It’s not very often that I get an invitation from Stephen Fry. It was good of him to invite me to his party, after all we’ve never met. Someone had obviously suggested to him that I was just the right sort of chap to invite to an awards ceremony. Was it my stunning wit and repartee? My suave and debonair charm? Well I feel sure those were considerations but actually I guess it was my small contribution to the work of the mental health charity Mind (of which Stephen is a very active president).
So last night saw me tripping the light fantastic down on the South Bank in London. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen the build up on the Mind website. Had taken a look at the shortlists in the various categories and knew that this was serious stuff. I mean there were programmes from BBC Radio and from Channel 4. There were soaps, documentaries and even a slot for student journalism. I felt like an imposter getting an invite for doing a simple fundraising ride (even though I made a tiny film and stuck it on Youtube). This event was all about the big guns surely?
Having felt like a poor relation I looked around my twitter pals who are also engaged in raising awareness / funds and a couple of them were going. We resolved to meet up beforehand for moral support. I think we were all glad we had done so when we arrived to the sight of flash guns going off. We stood nervously. Wondering whether our suggested dress code of “smart casual” should have been a bit smarter and a whole lot less casual. However, we waited until all the celebs were in then dashed across the threshold before nerves got the better of us or we bottled it and went to the pub instead.
Once in it was a melee, loads of people, lots of noise. It made us a little edgy so when the announcement came to take our seats we went straight in to the auditorium. We had assumed that it would be strictly controlled but somehow we made it in to the front row.
Soon Stephen was up on the stage and we were off. The awards came thick and fast, the excerpts were all genuinely fascinating and showed what a diverse subject mental health is. They also showed how different mediums and formats can really help to spread the message. It’s not many awards ceremonies which have winners which range from Emmerdale to a serving Police Inspector who writes a blog about the legal implications and civil rights of people with mental health issues. The big winner on the night was Homeland and whilst we didn’t get Claire Danes or Damian Lewis to accept the award it seemed a genuinely popular winner in the drama category. The drama shortlist was likened to a BAFTA shortlist in its quality and depth. High praise indeed.
The formal part of the evening was over and we spilled out to the bar to network. For us small time volunteers it was a little overwhelming but steadily, bit by bit the bloggers, tweeters and fund raisers found our way to the same spot. Greetings were exchanged, cries of “You don’t look like your avatar at all” and “I loved that piece you wrote about X” made me feel that actually we are an integral part of what Mind does. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the reach and visibility of the likes of Alastair Campbell or Sally Brampton, I don’t have those connections, (wouldn’t want them) but I am proud of the work I do, the time I spend and the money I raise.
Mind needs me just as much as it needs Stephen. To take a line from the Noel Coward song which provided the title for this blog
“So much variety, watching society, scampering past”
We all need to raise our voices up in support of those with mental health challenges. I urge you to visit Time to Change and make a pledge about how you will help end mental health discrimination.