Sunday, 10 May 2015

Kiss and Chips – An Almost Perfect End to a People Centred Week

It was a big week. Momentous in many ways, and humbling in others. Last Friday was the Anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), this year marking 70 years since the end of the second world war in Europe. On May 8th 1945, 6 years of fighting were brought to a close. The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (Conservative) declared a public holiday and thousands of people across the UK came together to celebrate. In the excitement of the celebrations, the kiss of a family member, loved one or even a stranger became the symbol of the VE Day celebrations – something renewed by the Royal British Legion this year.

They are asking people to remember the past while looking to the future through a UK wide celebration called #KissForVEDay. All that is required to take part is share a photo of yourself kissing a partner, friend or family member on social media using the hashtag above to do so. It can be a kiss on the lips, finger tips, the top of someone's head or it can be simply blowing someone a kiss. Not unsurprisingly, there wasn't much kissing going on last Friday at the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall. Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative), Ed Miliband (Labour), and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) were there to each lay a wreath in honour and remembrance of all those who died so we could enjoy the freedom we have today.

And possibly the reason Ed and Nick were looking so glum was that the great British public had exercised their freedom and returned David Cameron and the Conservatives for another 5 years in the general election held the day before. David Cameron became the first Prime Minister since 1990 to be re-elected with an increased popular vote share, and the only Prime Minister other than Margaret Thatcher to be re- elected with a greater number of seats after serving a full term. Ed, Nick and Nigel Farage (UKIP) all resigned after the ceremony, having led their respective parties to defeat. The ceremony gave me the best image of the week – a photo showing David Cameron’s juxtaposition with Nicola Sturgeon (SNP).

Nicola Sturgeon led a stunning campaign which saw the SNP win 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Leaving aside that the House in Scotland is now located in an almost one party State, this victory reflected the people power and voice unleashed by the independence vote earlier in the year. Devolution and independence was a theme in a couple of the meetings I took part in last week. Tuesday I was in Bury with 90 other people exploring how to make patient safety visible.The 90 people were drawn from the Boards of NHS Acute Trust, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Local Authorities and Mental Health Trusts from across Greater Manchester and beyond.

For one of the sessions, I shared the stage with my wonderful colleague Dr Umesh Prabhu, which for me was a real privilege. It was a very informative and productive, albeit it was a long, long day. However it did make me think of the difficulties in taking the 'Devo Manc' initiative forward.  Devo Manc will see some £6Bn worth of health care funding being given over to a group made of Councils, Local Authorities, and CCG, offering the opportunity to transform the way in which health and social care can become more integrated and person centred. What our role as educationalists might be is as yet unclear, something reinforced by a meeting I hosted for the Local Educational & Training Board North (LETB) on Friday.

This was a meeting where the North LETB Director (Neil McLauchlan) and Chair (Sally Cheshire) came to see our facilities (and as was expected, the simulation suites were a hit) and to discuss what the shape of future education and how we prepare the future workforce might look like. It was a lively and creative way to spend 4 hours, but again very productive in terms of recognition of colleagues achievements (and there are many) and future possibilities.

What the future might look like was also the theme of my Thursday evening, spent with our new VC, Register and assorted other colleagues and students. I spent the evening in the Council Chamber where a map of our campus, which had been printed out on a floor covering, and laid out across the whole floor, provided the grounded (literally) anchor for our explorations. I have to say I really enjoyed the opportunity to think beyond the constraints of budgets and sensibilities and wonder out aloud with other's as to what our campus, buildings and could look like. 

Anyway, all these evenings out meant that by the time I got to Friday I was really hungry and in need of some decent food. Thankfully, last Friday was the Annual Village Dinner. Up here in Scotland for all kinds of political and economic reasons we were asked to keep the dinners location a secret, but as the big white shiny coach whisked 50 of us on our way, I did see a sign for Southerness.  It was a wonderful night of good food, close company, communal singing (which included the 8 min version of American Pie) and plenty of opportunities to send in photos for the #KissForVEDay project. Sadly, for the world, my phone was left plugged in, charging a flat battery, back in the lounge, so there are no photos to see...