#Spoonrooms are celebrating their first birthday this month!
SpoonRooms were created as our virtual online Public Living Room when the Covid-19 pandemic meant we had to close all our face to face Public Living Rooms in March 2020. Many folk have joined us on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, to get together with strangers for a chat and connection, two of those who have joined regularly are Ruth Jackson and Iain Caldwell, they’ve shared their SpoonRoom stories below, along with SpoonRoom inspired artwork and poetry from Ruth.
We were always
One Year On by Ruth Jackson
These were not perfect conditions.
The world had turned upside down, a pandemic and Brexit had been added to the threat of environmental disaster as well as all the every-day worries we were all dealing with anyway.
I’d already stumbled across Camerados and started asking people about them, sharing some the videos and materials. I shared them with friends and colleagues and there was an immediate interest as we started talking about setting up Public Living Rooms. We even got to staging a conference about alternative responses to crisis services in mental health that Maff Potts was due to speak at (cancelled due to the Pandemic). So, when I saw a Tweet from Camerados asking people to get involved in a digital get together I felt I wanted to know more. And so, with a little trepidation, I registered and clicked the link to join the very first Spoonroom in March 2020.
Right from the start it was a friendly and welcoming space, a literal crashing together of technology and human that somehow seemed to bridge the digital and physical divide to bring people right next to each other in the most lovely of ways. And before you make assumptions about old hippies, therapy, or anything else, don’t! People gather, literally from all over the world. A quick hello and time to calm and “stop the world from spinning” precede small break out rooms. Each person takes a turn (or not if they don’t want) to answer some simple questions about themselves, their week, what’s going on with them before a short chat usually prompted by some point or issue that has come up. Then back together for a final few words and sharing from those who want to. The time then closes with music (sometimes from a world-renowned harpist!) and goodbyes with a sense of warmth and wellbeing.
It’s not rocket science but it does, often, feel magical. In this remarkable space where people are able to connect and share, moving from the silly to the profound and back in the most human of ways. It somehow by passes the fluff of polite conversation and lets us rediscover what it is to be human, to really listen and to care without trying to fix.
Twelve months on Iain and I hit the Spoonroom most Saturdays, taking absolute joy from the time it gives us with those we now know well (because of Spoonroom and Camerados) as well as wonderful strangers who might come and go. I’ve even got my eldest daughter hooked on it too! All are welcome, the wild mix and random connections are lovely and life affirming. They remind us of how wonderful human beings can be and during the course of a difficult year, harrowing times, so many deaths and lives changed forever it has offered something incredibly precious that in truth is hard to put your finger on or write down in words. Maybe just to say that it reminds us we are not alone, we often share the same worries and insecurities but that together we can get through this and maybe even find the space to laugh!
Pandemic, Spoonrooms and a few notes on trying to be a man by Iain Caldwell
In the imaginary study residing deep within my mind, I can be found scratching my head, wrestling with a number of thoughts. These include “is it okay to be vulnerable”, “should I be more self-reliant (I’m reading the essay by Waldo Emmerson) and “we are not as fragile as we think we are”. The sentences and ideas keep entering the study through open doors, then leaving via another exist, only to reappear from a hidden door way. Then I’m left wrestling in the dark again.
I awake from this daydream to enter a spoonroom, an online gathering of people from different backgrounds, ages and genders. What do I, as a man (of a sort) make of this experience? Having attended nearly every Saturday session (and one Wednesday evening) for the last 12 months, I’ve missed maybe 4 Saturdays in that time. I was asked to attend, having been made aware of the Camerados only a few months previously. I log on, wait for the screen to be filled with small boxes of people. Then we chat, listen, laugh and hold back the ….I’ll come to that later. So a year on I’ve made friends with a wide range of people. I’ve also, revealed my inner thoughts, ideas, and reflections on the week, life and which superpower would you have, amongst other serious and fun questions. The question of “what is it to be a man” and “how are you feeling?” can be challenging questions to ask some men. I have taken part, opened-up (to a degree) and, also been there listening to other men and women. Then, I’ve opened up some more, reached out to people outside of the Saturday session. Then a strange thing starts to occur, other men in other walks of life, start to contact me (spontaneously) and start to open-up. This is a welcomed phenomenon being open. Balancing the reliance, vulnerability, but fragile aspects of being a sort of man is a demanding challenge to undertake.
One year on, one year of connecting, building friendship and being alongside, what has it meant to me? That men are wanting to explore these subjects, that we want to understand ourselves and others at a deeper level. Plus, we want to mess about, have a laugh and not worry about it all (well not all the time). I see these bonds existing with sport teams, with friends in the pub (but not recently) and at work. I think its time to start to encourage more men into this conversation, I think it’s time men started to think about the consequence of not talking about private feelings and thoughts as we owe it to other men and more importantly to women.