Phil Morcom, who works with Leeds City Council’s communications team, looks back at the recent ‘Unloneliness’ conference held at the Civic Hall, attended by over 120 people.
Of course it isn’t a real word. We made it up when we were working out what to call the conference. I asked people what the opposite was of loneliness. And nothing we came up with was the opposite – just different or unlike it. Have a go. Friendly? Linked? Sociable? See what I mean?
At such times I take great heart from the words of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
So we went with unloneliness…
In reality, what was much more important than the name was getting lots of the right people in a room, and then working out some things we could do to make Leeds less lonely and people less isolated. The evidence tells us loneliness and isolation have a big impact on health and wellbeing and a society where there are better links between people of all ages, communities and backgrounds seems to work better.
The timing was right too. The city is writing a new Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy, setting out ambitions for people’s health and wellbeing in Leeds and actions we can take to achieve them.
Ahead we have the most challenging five years the health and social care system has ever faced in my lifetime. There will be sustained reductions to public sector budgets coupled with demographic changes adding pressure on health and care, so every action we can take to build resilience and add motivation to improve the collective wellbeing of the city will pay vital dividends.
You can read more about the conference on this ‘storify’ collecting tweets, news and comments. There will be more in depth reports later. But I was delighted to see recognition that there are assets in the city which can play a big role in making lives across the city better, more joined up and less lonely. From gardening to pubs, dancing to places of worship, there are places for people to meet and share skills, ideas and everyday pleasantries.
This isn’t about ‘top down’ plans imposed on people. It is about building links, sharing and caring. It is about small amounts of extra thought leading to better communities, not big amounts of investment in structures and organisations.
Now, who’s up for my favourite idea from the day: a giant conga line through the streets and ginnels of Leeds to link the 750,000 people in the city?
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