Sunday, 13 November 2016

We’re alright, but our shoes are covered in blood…

I woke up on Friday to the sad news that Leonard Cohen had died, aged 82 years old. Some said the album he released in October was his way of saying goodbye to the world. We will never know. I was fortunate to see him perform in Manchester a couple of years ago, and in my youth I once met him in a hotel bar in Kensington, London, not quite the Chelsea Hotel, but close. It was a powerful encounter.

For different reasons, the 2 days I spent last week at this year’s HAELO HOSTS were also about powerful encounters. Alongside Salford Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Salford City Council and Salford Clinical Commissioning Group, the University of Salford is a stakeholder partner in Haelo. Just 3 years old, Haelo is an innovation and improvement science centre with expertise in digital connectivity and building capability in improvement science. They work collaboratively to deliver large scale improvement programmes in health and social care. You can find out more about them here

The theme for this year's Haelo Hosts was 'Daring Greatly', a theme that was brought to life, sometimes very starkly, by the telling of people's stories. The first of which was Michael Woodford's. He was the former President and CEO of Olympus (the medical equipment and camera manufacturing company). In 2011 he uncovered the biggest corporate criminal fraud ever committed in Japan’s history. He was sacked and endured great stress and defamation of his character and reputation. It was an interesting story, vividly told, but a story for me that lost some of its gloss when I discovered that he had been awarded a reported £10 million pounds in compensation.

Other stories of daring greatly followed. There were a couple of really confident young people telling their tale of developing a youth manifesto in Salford as part of the work supported by the Reclaim organisation. Reclaim work with young people from pressurised communities. They were followed by a colleague from Virginia, in the US, who told of his work reducing gun crime in the City of Richmond (home of the world’s first electric street care system). Amazingly he managed to persuade the City officials to employ the gun toting criminals in developing the successful solution – daring greatly indeed.

Ian Jolley, former soldier who had served over 22 operational tours told of his journey through the horrors of Bosnia, the Gulf War, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. His quietly spoken narrative of how he dealt (was dealing) with mental health problems caused by the trauma he witnessed was emotionally challenging as were the words of Fiona Murphy.She spoke of the work she has been engaged with in making end of life care an experience filled with humanity, respect and dignity. There were a lot of tissues being used.

There were some lighter moments. Jim Easton, CEO of Care UK, the largest independent health care provider in the UK summed up the first day with both pathos and humour. His organisation provides health care in many UK prisons. He recalled contacting his colleagues who had dealt with the recent organised stabbings at Pentonville Prison to ask how they were. He was told they were 'all alright' but as their 'shoes were covered in blood' could the company 'buy them new shoes'… …he also had a wonderfully humorous range of [true?] Mother-in-Law stories. And then there was the Haelo Film Festival. My colleague from the School of Arts and Media, Dr Kirsty Fairclough, joined me for the dinner and presented the prize on behalf of the University for the 'My Story' category.

However, the story that has stayed with me was one from Day 2, and it was the account of Martine Wright. On the 6th of July 2005, it was announced that London would host the 2012 Olympics. Martine went out to celebrate, and the next morning had an extra 10 mins in bed. Subsequently, the underground train she caught on the 7th of July was later than her normal train. She sat 3 feet away from a suicide bomber, who then detonated his bomb.  Martine was the last survivor to be freed from the carnage. She lost both her legs and almost 80% of her blood.  52 people lost their lives. Her story was initially heard in complete silence, but as she told of how she slowly overcame the changes and changes to her life, the hall filled with laughter. She not only went to the 2012 Olympics, but went there as a member of the British floor volleyball team. She married her boyfriend, and now has a son, she learnt to fly and ski, yes ski! And she hasn’t stopped - 'Daring Greatly' indeed - she took personal inspiration to a completely new level.

Returning to last Friday's news. A couple of nights before, my wonderful eldest daughter had asked what I wanted for Christmas. I said 'the complete box set of Leonard Cohen’s studio albums'. She texted me on Friday to say Amazon had come up with the goods, but she had just heard the sad news. Before she married her equally amazing husband, Stewart, and took his name, she was named Jennifer Warne. There was a different Jennifer Warnes, who was a lifelong friend and sometimes backing singer for Leonard Cohen in the 1970's. In the 1980s she released a critically acclaimed album 'Famous Blue Raincoat', in which she covered some of Cohen's best songs. This album was credited as being largely responsible for reintroducing Cohen's greatest work to the world again.

RIP Leonard, you were also a man who dared greatly!