#TwitterDisco: caring for those that care

If you haven’t joined us for a #TwitterDisco yet then why not?

For any newcomers, the rules are non-existent and the structure is 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.

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.

Our next event is scheduled for Friday 13th December at 9pm & we are thrilled to bits to be hosted by none other than Home Manchester as they celebrate their British Film Institute musicals season. What better way to ease ourselves into Christmas…?

All you need to do is…

  1. Find yer leg warmers & disco shoes
  2. [Bloomin’] smile
  3. Imbibe*
  4. Follow #TwitterDisco or @HOME_mcr
  5. Pick and play the links that you want to hear
  6. Dance & sing along at home

*optional [mine’s a Babycham #justtheonemind]

As with most things, there’s a back story and so, if your interest has been piqued, here’s a little more of what this #TwitterDisco malarkey is all about…

A few years ago, as I stepped away from my GP partnership to be able to see more of my children, I made a vow to find a way to help my colleagues, many of whom remained struggling at the coal face. In recent years, and in the aftermath of Mid-Staffs, my academic work had increasingly focused on delivering the message that we have to ‘care for those that care‘. My move into strategic leadership was, in large part, motivated by a need to find ‘another way’ for both my patients, living with the devastation of Austerity, and for my colleagues, working with an expanding, often unsafe, workload and increasingly limited resources.

Now, I am not going to tell you that #TwitterDisco is that ‘other way’. And I have been extremely careful not to trivialise the serious impact that pressure at work can have upon my colleagues’ mental and physical wellbeing. But there is something about giving oneself permission to have fun that provides an important release from the solemnity of our working lives. And, whilst we negotiate for long-term, sustainable, systemic changes that incorporate an agenda for the well-being of all our NHS staff, it feels okay to share joy with my colleagues and to promote our humanness and our right to participate in activities that restore us in our time away from work.

For me, that restoration increasingly comes from playing my music, and singing loudly and, of course, the most fun of all is to be found in having a bloomin’ good dance. Rumour has it that there’s an evidence-base to using singing and dance as therapy, as a way to meditate and to heal. And that’s great. But I’m not very good at being told what to do and so, very much like gardening, I prefer to love it just because I do.

And even though I forgot for a while…I really do love to dance. Always have, always will. A parent, who shall remain nameless, removed me from ballet classes when I was three because I was so clumsy (and chubby) that I was an embarrassment so I don’t mean that kind of dance, I mean DANCE. Disco dancing, club dancing, party dancing, all-night dancing. The dancing you do with the lights low and the music [almost too] loud. The dancing that happens when you give your body over to the music and just let it happen.

Disco dancing and I have history. Without realising it if I’m being honest, I ‘did’ the Manchester Music Scene. Of course, I went to The Hac darling but in reality it was all about Monday & Wednesday nights at The Ritz…if you were there then you know…hot pants, tights, DM’s (first time round), the bouncy dance floor, cider £1 (or even perhaps 50p) a pint. It was an amazing fusion of Grunge (the state of the carpets, not the music) meets Goth and the Manchester tunes got better as every week passed.

As a medical student, I did the Liverpool Cream all-nighter thing. That was particularly fab. When home from uni, we regularly disco danced on Canal Street, usually dressed in fairy wings. Once upon a time, whilst I danced on a table, a perfect Italian described me as an angel. “I’m not an angel, I’m a f*cking fairy” was my reply, and, in non-medical circles at least, that catchphrase has stuck. I am a fairy, but that’s another story.

Looking back, it felt as if those disco days would last forever. But life has a funny way of throwing obstacles in my way and before I had time to bid my youth farewell, dark days arrived. There followed a period of time when joy was lost to me, when I became a doctor and my Dad died. Life was very serious and somehow the fun dropped out of my world. Other things took fun’s place. In the middle of all this chaos and loss, we had the kids and we all know that ‘Rhythm & Rhyme’ on a Friday morning in the church hall does not a disco make.

As our kids got a bit bigger, and we eventually started to sleep again, we realised that we’d somehow made it to 40 and, with renewed effort, we remembered to dance. And when it was my turn to be 40, my Uncle Roger brought me a new guitar, all the way from Canada, and I started to play my guitar again. Music became an increasingly important part of our family’s social life. Now, instead of our children keeping us awake, we lost sleep playing guitar and YouTube karoake. And when death suddenly came to our door again, we were reminded, albeit in the saddest possible way, that music  binds us, lifts us, moves us and, in time, has the ability to heal us.

A few years ago, whilst on sabbatical, for the first time in a long time I frequently found myself blissfully alone. Without really thinking about what I was listening to or why, I was taken back to the music of my youth, music from the last time that I remembered feeling truly good.  This process made me indescribably happy and, for the first time in a long time, I felt free. I had serendipitously rediscovered [the old] me. And as I explored & gained confidence with Twitter, I began to tweet about my music using #TwitterDisco. Mostly cheesy, usually from the 80’s, the soundtrack to my day found its way onto my timeline.

Somewhere along the way, other folk started joining in the fun and sharing their music too. Cue stage left…with a mutual love of Fame & leg warmers…Louise Brady entered my world. And she thought that #TwitterDisco could be a ‘thing’. It is her enthusiasm and encouragement, as well as her unshakeable belief in the value of human relationships and mutual support that has brought us to where we are. I have been extremely grateful to experience her warm support and to be welcomed into a new group of healthcare professionals, patients and carers, all working towards the same goal…caring for those that care. A good proportion of the rest of this story belongs to Louise. Two quickly became three as the incomparably kind John Walsh joined our ranks, and The Three Discoteers were formed.

In a very short space of time, this novel way of sharing our delight in music gained momentum. And one of the big attractions is that it can be enjoyed by those, who by virtue of ill-health or caring responsibilities, cannot easily leave their home.

It’s almost exactly three years since our first #TwitterDisco & since we, quite unanticipatedly, became a thing. A fun, liven up your day, raise some money, do some exercise, sing at the top of your voice kinda thing….a thing all of its own accord, taken to a different level by the dearest of friends, with a huge ensemble of incredible colleagues. Warm-hearted enthusiasts with confident souls who embrace the world and see the best in everything and everyone.

We hold 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 often trend…and, in actual fact, spent one memorable night safely nestled under the shenanigans of  a certain President.

We had over 192.5 million impressions, 2735 participants & 41,520 tweets in our first 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 have hit the decks for a night of anthems from powerful women on sequential International Womens’ Days. We have supported survivors of Child Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation and remain extremely proud to have been brave in this respect. We have been part of BBC Music Day, won an award and been celebrated in the national GP press. Lou & I have even tried our hand at real life Fame.

In summer 2017, 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.

 

 

It is the Who We Are that is everything that matters about #TwitterDisco and I for one have met some of the most inspiring people I have ever known. 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 our Discoteers for what they bring to Our Party.

We’d love you to join us this Friday, to feel the joy of #TwitterDisco, to sing along and share some of your favourite musical songs or Christmas tracks. And, apart from having tremendous fun, we hope you will leave us just a teensy bit restored…

 

 

 

Alone

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… https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Vanessa-Garrity 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,

Ruth

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…

Obstacles

I have written previously about the fact that life has a funny way of throwing obstacles in my way and here I am, in yet another week of my life, where as one truly great and pure experience emerges into the limelight [think #TwitterDisco] several other extremely challenging events have risen up to greet me.

I have spent a goodly portion of this week in contemplation, grappling with unsettling and adult truths, trying to work out exactly who I am in order that I can stay true to myself, my values and everything that I hold most dear. An ethical Easter with the potential for life-altering considerations, as it were.

As I step up to a new [and very exciting] challenge in my career, I have felt a responsibility to reflect my humanity and my humanness, to share my insecurities and my fears. I feel this as a teacher, and perhaps I am, in part, writing this for our medical students who we ask to share so much of themselves with us as our learners. But I am probably also writing it for anyone reading this who has the potential to do amazing things but has, thus far, been deterred by lack of confidence or an inability to perceive themselves within ‘that’ world where people call themselves ‘leaders’ [I too am uncomfortable with this word but use it here as it acknowledges the situation I now find myself in] and set out to try to change the world. And I know that there are many of you out there, particularly amongst my female colleagues, who shy away from a culture that feels alien and unpleasant, where ivory towers remove decision-makers from direct contact with the situations that they create for their subordinates.

I spent much of last year with a strong visual image of myself standing in an open doorway, looking into a room and wondering whether to step in and join the party. The welcome that I have received and the excitement that I have felt has been highly intoxicating and alluring. I have felt more alive in my career than I had for many years. And so, I have had to work very hard to temper that feeling, and remain grounded. And I have started to understand exactly why [some nice and some not very nice] people gravitate to such work environments…and how this intoxication heightens the divide between senior leaders and their colleagues.

It is important to me to know that I am not simply trying to find ways in which to justify myself and defend my choices…and whilst I grapple with that, what has really surprised me, and given me some small reassurance, is that I am finding myself to be actually rather good at what I am being asked to do…little old me!

Over the last twelve months, I have been privileged to have the opportunity to challenge and influence decisions at a momentous time in our city’s history. I have championed for radical changes to the way that we view the answers to Deprivation and inequality in healthcare, kept difficult issues on the agenda and held us accountable for the well-being of our colleagues as the NHS stuggles on around us. And what I am trying to remind myself, as I constantly question my motives and my reasons for being here, is that, if I am not here, there may be someone else, less prepared to speak out, in my place.

The limiting factor in any of this self-deliberation is that I only know what it is to be me. My only reference point is a complicated and vivid imagination, creating fairly constant turmoil within a head which doesn’t seem to have the required ‘off switch’ to allow me to ‘just be’ for the vast majority of the time. Maybe this is the same for everybody. Maybe life is one steady stream of obstacles and insurmountable challenges for most…certainly many of my patients would share this view. Maybe other people are just better at navigating this smoothly, or making it look like they are navigating it smoothly or, at the very least, better at faking it than I am. I guess I will never really know.

I don’t always help myself…I am [almost certainly] more challenging than most, tricky at best, obstinate and [it has been said more than once] ‘a complete nightmare’ on a pretty regular basis. But what is interesting during this week, as I have forced myself to talk more honestly than I have in years with a few trusted friends, is that each of those confidantes has also shared uncertainties about themselves, as well as trials and tribulations of their own. And so it has gotten me to thinking that one of our flaws as grown-ups is that we do not share enough of what makes our life hard and us vulnerable, leaving everyone to feel that it is just them that struggles to make sense of a pretty crazy and often brutal world.

There is so much for me to continue to consider and explore…there is something about being a ‘new’ leader…although my little brother would say there is nothing new here! Something about the need to challenge the status quo, especially where there is reluctance to share personal difficulty within a culture where this is seen as weakness and risks calling one’s ability into question. And there is definitely something about being both female and a mum in a [very frustratingly] male world. There is another blog to be written somewhere on this latter consideration.

Rightly or wrongly, I feel a responsiblity to set out my stall and show that things can be done in a different way. To dare to believe that sharing my humanness and vulnerability might actually make me a better leader. And to be blatant about the fact that I don’t park my personal self at the door when I come to work each day. Whilst this heightens my own personal risk, I think that I have concluded that I would rather be me somewhere else than pretend to be someone else in a culture that needs to be both more truthful and more humane than it presently is.

If I am going to achieve what I want to, and live out the [somewhat ambitious] goals that I have set myself as I further integrate into ‘that’ world, I am going to need to find a way to hold onto the principles that motivate and drive me forward on a daily basis. I need to use my new-found place in this world to best effect. And I think that being honest and transparent about the turmoil that accompanies such grown-up decisions and responsibilities may be one way in which I can continue to hold myself to account and not lose the most important parts of both my morality and my innermost self in a extremely big and scarey and complex world.

Writing this down is one small step in that direction, making me hold myself to account for my current deliberations. I have to go on…there is too much potential to change our city for the better. But I am going to try my very, very best to do this my way and the right way…continually remembering to challenge the system within which I have now been allowed to established a role.

And so, I promise both myself, and the folk for whom I am trying to make things better, that I fully intend to stay ‘me’ and I sincerely hope that this is exactly what makes it okay for me to be where I am right now…

#TwitterDisco…gets a song…& a tram stop!

So…we’ve been teasing you all for weeks and it’s time to put you out of your misery…suffice to say #TwitterDisco has made it to the [relative] big time…& it’s largely thanks to all of you, our amazing Discoteers.

Over the last few weeks Louise Brady, John Walsh & I have been plotting behind the scenes, meeting producers and talking with music directors, & we have an amazing fun-packed summer ahead.

We are delighted to have been asked to join in with an “exciting large-scale creative music collaboration” working with “The Bridgewater Hall, Transport for Greater Manchester, Metrolink, The Bridgewater Hall Community Education Trust and music services, arts venues, cultural institutions, schools, community groups, transport networks and media outlets across Greater Manchester”.

We will be an official part of the 25th anniversary celebrations for our tram [and it is well documented just how much I bloomin’ love t’tram] by writing a song. And, as if that wasn’t thrilling enough, we are to be ‘given’ a tram station…our very own dancefloor!

So, here’s what’s going to happen next. We are going to write and record a song. And this includes you Discoteers.

What we need from you is…lyrics. And, in true #TwitterDisco style, we want you to share them with us on Twitter. Time to get your thinking caps on…

On Friday 21st April between 9pm and 10.30pm we will be asking you to tweet us lyrics using #TwitterDisco #TramTracks. You can link them to your own blog or attach pictures and links to give you more creative space OR you can be very cunning indeed and limit yourself to the 114 characters remaining once you have added our #!

We will then collate all the responses from that night and take them into the recording studio to cut & paste [I am almost faint with excitement as I write this last sentence!]. Whilst we can’t promise to curate all of your words, we will do our best to honour the sentiment of what you share with us and we hope that the finished product will do justice to how you feel about #TwitterDisco.

After that, we will be back with news to let you know about how & when we are recording because we want you all in on that part of the project too.

In case you’re looking for inspiration, this is what we’re telling the world about #TwitterDisco…

“We are a virtual health & social care disco that believes in ‘caring for those that care’. We come together once a month & share music that lifts us & makes us happy. We are a Twitter community that support, inspire and nurture. There is no agenda…we just enjoy doing what we do!”.

So get writing and we look forward to hearing from you on Friday 21st April.

PS. Just in case that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, we still have a few tricks left up our sleeves so…keep a close eye on this blog. We will be releasing further announcements throughout April. There is evEn more yet to come…