Those who know me, know that at the end of last summer I attended the Do Lectures (the first of my posts about it here). It was an incredible weekend, and reinforced the concept of “Doing” in my mind. Everyone there was a doer. They changed the world in varying ways, and always for the good. Sometimes just their presence somewhere was enough to have a positive impact. And recently I’ve been thinking more and more about the impact on any given community of the doers within it.
This blog is a small celebration of a handful of people in our community who do cool, creative things that other people benefit from.
I bumped into Lisa Heledd Jones and Ben Partridge a few days ago, and they told me that they were off to Machynlleth Comedy Festival as volunteers. It’s the first year for the event, and I’m assuming that it couldn’t survive without the help of volunteers. Lisa and Ben gave their time, all for the love of being involved, and for the good of the community. I loved reading their tweets from Machynlleth – it sounded like an excellent weekend. And they freely gave their time despite the fact they have enough on their plates as it is. They run The Junket Club, what I can only describe as a series of utterly brilliant “bijou” comedy events that take place in a variety of weird and wonderful locations. They bring top comedians to planetariums, artists’ lofts, churches, and then give all the money to charity.
When you’re at one of their events you feel part of something truly special. Partly because you meet new likeminded people, partly because there’s a real sense of community, partly because it’s just so much fun! And if were to ask Lisa and Ben why they do it, I’m sure their answers wouldn’t be “for the money” (they give it all away, anyway), or for the attention. I’m almost certain their answer would be that it’s for the fun of it. For the love of comedy. And the love of being part of their community and seeing people have fun.
Lisa also co-founded Scrabble Sunday, which has seen many a tile-freak sweat over a triple word score………
Another example is Olwen Moseley of Cardiff Design Festival, another non-profit event that brings the local design community together. And if that’s not enough, she spends her weekends clearing up other people’s litter.
And Matt Joyce, an integral part of the Designer Violence collective who aim to instigate collaboration in the creative community, notably through publishing free magazines of brilliant illustrations just for the joy of sharing what others can do with ink and paper. Alongside that there’s this website he co-curates which has free, beautiful desktops for anyone to download. I only discovered it yesterday, and I’ve already changed my desktop 15 times because there’s so much to choose from!
There’s Claire Hill, co-organiser of Dirty Protest, a regular night of theatre and comedy that showcases some of the best local talent in town. And she’s an integral part of the “arts and crafts” scene (which is probably the un-coolest way I could possibly have described it), getting stuck in with her own range of jewellery.
And what about Geoff Rogers who set up Thing A Week to bring photographers of all levels together to have fun and hone their craft? And Claire Heat and Chyrelle Rayman-Bacchus who set up Cardiff Girl Geek Dinners to bring together the local female web/tech community as an antidote to their male-dominated industry.
The thing about these people, these instigators, doers, makers, is that by their very actions they bring people together. They enable us to connect on a more human level, when we live in a super-connected, but less personal world. It’s all very well being able to invite all your friends and family to something cool with the click of a button on Facebook, but there’s got to be someone out there organising the stuff for us to do. And, interestingly, you’ll usually find that these people aren’t just involed in one thing, but several.
It’s become more and more clear to me over recent months and years that life is far too short not to get out there and do fun stuff. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve forced myself to go out to do something with friends when all I wanted to do was sit at home and watch TV. But not once have I ever got back and wished I’d stayed in to watch re-runs of QI. And Facebook, Twitter, and the host of other social media sites/applications out there make this so easy now, and it’s good to have people to give us things to do! There’s even a Facebook group just to bring all the fun stuff together…
So what makes them do what they do?
I wish I knew. Malcolm Gladwell would call them “Connectors”, probably. In his Tipping Point book he describes them as the people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances”.
But I think it’s more than that. I think it’s about the desire to have fun, the desire to do something. Anything. To change the world around you, from the most trivial to the most astonishing ways.
And of course, we also see this trait in scientists, charity workers, volunteers…. But I’m talking about those people around us who make the world more fun, more colourful.
This short celebration of the “Doers of Cardiff” is just a handful of people that I happen to know of, and that came to mind. There are many more I’ve missed, and doubtless forgotten.
Please add your doers in the comments. They all deserve to be recognised!