Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Matt Haig Talk in Liverpool

I was lucky enough to get myself a ticket to "Matt Haig Discusses Notes on a Nervous Planet in Liverpool" and was so very excited to go. I had no idea what to expect or how many people would be there or anything at all about the event, so going alone was a really big challenge for my anxiety. I am so glad I went!

The event was held at the beautiful Oh Me Oh My, a cocktail bar on the glorious Liverpool waterfront with a fabulous rooftop bar. Oh Me Oh My is decorated with plants, flowers, and fairy lights, and had gorgeously quaint vintage-style chairs laid out for the audience to sit on. The building itself was breathtaking, as all of Liverpool's historic architecture is, and the ornate pillars and high ceiling were so beautiful.

I was delighted to discover that not only would Matt Haig be talking, but Sue Baker, Global Director of Time To Change, would be in discussion with him. Time to Change is a UK-based, now global, campaign ran by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to help end the stigma surrounding mental health problems. It was such a moving, validating experience to be sat in a room full of likeminded people with similar experiences of mental health listening to discussion with two people I hugely admire. 

The talk featured readings from Notes on a Nervous Planet, my favourite being Matt Haig reading 'The Beach', which is equal parts beautiful and hilarious. In addition to the readings, Matt and Sue answered questions that had been tweeted in, and discussed their own experiences of mental illness openly and candidly. Hearing the experiences of people who have been at rock bottom and gone on to achieve so much was so life-affirming and validating, and means more to me than I could possibly describe.

Following this, it was time for audience questions, and I surprised myself by asking a question. Me, holding a microphone, asking two very important people a question, in front of a whole audience! Kiah 1, anxiety 0. Sue Baker complimented my eye makeup too! It was amazing having Matt answer my question and discuss the topic I'd brought up. The opportunity for audience questions turned into a platform for people to share their experiences, and whilst it was disheartening to hear so many similar tales of stigma and lack of resources, it was also such a comfort to realise we're not alone, and we're powerful. 

I then had a chance to meet Matt Haig, and have my copies of Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet signed, and Matt was just lovely. He really took the time to listen to and talk with everyone, despite having a long queue of people eager to meet him. I told him how much his words meant to me, and how much I'd cried when I finished Reasons to Stay Alive because it had truly touched my soul. He got a bit emotional too and it was just such a special experience to get to thank a person who has truly changed not just my life, but so many others, and the world, for the better. 

The whole evening was such an exhilarating, life-affirming, validating, moving, touching, empowering experience and I was on a huge high from it for days. I'm so eager to read more of Matt Haig's work and will definitely be quick to bag tickets to his next book tour.  

  

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