Have you ever been so inspired that you can't sleep? That you miss a yoga class you really wanted to go to just to stay home, play music and play around with photographic images: abstractions of colour and shape and light?
That's what's happening to me today.
Yesterday, I was invited to a small, intimate, private event at the beautiful Covent Garden Hotel on Monmouth Street, hosted by American Express/West End VIP (that's Very Important Pedestrians), to spread the good word about an event: 10th & 11th December, they're closing Oxford and Regent's Street, there will be a 30 hour Carol-a-thon, starting in the day on the streets, and continuing thru the night in the House of Fraser's windows. It's going to be absolutely MAGIC this year: proper, old fashioned, Dickensian Christmas, complete with old buses, organ grinders.. I'll be there, with camera. Hope you will, too.
The event yesterday was one of the most incredible things I've been to, and I'm still buzzing from it. A small, carefully selected group of journalists and bloggers, sitting down to champagne, tea, sandwiches, and Lauderee macarons and cakes, to meet Camila Batmanghelidjh, who has founded the Kids Company.
This year, they are the charity of choice for the West End VIP event. Camila told us about what they do, and we asked questions (well, the others asked really good questions, I don't know about me) and basically sat and chatted with her. She explained how the cycle of abuse operates - I mean, how a child can absorb an early experience, in the base part of their brain - scientists are now able to scan, and measure, the activity of heightened stress. Somehow, 'acting out' - violent actions - have the effect of calming that activity down. And what they focus on is breaking that cycle, and art therapy is one of many ways that they achieve that: and they continue to be connected to these children, into adulthood. As they get places in colleges, into places like Oxford, and have lives transformed beyond any expectations.
So my way of thanking the team at RainPR, and American Express and the New West End Company, for making this happen, is to spend a little of my own time, making art. Bearing witness to what I experienced: and I haven't even become really involved. Not yet.
With Camila, inevitably the question of her fashion style comes up. She said she's always chosen to dress this way: in reaction, she feels, from growing up in a wealthy Perisan family - her mother was Roman Catholic, her dad Muslim - and having a mother who dressed elegantly 'A cross between Sophia Loren and Liz Taylor. And, as a child, she became inspired by the Iranian women in the mountains.
So as she dresses in this colourful style every day - each outfit, like a snowflake, uniquely different - but with the same kind of exuberance and style abandon, she is giving the clearest message to the kids to express themselves creatively. Encouraging them to style themselves as individuals, not to follow trends. It may seem a superficial thing, but from this sense of fashion confidence, of individuality - well, as we all know, anything is possible. Any goal is achievable.
This Christmas, for example, they will be giving over 3000 children a Christmas beyond their wildest dreams. Children will come into the centres, and taxis will be donated to bring them in, and volunteers will be coming to thousands of homes, bringing food and gifts. Phenomenal.
Camila is: how can I describe the experience of being in her presence. It's akin to being in the presence of a large, multi patterned Dalai Lama, on acid. Somehow, you'd think in a room made of patterns, with all that sugar and confectionary.. I cannot describe how calming the experience is. Because what Camila exudes is happiness. She spends her days with children - and into adulthood - who have had the most traumatic of experiences, and she transforms their lives. She and her team. I have spent nearly 24 hours now, digesting this experience, and since I don't have the words yet to tell you. Not yet.
Because I also feel that sometimes, while images are better at conveying experience than words - especially MY words, as brevity is not my strong point - I also feel that actions speak louder than words.
So with that in mind, I'll be going to KIDS COMPANY this week, to help out. Wrap presents (I'm a great present wrapper: Virgo, perfectionist, super slow but it will be perfect: they'll lucky if they get two out of me in a day), but also roll up my sleeves and do whatever needs doing. If you want to join me, pop me an email. Or, give any way you see fit. Money is always nice.
What are you doing the weekend of the 10th and 11th December? Care to join me on Oxford Street?
And I'll leave you with a clip of a song that has happy memories from my idyllic childhood: all the more precious, when I realise how blessed I am: our childhoods stay with us all our lives. But the good news is, thanks to the inspiration of people like Camila Batmanghelidjh and her staff of hundreds, and thousands of volunteers, we don't have to be defined by the traumas of childhood. We can heal. We can live happily ever after.
Save the date: 10th & 11th December, Oxford & Regent's Streets: they'll be shutting it off to traffic, huge discounts - 30% off - magic magic magic Christmas spirit. Be there or be square.