Tell the story

November 24, 2009

Mind your language

Filed under: Uncategorized — andrewchilvers @ 1:20 pm

Ever rue the day you had children?

Of course not…well sometimes. It’s not so much the sleepless nights and nappy changing of the early years, but more the tantrums, long silences and emotional blackmail when they’re older.

Forget about reading manuals or taking tips from mum and dad; this is on the job work experience – and (like the Terminator) it does not stop. But unlike a logical robot from the future, children often behave in such an irrational way that you’re left standing, speechless, trying to unearth a hidden meaning.

Actually that happened to me last night. I’d arrived home late from work and I gave my 10-year-old boy, Kit, a birthday card to write on for mummy, who was born this day sometime in the 1960s (I’ve been led to believe).

Anyway, halfway through writing his missive – with daddy looking lovingly on – he suddenly and inexplicably threw the pen across the room, yelled into my face that it was “ALL MY FAULT”, and with tears streaming down his face, lips curled in anger and hurt, ran off screaming. Other Chilvers family members tried to mollify him; he yelled back; everyone shouted; there was much anger.

I briefly cast my eyes down on the card for the source of all the pain. Kit had misspelled the word present “presnent”. I stayed silent. It was late; he was tired; irritable; upset that he’d let himself down.

That was just one recent incident that occurred in my home. Now times that by a hundred fold and you may begin to comprehend what it’s like to be a parent who has a child diagnosed with ADHD (that’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Here’s a brief list of possible warning signs

Your child often:
• blurts out answers before the question is complete
• cannot wait for his/her turn
• interrupts or intrudes on others
• fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in in their seat
• runs about excessively and inappropriately
• has difficulty in playing quietly
• is ‘on the go’
• talks excessively.

Your child might:
• speak without thinking, so will be socially clumsy
• barge into games
• have volatile moods so other children won’t know what to expect
• have a short fuse and lash out when frustrated
• go on about a subject and can take over a conversation
• have poor motor skills (eg can’t catch or throw a ball).

The effect of all this on a parent can be devastating. It can break up marriages, ruin health, cut short lives.

And most parents or carers are alone, with few people to talk to. Online forums can help, but they can’t illustrate the enormity of the challenge or the emotional pain.

People need to talk, so get them talking directly to others. On camera. This will help a parent to lighten their load and will create empathy in others. Just a simple video blog. Have a look at the following blog by Tanya Guest, whose son was diagnosed with ADHD.


November 23, 2009

You looking at me!?

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 12:03 pm

Ever caught a glimpse of yourself and thought: “Is that really me? Do I really look like that?”

Happened to me recently in Boots. I was trawling round the aisles when I saw myself fleetingly in a mirror beneath neon lights in the cosmetics department (I was looking for my wife). For a split second I mused: “I know that person; so that’s what they look like; bit of a disappointment.”

Actually I was very disappointed. Surely I didn’t look like that! The same as everyone else; with the same washed out features; clutching a pack of Boots multivits.

During the past year, a lot of people have said the same to me after seeing themselves talking in video blogs. No doubt it’s an unsettling experience, but if you want to get a message across,talking directly to people is better than sending out impersonal multiple emails that are deleted before they’ve been opened.

I may not like the way I look, but what the hell! If I want people to get the message, I’ll tell them straight. So to prove I’m a man of my word, here’s a short film encouraging local councils to get more out of their video blogs. It’s basic, it’s laughably amateurish; but that’s the point. It’s a medium your mum and dad can master.

November 19, 2009

Annie Claydon RIP

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 3:23 pm

Yesterday I wrote about octogenerian Annie Claydon and her ever shrinking world.

Actually Annie Claydon was my nan many moons ago. She scrubbed floors for rich folk on Lillie Road in Fulham and laughed at bawdy gags in music halls on her weekends off.  She saw out two world wars, the fall of the British empire, interplanetary exploration, and eventually passed out of this world the day the Clash released Tommy Gun.

Her final years were housebound and spent in virtual silence, apart from a tiny black and white TV and a pre-war wireless with large control knobs that kept falling off. She had an air-raid shelter in the garden that was a time capsule to 1944. We lived abroad, so seldom got to see her. She had no phone, so we never spoke. And then she died. RIP.

It was her story that I was trying to capture when I wrote about keeping older people in touch with the wider community.

We’re currently doing a community building project in Stockport and are working closely with Age Concern to map out the community for older people’s services. We will then put in a community manager who will help drive the content. And that, I think, is key to building online communities.

The build-it-and-they-will-come models simply don’t work. It’s a bit like finding an old friend on facebook. You trade history together for a few days, then lapse back into silence.

The ideal model for online communities is going out there and making people talk about their lives. People like hearing what other people have to say. And it’s not through the 2 dimensional written blogs; what about videos? Get them working. Get people talking. We’ll all get connected.

Have a look . It’s a community site focused on home education in America. If you delve into it you’ll find blogs within blogs. It’s a simple idea created in wordpress that works well for a group of like-minded souls. Now translate this into a more interactive version for older people in a small community. Just a few uploaded video blogs would then bring all of us into their world. Simple but effective.


November 18, 2009

Annie Claydon needs to talk

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 6:00 pm

Older people aren’t stupid. Stupid!!

I must have spoken to umpteen people about online comms during the past couple of years. And in that time, I’ve heard the oft repeated phrase “well, it’s generational y’know. Really!”

What piffle. Octogenerians love to chat – about anything  and  everything. Politics, society, history,  the price of spuds, you name it. If it’s in the public domain, 81-year-old Annie Claydon – two doors down – will  have a view on it. Just give her the tools and she’ll do the rest.

Sadly the truth is  that each month 300,000 Annie Claydons spend their days, weeks, months in silence, never talking to a soul.

Facts: 1.4 million older people are excluded from other people’s company; 48% of over 65s claim their main company is the telly.

Recently I was talking to Age Concern Stockport about setting up a comms network for older people in the Great Manchester area. This would involve using small video blog cameras where people talk about their local services, their community, their lives…

Age Concern has a national campaign to reach out to isolated older people in the community. So a comms network based on video blogs could well be the answer for these folk, who are excluded from the rest of us. Their blogs can then be loaded into the local community engagement site or on to personal blog sites like this.

It’s simply a matter of showing them how to get involved; they’ll do the rest. If they need access to computers, blog cameras etc, then the local library or the mobile library could be a vital step that brings them back into the community.

Likewise with blogging. All they need is  for someone to  show them a site they can use and they’ll do the rest. Look at  This is a blog site that only requires an email address. Talking has never been  easier for  todays octogenerians. They just need a bit of a help to get started.

November 17, 2009

A carer’s world

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 5:26 pm

It was only recently that Sheena became a carer. Her aged mum, Gladys, suddenly and inexplicably felt sick for much of the time; no longer ate much; no longer walked anywhere; became housebound; bedbound; and eventually passed away on a busy workday behind closed curtains amid floods of tears by the grieving family.

It was a sudden, cruel and relatively brief introduction to the world of the carer – and Sheena coped through a combination of stoicism and selfless devotion.

 Caring is a very private affair that happens in millions of homes across Britain. Thousands of people – you, me, Sun readers, Guardian readers, X-factor voters – quietly carry out their carer’s roles with little fuss, behind closed doors and with few rewards except to help their loved one. In many ways it’s a tragic culture of silence, but one of deep love and understanding.

 It turned Sheena’s world upside down; she’ll never be the same, but she would never have had it any other way. Importantly, she now understands what it is to care for someone and how that has helped her life.

 Carer’s stories like Sheena’s are often hidden from view and seldom surface amid the razzmatazz of daily life. Just imagine if more people could tell each other about the tragedies, the love, the necessary sacrifices that occur when you’re caring for someone.

 Last weekend the Guardian ran a beautiful photographic essay by Chris Steele-Perkins on the hidden face of caring

 Steele-Perkins sums up by saying: “Caring is an activity that usually goes on behind lace curtains, and it was special to be allowed into people’s lives to take these photographs and record their feelings. As I grew more involved with the work, I started to realise that while I was indeed photographing carers and the cared-for, I was also beginning to map out the considerable parameters of love.”

 This perfectly encapsulated the world that Sheena inhabited when she was caring for Gladys. Apart from close family and a few work colleagues, nobody knew Shena’s world had imploded or had any inkling of her strength of character to ensure her mum’s final days were peaceful and shrouded in love.

 I was able to gain an insight into this selfless world of caring for a simple reason: Sheena is my wife.

Gladys and Sheena

November 10, 2009

Looked after children at 18

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 10:44 am

What hope for looked after children who have to fend for themselves once they turn 18? Spare them a thought as you go about your daily tasks because theirs is so often a miserable lot.

Last month Jeni Ryan penned a poignant blog in the Guardian about how she was being rehoused away from the comfort and safety of her foster  carers after her “transition” to adulthood.

It’s an old story, but still pulls at the heartstrings; a young adult cast into an uncaring world, totally ill equipped to deal with even the basics such as buying food, paying bills, finding work etc. This is on top of any pyschological trauma that already affects looked after children.

 It’s a fact that the physical and mental health of looked after children is known to be significantly poorer than that of the general child population(  A survey  in 2003 showed that 45% of looked after children aged 5 to 17 were assessed as having a mental disorder compared to 10% of the general child population.

* Two-thirds of all children in care were reported by their carers as having at least one physical complaint.

*  Looked after young people experience a significantly higher rate of teenage conception and teenage motherhood when compared to the non-care population

* They may be more vulnerable to involvement in risky sexual activity, or exploitative and abusive relationships.

* Young people in care are also thought to be four times more likely than their peers to smoke, use alcohol and misuse drugs.

So, what can be done to give them a fighting chance at the start of their journey into adulthood?

What’s needed is the formation of common  bonds that help young people overcome their isolation and despair by talking to others about their lives.

If local councils ALL had sealed, proactive social networks where registered users – in this case young people  – could  go in safety to share their  experiences, use written and video blogs to show and tell, despair and isolation could be overcome. They could communicate regularly with their peers and frontline social workers could keep in touch with them  and understand the issues they face as they enter adulthood alone.

It’s not rocket science, it just needs champions who can make it work.

November 6, 2009

Dead energy

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 1:40 pm

Last week I attended a conference for mental health professionals. The theme was recovery and rehabilitation; in short, life can be pretty shitty and brutish, but people are out there trying to help transform the lives of the less fortunate. Like all conferences, it was well meaning and speakers and audience alike were determined to help people who suffer from mental illness to build up their lives again.

But despite the fine words  and promised actions, the conference crowd dwindled and everyone rushed for the doors as the chair brought proceedings to an end. The end.

And that’s the central problem. What do you do when your workshop, seminar, conference, comes to an end? All the months of organisation are over and within a day all the delegates have gone off to their own lives and concerns. Not all, of course. For some people, social workers, for instance, the work never stops. But you see what I mean.   

For local government, which is trying to build links with the local community, all that time and effort is dead energy. Recently, I started working closely with mental health services in Stockport to try to solve the problem of this dead energy. While mapping the network, I noticed that workshops, seminars etc only brought people together every three months or so. The problem: how do we get people to talk to each other – that’s professionals, carers, parents, users of services – after the workshop’s over?

The answer was to set up a closed network, with registered users, who all receive weekly emails of updated information about their community. But more than this, they communicate through small cameras, flips, kodaks, and the video blogs are streamed through the system. The system is then administered by an editor (content manager or community manager in modern US online parlance).

So the system is sealed and active, emails help to generate activity, while engagement is encouraged across the network. It’s early days, but the next step is to get local health and welfare services on board. This way content will be generated from within and outside the mental health service. A virtuous circle is then created. Have a look at

Replicate this across all areas of society, within all the disparate communities, and we can get people talking. It’s a social revolution that would be unstoppable.

So let’s start. Now.

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