#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…

 

 

 

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