I met an old friend for lunch yesterday. We don’t meet up that often. The last time we lunched was the day after the BBC broke the story of the Mazars report. She’d seen it on the news and was surprised that I had been supporting the Justice For LB campaign. So obviously yesterday we spent a lot of time over our tuna mix salad discussing the H&SE hearing and Southern Health’s fine of £2m. I guess both being counsellors we got stuck into the emotional aspect of being part of the campaign but my mate left me with the thought – “There is something about the way the campaign brought out so many different emotions in the participants, my hunch is that it has changed the way campaigns are run forever”. What did she mean? Was she right?
For my part, being involved with Justice For LB was a complete headfuck. The range of emotions it prompted in me was, at times, deeply unsettling. Some comfortable: some less so. I’ve always preferred funerals to weddings. I can’t keep up the happiness that is expected of you at a wedding. With a funeral, you may cry at the interment but I like the wake part. I enjoy chatting to a second cousin twice removed safe in the knowledge that someone isn’t going to grab my arm and drag me onto the dancefloor to do In The Navy. Justice For LB had me the feeling the same. A deep sadness at the heart of it but also the joy of humanity at its best and the great fun that one can have when engaged in something truly creative. But that is disconcerting and uncomfortable. Is it okay to enjoy something whilst experiencing profound pain? I think this is what my mate meant about campaigning changing forever. When the major charities campaign for something their attempt at “fun” is ridiculously contrived. It is embarrassing and has all the allure of a Pontins knobbly knees competition. Justice For LB was too organic for that. At times it was flying by the seat of your pants spontaneous. The humour was that dark kind that Joe Orton would have relished.
Always present, always there, was Connor. His appalling death ripped you apart but drove everything. Those supporters who had followed Sara’s blog prior to 2013 had come to know and love this unique, quirky, intelligent dude and his personality was stamped all over the campaign. His life brought people together: his death more so. Whatever happened during the campaign one could never get away from the aching sadness of his passing.
Beneath that was the stuff evolving in day to day real time. Every act of violence over five years by Southern Health was not only borne witness to but felt at a visceral level. If I had a £1 for every time I shouted in rage, “You wouldn’t believe what they’ve done now” …. well, I’d be able to pay their fine for them. The indifference of Jeremy Hunt. The inaction of so many bodies. I could go on for hours and I probably will. But the outcome was the same emotionally and I genuinely worried at times how I could contain my anger. The personal (“vindictive cow”) and the impersonal ran together in shocking tandem but I guess providing one type of fuel for the campaign.
Creativity is exciting and the extent of it during the campaign took the breath away. Yet once again it brought up such conflicting emotions. Following George Julian’s live tweeting of Connor’s inquest left one wrung out. Evidence revealing such horror. Deeper levels of pain. But the skill of George’s work was also compelling. I truly felt whilst witnessing her work that I was seeing history in the making. I’ve seen live tweeting of events before but George has raised the bar so high, over such an important issue, that the world can never be the same again. Okay, that may be a bit grandiose but the impact it will have for families in the future will be immeasurable.
When human beings come together in goodness and fuelled by the emotions I’ve already mentioned, what place laughter? My old counselling tutor used to say regularly, “There’s no place in the counselling room for laughter”. He was talking bollocks of course. It’s more than a coping mechanism. It’s about love and being alive. Thank fuck that amidst the rage inducing nonsense of Sloven’s viral quality disaster, we have the unifying memory of woman on all fours puncturing the insult of a CEO’s vanity. Pain and laughter is best illustrated for me that day when the son of one of the board members called Sara a “fucking pest”. It led to a Twitter thread that was so surreal and funny (most of it focusing on the fact the Berrymans live in a house with a moat) I cried and cried with laughter. And then felt guilty that I was laughing over something that started so foul. It was that kind of campaign.
Yes. Justice For LB did Connor proud.
And Connor did all those people from all walks of life who came together proud too.