#TwitterDisco: Caring For Those That Care

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

You don’t even need to leave the house.

Our next event is scheduled for Friday the 20th January at 9pm with JennyTheM as our host DJ.

All you need to do is…

  1. Find leg warmers & disco shoes
  2. [Bloomin’] smile
  3. Imbibe*
  4. Follow @JennyTheM or #TwitterDisco
  5. Play links
  6. Dance & sing

*optional [mine’s a Babycham #justtheonemind]

As with most things, there’s a back story and so, I’ve been asked to tell you a little of what this #TwitterDisco malarkey is all about…

Last year, as I grappled with the guilt of leaving my GP partnership…a decision which resulted from intolerable pressures and too many days where I didn’t see my children awake…I made a vow to find a way to help my colleagues, many of whom remain struggling at the coal face. In recent years, and in the aftermath of Mid-Staffs, my academic work has 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 the current status quo is having upon many of 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 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 h’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, I was reminded, albeit in the saddest possible way, that music  binds us, lifts us, moves us and, in time, has the ability to heal us.

Last year, because of my 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. 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.

In a very short space of time, this novel way of sharing our delight in music has 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.

Our last #TwitterDisco had a reach of 142,000. I don’t really know what that means but it doubled from the time before, sounds impressive and we all had a fantastic night in.

We have plans…we’ve a live #TwitterDisco in place for February…that’s one where you can still play along at home or, if able, you can actually leave your house and join us on a bouncy dancefloor…and we’ll be closing a national conference in July.

So here it is…#TwitterDisco is now 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 Louise Brady, John Walsh  and their many colleagues. Warm hearted enthusiasts with confident souls who embrace the world and see the best in everything and everyone.

And the energy and evolution  of #TwitterDisco now rests with them and, we sincerely hope, with you. We’d love you to join us, to sing along and share some of your favourite tracks. And, apart from having tremendous fun, we hope you leave the #TwitterDisco experience a teensy bit restored.

As for me, when not agonising over which leg warmers to wear, I will be watching with interest to see what happens to #TwitterDisco next.



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