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Among the presenters familiar to many Fora members, our personal trainer Myles held his regular workout class. Tuesday’s Mindful Meditation with Michael McCaffrey is another regular weekly event with a loyal following, as is Thursday’s 3Tribes Vinyasa Flow Yoga session with Abi Unwin-Smith. They are all part of Fora’s year-round commitment to Wellness and have become a part of many Fora members’ weekly routines. The schedule continues to attract new participants, particularly those looking to maximise their wellbeing during and after the lockdown.
Over the last few months many of these sessions have been virtual but the Restore20 festival was an opportunity for several hybrid events too. As has become second nature this year, many of the audience joined the events via the convenience of Zoom, but smaller groups of participants were able to attend in person at Fora. An event with a live audience has a special energy and fun that’s hard to recreate remotely and, recognising this, Fora has introduced a hybrid events service, enabling events to take place both in-person and online simultaneously. The Restore20 audience found the live sessions particularly engaging and the presenters also drew on the rapport and immediate feedback they established with those in situ.
The importance of face-to-face interaction was apparent in Monday’s The Making of Me event. This was an open therapy session in which Wellness influencer Louise Rumball was joined by clinical psychologist Dr Helene Laurent-Oliver to explore how our childhood experiences can have a huge impact on our perspectives and personality. Issues such as stress and anxiety can often be traced back to these experiences and Louise is passionate about showing how therapy can be hugely beneficial in identifying and treating negative patterns of behaviour. It was inspiring to see such personal and genuine emotions shared with the audience.
Authenticity in Wellness was also the subject of Tuesday’s session hosted by regular Fora presenter Ruth Cooper-Dickson of Champs mental wellbeing consultancy. Ruth was joined by nutritional scientist Toral Shah and fitness instructor Ban Hass. Both women have considerable social media followings and they discussed the commercial pressures, societal stereotypes and biased algorithms that influencers have to navigate and how this particularly affects people of colour. The panel argued that we must all use our voices to ensure the $4.5 trillion Wellness industry is inclusive and welcoming to all, and that, to be truly authentic, our words must be backed up by deeds.
The importance of our individual actions was the focus on Sustainability and Mental Health on Wednesday, which explored the interconnectedness of living consistent with our values. Anthony Russell of the European Climate Foundation, Bronwyn Seier content manager of Fashion Revolution and Oliver McQuitty of peer-to-peer wardrobe rental platform HURR discussed how we can all act to make fashion more sustainable. The most sustainable clothes are the ones we already own and the panel encouraged the audience to decouple our mood from shallow consumerism. Stuff doesn’t make us happy and they urged people to instead focus on the need for a more considered and meaningful approach to lifestyle.
Much of our consumerist society promotes a stereotypical ideal which is neither accurate nor healthy. This is particularly damaging to black audiences who are often excluded or feel unwelcome by the Wellness industry. This was the focus of discussion in Thursday’s Is Wellness Racist? session involving personal trainer Lorraine Russell, wellness influencer Grace Victory and clinical psychologist Dr Fabienne Palmer. They returned to the Restore20 festival’s themes of inclusivity and authenticity, highlighting that the fitness industry is too focused on what people look like and not about how they feel. No one should feel excluded and brands, influencers and, indeed, all of us have an obligation to help remove those barriers.
With a similar message that fitness is first a feeling, not an aesthetic, award-winning journalist and influencer Poorna Bell discussed her personal training regime with Tally Rye in a live recording of the Train Happy podcast – you can find the episode here. Poorna discussed how powerlifting had contributed to her sense of self confidence and had also provided a supportive community that encouraged her through the highs and the lows. However, she also emphasised that Wellness too often marginalised certain groups, that social media often uses biased algorithms and that people need to actively seek out and support different voices in the Wellness space.
Over the five days, Restore20 brought together a wide range of speakers and attendees, all passionate about broadening access, breaking down barriers and promoting both physical and mental wellbeing. The festival was not just a celebration of the personal enjoyment and fulfilment of Wellness but also an illustration of how it can bring people together, in physical spaces like Fora as well as online. As we reflect on the challenges of 2020 and prepare ourselves to maximise our energy for months ahead, Restore20 was the perfect opportunity to clear our minds, feel inspired and rouse our spirits.