What with Covid and Brexit, Burnley’s game being postponed at the weekend, and my local Lido now shut thanks to Lockdown 3, there is not exactly that much to celebrate right now. Well, Georgia and Biden, sure, but Trump is still hanging around like a bad, dangerous smell.
Nonetheless, I want to introduce you to a new platform that I can’t help but celebrate … because Celebrate is its name, and it is being launched today.
It is based in Copenhagen, one of my favourite cities in one of my favourite countries, Denmark, and I was approached to take part in it by an Austrian-born Turkish woman, Hacer Tanrikulu. So it fits with my determination to be more European not less as a result of the UK’s recently enacted act of national self-harm.
Fear not, that is my last mention of Brexit in this piece. I will now explain what Celebrate is. I hope Hacer and co-founder Heine Bravie won’t mind if I say it is what you would get if you crossed a long form news and comment site with a book club.
The thinking behind it is that we have more and more media and, if book sales are to go by, more and more people reading more and more millions of words. But despite that proliferation, we are not exactly blessed when it comes to opportunities for mature, modern debate, and much of our media does not exactly help.
Hacer explained that she grew up learning from the wisdom of both the Turkish and the Austrian community, but as an adult she could see that such learning often got lost because of lack of contact and genuine open conversations between people of different backgrounds, views and cultures.
She heard about a growing community in Copenhagen that seemed to be sharing her frustration about lost learning; people fed up with reading book upon book, but then going on with their day as if nothing had happened. They started organizing small five-person groups to have deeper conversations and found that their learning benefitted when they were not reading in isolation but could draw on each other’s perspectives.
When I heard from Hacer, she had moved to Copenhagen to support the community so that it could continue developing and grow beyond Denmark. She contacted me because mental health, she said, was a subject concerning people more, and one on which they wanted to read and talk about more.
So my debut piece for Celebrate is called ‘Time to Stop Whispering,’ a 6,000-plus word take on mental health and mental illness in rich countries and poor, to try to get some of these discussions going in different parts of the world. In the UK right now, I guess these would have to be virtual, but maybe you can take a look anyway and get involved properly when – if – we get back out of the BrexiTier Lockdown (oops, sorry.)
I have been critical of the UK government for many aspects of its Covid handling, and one among the many is the failure to have a clear and compelling strategy for mental health. Then yesterday Boris Johnson made the totally false claim that the government is putting ‘another £12bn into mental health’ – out by a factor of 24. A lie. Or the product of gross ignorance about a subject clearly not on his agenda. Well, it is very much on mine and I am delighted to have been asked to take part in this.
So when governments are not helping us, we have to help ourselves, and one of the themes of Living Better, and my Jam Jar, which seems to go down well with a lot of people, is that we can do an awful lot to help ourselves. So maybe the discussions that hopefully my piece for Celebrate will start can be part of that.
If you want to know more about the Celebrate app, and how to take part in, or start a group discussion, go here or click on the film at the top of the page.
Regular readers know I am not the most tech-savvy, but as I understand it, when you go on what is rather dramatically called my ‘landing page,’ you put in your phone number, hit ‘send SMS,’ then you receive an SMS with a link to download the app. Once you download the app, a notification in the app directs you to my article, and more info about Celebrate. I found the phone number bit a little fiddly, but if you are in the UK, say, just scroll down to 44, click on that, then put in your own mobile number.
Any problems, let them know, not me!! (Well, you can tell me, but I will pass it on. I still have a phobia of the word ‘software!’)