A Tedx Talk About An Extraordinary Journey

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. An extraordinary journey undertaken by a mother and her two sons which transformed each of them. Pilgrimage in action.

I tuned into Twitter at about 1 o’clock in the morning to find a Tweet from a professor at the University of Nevada who said he was showing my TEDx Talk to his students studying leadership that day, and that’s how I found out it was online.

I thought it was the most wonderful way to discover it was out there, and now I can tell you more about the event; I was utterly privileged to take part on a TEDx run by a school, that was only the second one to gain a TED license worldwide.

Sir William Perkins School run the event with the full inclusion of their students; the girls work on the event, presentation and technical side, recording all the video and audio and then editing every talk. I am so proud school children put my TEDx Talk video together, I hope you agree they are amazing.

For me to give my first TED Talk about the walk I led as a parent, with my sons, to an audience of parents and children was just fitting. To know the students were gaining so much experience directly involved in the production was so pertinent.

I am also incredibly proud it was first seen in a classroom all the way across the world from me, in Reno, Nevada. A class led by Bret Simmons, Nevada Management Professor, to his MBA class as an example of the book they’re working on, “Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change”, by Robert E. Quinn, the Margaret Elliot Tracey Collegiate Professorship at the University of Michigan.

This talk was given at a TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. An extraordinary journey undertaken by a mother and her two sons which transformed each of them. Pilgrimage in action.

Why I Want To Publish A Photobook, And Need Your Help

Watch the video on the crowdfunding site read the story, PLEASE PRESS THE PLEDGE BUTTON and join me – let’s publish a photobook together. Imagine who we could inspire.

From the first day we walked, people said: “I wish my children would walk with us.” It took me a couple of days to realise that mine weren’t walking with me, I was walking with them.

 

Yes, of course, I wanted to do the walk, and I thought it would be a great space to give my sons to decide what kind of men they wanted to be; it was my gift to them. But, they are the ones who watched a film and stood up as the credits rolled and said they wanted to do this.

That is all it took; an ordinary Tuesday night, a plate of sausage mash and gravy, and a DVD of ‘The Way’, and we set out on a walk that gently changed our lives.

A film or a book can be a life-changing inspiration, I have been asked for a book countless times, I have to publish a photobook but in order to do that I need you to trade with me; and here’s the story of why …

Within three weeks of coming back the story became an exhibition in the cafe at the back of our Town Hall, a space created by Art on The Street for artists to exhibit for free. An artist friend of mine, Gail Dorrington, insisted I tell the story on a opening view night, and so we turned it into support for a locally run food bank, Open Kitchen. Two dozen friends brought cans to donate and listened to, and looked at, our story and said: “You are going to do a book aren’t you?”

Walking with Angels Exhibition and talk, by Melanie Gow, Maidenhead Town Hall, October 2013

I was at the Windsor Contemporary Art Fair when the Gallery at Ice saw the story and wanted to showcase it, and it became a solo exhibition. The Talk became a formal event, and the place was filled. At the end everyone wanted a book, more specifically a photobook with what they had seen and heard.

You find a new understanding and trust in your body, it recalibrates what is most important in your life. It expands your vocabulary and at the same time you come to accept that there are words that there are no others for. It can not help but redefine your sense of spirituality. Thank you to all who came, your interest and support is my reason to be here. Thank you.

It all grew so much when it was invited to Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, who came up with wonderful ideas for the exhibition experience and, again, I gave a talk; and we had to add chairs as it was full to capacity. Again, I was asked for a book, a photobook, something people could take away that held the inspiration.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, full house

Then the exhibition was accepted into St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and it became mobile; and 42,000 visited the cathedral while it was there, and people asked for something they could take away with them – a photobook.

Walking With Angels, St Giles Cathedral

I finally understand; I see it in the faces in the audience as I talk, and when people stop and look at the exhibition and are drawn in by the stories and pictures. I bought a book once, ‘The Pilgrimage’, by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho back in 1987, and said I would do this one day.

It took 30 years, but a simple book was still the spark of a dream. My sons watched a film.

I finally understand; as I have been inspired by something as simple as a book, my sons by a film, it is no longer about me. I need to publish a photobook, its just the way that inspiration gets out.

But I am the one who has to figure out how to make it happen.

As a published author I know the publishing process, and the market forces in play, a coffee-table book is not on any publisher’s wish list, the cost to benefit ratio isn’t there for them. But I live in a time when it is possible to publish independently; the same, if not higher quality, product.

However, I need to find a way to raise the publishing costs, I am the starving artist you might imagine, and a lone parent, and we have a pilgrim’s means. We are fine, we have all we need, but I don’t have the extra resources to bankroll a book.

Yet, I know a book is what I have to find a way to publish. So I am turning to you. For help.

It is a beautiful book, I have run up a prototype, I have an editor to help me make sure the text sparkles and tells the story, and comes without typos. I have a designer who will make sure it is laid out beautifully, and I have a print house that will make sure the book is the highest quality. It is registered and has an ISBN, a unique numeric international book identifier, and the costs are only £5,000, not a lot if you will join me.

I didn’t want to just ask for donations;

I could have done a sponsored run or some fund-raiser, but I wanted to do something where everyone who helped got something fair in exchange and became a part of it. It is more honest.

  • The simplest trade is a pre-order of the book for £25.
  • You could pre-order 2 and give one to a friend who you know will love it, or donate it to a school or library for £50 and I will sign them.
  • But if you just want to support and just throw £10 into the pot, I am very happy and it really makes a difference. In exchange you will get The Talk but not just any talk, a TEDx Talk; a friend, Laura Lucardini, suggested it and I will stand on the legendary red circle and tell the story, with pictures. You can contribute just £10 and get the TEDx Talk in a PDF, speech and pictures.
  • If you would like one of the photographs of lessons we learned while out walking (see the collection here), and a book, that would normally cost £115, and I’ve wrapped it up as a bundle for £100
  • If you would like the mobile exhibition and a talk to come to a venue near you I can travel anywhere in the UK with it, and £500 will make that happen, including travel costs. This can also be donated and I will arrange it for you and dedicate the talk to you.
  • I have also been given a camera exactly like the one I used, a Samsung Nx1000, a brilliant 3rd-generation mirror-less DSLR. A smart camera that has literally become an extension of my eyes and hands. It is responsive, light and frees me up from worrying about its settings and technology to concentrate on the moment I am drawn to. I will teach you how to use it over Skype, and you will get a photograph and a book and a TEDx Talk PDF, all this and the Samsung NX100 for £1000.

There are places that want the exhibition and the talk, like schools, and to keep telling the story I have to create the book, in order to do that I need you to trade with me.

If I had a plan to do this all along I would have all this organised, but I’m genuinely just trying to keep up with a story that wants to be heard; and I get it, my sons responded to a story. A this is a true story; at 12 and 16 my sons were inspired to walk for 33 days and 800km across a country. And it was the best thing they could have ever done.

The surprise was the throughly transformative overhaul I went through. For the first time I feel emotionally and physically in the same place, this is something we all want isn’t it?

Help me out here, please. I can’t do this without you.

Every single pound counts.

Watch the video on the crowdfunding site, HERE, read the story and the aims, PLEASE PRESS THE PLEDGE BUTTON – on the righthand side it’s the green button that says Screenshot 2014-06-12 09.49.47

Join me – let’s publish a photobook together.

Imagine who we could inspire.

WWA Crowdfund SLIDER

Flowers and Friends: Walking With Angels Talk at Norden Farm

The Walking With Angels talk at Norden Farm took on its own life. It was very gratifying to find it was “Sold Out” and 10 extra chairs had to be added, the tickets were free so we mean sold out in that every available seat was taken.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, full house

The Walking With Angels talk at Norden Farm took on its own life. It was very gratifying to find it was “Sold Out” and 10 extra chairs had to be added; the tickets were free so we mean that every available seat was taken.

Even lovelier, the Box Office staff really appreciated those few of you who couldn’t make it in the end calling to let them know. They told me this is very unusual with free events, and your consideration allowed those who came hoping for a space to be accommodated flawlessly.

Before the event.

I was doing last-minute Tech checks when I glanced up at the balcony above and saw a smile I couldn’t be sure was really there, as the only person I know with that smile wasn’t meant to be here. Sue is like Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, she spreads smiles like rose petals down a bridal aisle, and there she was smiling down on me.

We met on the walk in the heart of the Masetas, and stayed together to the Iron Cross when she had to leave. Sue is a florist – not surprisingly, bringing love, and joy, and flowers into the important occasions in our lives – and it was so enriching to have her to share this night with. Here we both are, next to the picture of a rose cradled by an ordinary wall because I saw that rose through her eyes when Sue took a photo of it.

Her celebration of flowers is infectious; the myth of Aphrodite tells of flowers springing up under her feet as she walked and, in essence, it is the same with Sue. She brought that one bloom alive in my heart in the instant that she noticed it with her love for it.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, Sue Stephenson and Melanie Gow

The title of the picture is Round Every Corner because there is extraordinary beauty around every corner if you look for it. No matter how hard the walk was there was always something beautiful and inspiring if you just chose to see it, even if it was only a rose blushing in the early morning light in the shelter of an ordinary wall.

The elegant simplicity of that rose and Sue’s beautiful spirit became the perfect encapsulation for that thought.

Did you know that when Aphrodite was told that her beloved Adonis was fatally wounded by a boar, she hastened to the spot and sprinkled nectar into his blood, from which immediately flowers sprang up – it may be a myth, but knowing Sue I can see why someone would be inspired to tell a story like that.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, Ben introduces the evening

The Event Opened

My admirable Teen 1 introduced the evening so competently, and against the interruptions of the general announcements over the speaker. It is remarkable that he can stand up and speak to a room full of people so inspiringly. I asked him a couple of weeks ago if he thought the walk had really had any lasting effects, he replied; “yes, I used to have a cut-and-paste patter and a mask I wore, but now I actually feel confident.”

In the audience was a friend, and fellow artist, Caroline Crawford, who is the most thoughtful and supportive woman, and an inspirational mother. Having her there was very special, it means a great deal that people want to hear this story and she brought a bunch of the most gorgeous flame coloured Ruffled tulips to remember the night by.

It was the night for flowers as my Happiness, Hope and Gratitude picture of sunflowers, which were like cheerleaders lining our way waving their pom-pom heads, was just the message someone wanted to hear. Sunflowers are said to represent enlightenment but they remind me of the Maori saying, “Face the sun and let your shadows fall behind you”.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, face the sun and let your shadows fall behind you

Two others in the audience, photographer David Wright and his stunning wife Lyd, came to the very first talk, I am really touched that they were willing to hear the story again. I can’t wait to hear theirs when they walk the camino. There were friends, family, colleagues, surprises, and supporters there, and brand new friends made through the evening. Right at the end, Teen 1 spontaneously turned and gave me a huge hug. Captured here by my generous friend, colleague, photographer and artist, Becky Young, along with all these other pictures from the night.

This is one of my favourite moments from the night.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, surprise hug from Benjamin Gow for his mother

It is wonderful to stand and tell the story to a room full of people, and the more I do it the more I really want to publish a photographic book of the walk so I can get the story to as many people around the world as possible. But, I will have to publish it independently and raise the budget – and that takes confidence.

I thought hard about an ethical way I could raise the budget in line with the values of the experience, and I believe it would be to ask for donations. This will allow people the freedom to give and at a level they are comfortable with, in exchange I am offering to send a digital version of the talk. I put the proposal on a print out, and planned to ask the audience at the end of the talk what they thought.

But, I didn’t have the confidence to ask people to help me.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, table at the back

When I was clearing away at the end I found anonymous donations in my box anyway. How extraordinary is that? It brought me up short and is as clear a message as can be.

If others are prepared to back this I am just going to have to lean into the fear and do it, as I said in my New Year’s Resolutions: “The thrill of soaring has to begin with the fear of falling”.

Thank you, I truly appreciate the confidence.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, anonymous donations

With thanks to Norden Farm for hosting the talk, and all their support throughout the exhibition – this runs in the Gallery until the 5th of April 2014

With thanks to Becky Young for all the photographs here, and her immeasurable support.

Walking With Angels Exhibition at Norden Farm

The Walking With Angels Exhibition and Talk has opened at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, and their vision space and technician team have allowed it to expand in beautiful, and hopefully inspiring ways.

Walking with Angels Installation piece at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

This is a beautiful space to be given to create something to inspire, and it’s wonderful to see the Walking With Angels Exhibition in Norden Farm Centre for the Arts’ huge Gallery.

In the front window, as large as a billboard, is an installation piece. Because I walked with blisters for 33 days and had to sew them at 4 in the morning, leaving the thread in to drain during the day, I sewed a map of Spain with our route.

The stitches cover virtually the whole of the country and brings it home how far 800km really is.

Suspended on each side is a selection of snapshots that give a mosaic impression of the experience, hoping you will pause and take something from it that inspires you.

The Washing, Walking With Angels installation art at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

The clothes I wore every day are on the washing line in Norden Farm Centre for the Arts … it’s been called Tracy Emin meets the Von Trapp family!

It does echo the reality of having to wash your clothes every day, and show how at the end of every day when you walk into the town you hope to spend the night in you need to find a bed and wash your clothes in time for them to dry to wear them again the next day. There are also the other essentials, for me, a hat, my camera and the pilgrim shell.

These shoe are made for walking, Walking With Angels Exhibition at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

These boots were made for walking
So that’s just what they did
And one of these days they gonna
Walk all over the world telling their story …

On the way down into The Gallery space I have put the boots we walked in, including the pair of sandals that Harry walked the last 4 days in. I hope these will travel the world telling this story as it gives so much to all who connect with it, not least me.

The two backpacks, Walking With Angles Exhibition at Norden Farm for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

High above the last photographs of the collection of lessons I learned while out walking are the two backpacks I carried … the one I started with and the one I downsized to with everything in I needed for the rest of the 33 days.

The A1 piece of card, Walking With Angels Exhibition at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

Additional to the Limited Edition collection of moments depicting lessons I learned while walking is the A1 piece of card I could fit all my possessions on, with a photograph of them.

The Snapshots, Walking With Angels Exhibition, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

Between the main Photographic Collection of lessons I learned while out walking are washing lines with snapshot stories of small fragments of the walk..

We had to wash our clothes, often by hand and once with large rounded rocks and hand soap, every day, so looking after your few possessions became a ritual that has influenced the way the stories are hung. It seems to fit with a journey too, all the moments can hang on the line of a day.

Walking With Angels Exhibition March 18th to April 5th 2014, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, by Melanie Gow

Walking With Angels Exhibition runs from March 18th to April 5th 2014, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts

With a talk on the 27th of March at 7.30pm in The Gallery

Photo Album Of The Walking With Angels Talk at The Gallery at Ice

Every day begins again, on a journey towards an end that you can’t be sure you’ll make and you’re not sure why you are trying. It is a pilgrimage towards you.

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The first Walking With Angels talk, given at The Gallery at Ice
on the 6th of March 2014.

Thank you to all who came, your interest and support allows me to keep telling this story.

In the beginning when some asks you are you going to Santiago de Compostela you say “yes.” But when you understand you answer, “I hope”

Every day begins again, on a journey towards an end that you can’t be sure you’ll make and you’re not sure why you are trying.

It is a pilgrimage towards you.

And of course it is just the beginning,

Nothing will ever be quite the same again.

With huge thanks to Becky Young, artist and photographer for these pictures from the evening.

Thank you to The Gallery at Ice

Catch the next talk at Norden Farm, Maidenhead, on the 27th March, 7.30pm

Here is a link to register

Walking With Angels In The Gallery At Ice

The Walking With Angels Exhibition is being Launched By The Gallery At Ice, with a talk on the 6th March 7.00pm If you’d like to attend my talk please register your interest www.thegalleryatice.co.uk/walking-with-angels

Photographic Exhibition in The Gallery at Ice 13th February – 14th March

The Gallery at Ice are launching the Walking With Angels Collection

Walking with Angels Ice evite

 

If you’d like to attend my talk please register your interest  @  www.thegalleryatice.co.uk/walking-with-angels
More about the Walking With Angels Exhibition @ www.thegalleryatice.co.uk/exhibition