Starting the year in beautiful company...
As a "Beautiful Ambassador" for Beautiful Corporations, I get to work with incredible minds across design, product innovation, climate change, peace keeping, organisational development and lots more. They are all deeply committed to creating a better, more effective and sustainable world and believe in the crucial role that the private sector can play in shaping that reality. They are a fun bunch too, which helps.
To mark the development of the Beautiful Community, the incredibly talented photographer Stuey Burnett took our portraits. The only thing we had to do was to pick our favourite spot in London, explain why it was significant, and also have a chat with Stuey about our work, what makes us tick and what excites us about what we do. He'd interpret the rest.
So, on a cold and rainy afternoon I met Stuey at the Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank. This is a place that is incredibly special to me. The architecture, the robust lines of the Royal Festival Hall that is sandwiched between Ben (and the Houses of Parliament) and Paul (the Cathedral), the fact that it truly reflects access to the arts in an inclusive way and that on any given day there could be folks having a salsa or ballroom class in the Clore Ballroom or there could be a full Bangra band busting out Punjabi tunes and moves, all under the same roof with people of all ages, genders and ethnicities coming together. And then there's the river. The heart of the city and steeped in history that for me, takes me back to my History A Level and sordid tales of disease, industrial revolution and the seedy characters that made the city work. It's when walking across its many bridges or ambling along its shore that I feel truly at home and where I seek refuge when things get a bit much and I might need reassurance that it's all going to be ok. Over the years it's where many hours have been spent with friends to celebrate both the small and big wins, to cry over a broken heart or to just drink coffee and smoke a cheeky cigarette.
This photograph was taken in the undercroft of the Royal Festival Hall, beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Skate Space. I'm not a skater, but this space represents the importance of dedicated public spaces for expression, for young people to congregate, do their thing and be accepted for it. Covered in graffiti it is used by skaters, BMXers, artists from the local community as well as the rest of the world. It's been a fight to keep it and locals have petitioned and protested in all weathers against redevelopment that would have resulted in more restaurants and chain shops that are cloning our high streets. It's a space that is worth fighting for.
As Stuey and I took shelter in the underpass from the rain, I commented that I'm a sunshine kind of girl really. I do like to jump in the odd puddle, but overall, I'm an optimist deep down. This wasn't the best weather to try and get to the "essence of me". He looked at me for a moment and then said, "When I see you I see bubbles, but I definitely wouldn't f**k with you either." Too true I thought. He then spotted the bubbles in the graffiti and smiled, "I've got you".
It surprised me that though we'd only spoken once and shared a cuppa, this incredibly sensitive and perceptive man had cut through all our chat to that. As I think about the year that I want 2020 to be, it is filled with thoughts about opportunities to work with brilliant changemakers and people dedicated to making things happen. I'm full of bubbly optimism but there is a hardness that has emerged; there's no time for faffing around. It's a privilege to be associated with leaders, disruptors and doers who are all charting a course that is filled with possibilities. Just like the underpass, our communities, our humanity and our planet are all worth fighting for and I'm so glad that I get to do it with them.
If you'd like to check out Stuey's other "Beautiful" portraits, take a look at Beautiful Corporations.