Organised by the lovely Fearne Cotton, Happy Place Festival promised a day of love, calm, wellness and a little slice of happy. It did not disappoint. Set in the beautiful grounds of Chiswick House, we arrived at an oasis of stalls and zones all geared towards setting the scene for a perfectly serene day. In addition to relaxation stations and stalls by Happiful magazine, Rescue Remedy, CoppaFeel and more to browse, there was a talk tent boasting huge names and teepees for various bookable workshops. Here were my hi-lights from the day.
Writing Workshop with Wanda Canton
I had no idea what to expect from this. When I booked, classes were selling out fast so I didn't take a huge amount of time to explore the options thoroughly. This was posted as a 'writing for wellbeing workshop' which sounded right up my street so I booked it without much of a second thought. It turns out Wanda is a spoken word, rap and hip hop artist. It is fair to say I am not cool enough to be involved in anything to do with rap or hip hop but fortunately we stuck to writing. Wanda is painfully cool but disarmingly approachable. She expertly and covertly had the group relaxed quickly. Using the prompt of a superpower we were asked to write for five minutes exploring the pros and cons. Before getting started we all shared our chosen super power, I chose healing. All the while, Wanda kept the tone light and frivolous. She asked probing questions to take us all one layer deeper than our initial answer but with curiosity, not judgement. When it came time to write, everyone managed a paragraph and surprisingly, despite the seemingly silly stimulus, most went for something personal and emotive. Thanks to the anything goes atmosphere Wanda conjured, she created a safe enough space for a group of strangers to share personal hurts and deepest fears out loud. I was in awe of what she achieved in 45 minutes and felt inspired to write again. In the interest of embracing the culture of being vulnerable, here is what I wrote.
The gift of healing, a Pandora's box of light and love to those on the receiving end but to her, a curse. At first came joy, popularity, fame but soon, as she had to make judgments about who to heal, the rot set in. Demands grow like trees, boxing her in. A canopy of 'pick me', 'heal me', 'help me' grew overhead, taking away her light until she, herself, began to wither.
A full programme of talks ran throughout the day so I didn't get to see all of them. Rylan-Clark-Neal was delightfully down to earth as he shared his story of growing up with extreme insecurities, his alter-ego and fulfilling his life long ambition of being on Big Brother!
Billy Monger is a sheer inspiration. Interviewed by Fearne for the podcast, he spoke with ease about the most difficult thing; living without his legs. His unswerving positive nature is a true testament to his character. We can all learn a little something from Billy's attitude to life and adveristy.
Michael James Wong of Just Breath gave a great talk on living mindfully. I liked how he broke it down to mindfulness being the outcome of your actions, not an action of itself. He talked about how to LIVE; LEARN ,be INSPIRED, turn the VOLUME down, lower your EXPECTATIONS.
Hannah Beckerman shared some home truths about family estrangement. Such a difficult topic tackled with self-love and insight. As a topic rarely spoken about Hannah's courage in sharing her personal experience of her estrangement with her Father was touching to say the least.
Russell Brand was exactly as you would expect. A firecracker of an interview with so many knock your socks off, mind blowing, perception altering moments. His insight is astounding and not at all preachy but very much from his own personal point of view with gracious respect to all our experiences being different and valuable. He is a truly great mind of our time and I feel privileged to have seen him speak live on spirituality, recovery and connection .
I didn't get to see Bryony Gordon or Poorna Bell, both of whom I love but did manage to pick up Poorna's new book and have it signed where I promptly went to putty. How embarrassing.
Create Your Own Mandala Workshop
Run by Ali and Finn from The Positive Planner, this workshop was exactly what it said on the tin. Not being very artistic and certainly not being good at drawing, this could have been intimidating but the ladies at Postive Planner and Not on the Highstreet put everyone at ease. This was a really simple process making it accessible to the arty and the farty alike. The repetition of patterns means that any imperfections blend into the bigger picture. The process of swirling the mandala under your pencil while marking out your patterns is hypnotic. Partly from concentration and partly from keeping my head down to avoid being intimidated by the efforts of those around me, it was a hugely relaxing experience. I'm looking forward to finishing it off at home and maybe sharing this one at school.
Value for money
I know this is an odd 'hi-'light' but I was genuinely struck by how much we got for our money. The tickets were reasonable at £32.50 with the workshops on top (around £10 each). Included in the day were all the talks and a load of stuff to get into for free. Paperchase ran a pledge wall, gave out postcards and had some origami to have a go at. Not on the High Street had a post box where you could send a postcard (stamp also included) to someone to say you're thinking of them. We were handed a free Rituals sun cream as we arrived, got a free breakfast of oats, granola and berries and enjoyed a free smoothie. Cans of water were given out all day. The stalls themselves were handing out freebies too. This could have been a real cash cow but instead was an extremely generous event.
I came away from the day feeling exactly as you'd expect, uplifted and inspired. A job very well done to Fearne Cotton.