers…best laid plans n’all…

…this General Election is causing #TwitterDisco no end of chaos…we have had to delay our very important announcement [which we thought we could make tomorrow] for reasons that will become clearer once we are able to make our very important announcement!

We genuinely do have some really, really fab news that we are desperate to share but we now have to wait until Thursday 11th May.

Not to worry though…we’re still planning a mEga birthday-fuelled #TwitterDisco tomorrow night…simply because we can…