Community member, Nicole Holgate tells us about 'The Importance of Being Weird'.
Singing to Republica's 'Ready to Go', followed by Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline', is an apt beginning to a morning on ‘The Importance of Being Weird’.
The poised, articulate James Chelliah is a repeat performer at the Assembly and receives a warm welcome. His poem 'Smart Unknown' poignantly sums up the anxieties of a modern world in which our instant, digital connectivity makes it far too easy to feel ignored. He follows it with 'Untitled Anxiety Poem', a glimpse into the day-to-day of his struggles with mental health. But the moral is to always be hopeful, and kind to yourself. He adds as a final thought that it is important to "Never use weirdness as a crutch... You do you, but be nice."
"The truth is analog and not digital / So fear nothing and go easy on yourselves." - James Chelliah
Today's main speaker, performer and comic Adam Larter, embraced his personal brand of unorthodoxy by starting a performance collective called the Weirdos. Not, he admits, the most creative name, but perhaps a way to claim the word back.
"It's not negative. It's about creating and doing something different."
To Adam, being weird is a way to counter "No you can't" with "But what if we did?" This attitude led to him writing a one-night-only comedy evening on ice. It included a man dressed as a cheese grater, comedian Tony Law getting to show off his Canadian-born skating skills, and a lot of Health and Safety issues.
But there is more to ‘weird’ than doing strange things for the sake of it. Exploring outside of your comfort zone, Adam feels, is the best way to create. Doing something that is weird for you, something you normally wouldn’t do, might be the spark that ignites your best work.
He puts on a homemade castle costume and concludes:
No one will ever ask you to be weird.
Being weird is hard work.
Being weird is a worthwhile and important endeavour.
He may be speaking to the converted in Conway Hall, but it’s good to acknowledge that doing what ultimately makes you happy, whatever it is, may not always be easy.
Trying Her Best speaker Marta would agree. An introvert, her "furious and geeky love of learning" made it hard to fit in at school. Ever since, she has been trying to do and say the ‘right’ thing, while feeling as if she wasn’t living Life with a capital ‘L’.
So, she took improvisation classes. They helped her let go of the need to be perfect, and understand that whatever she says is okay. What has meant the most to her has been learning more about how we connect to one another, without fear of being judged. She leaves us with a quote that inspired her during her ‘year of courage’:
"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." - Brene Brown