WORDS WEEKEND REVIEW: Elizabeth Day @ Sage Gateshead (08.12.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As a dedicated listener of Elizabeth Day‘s gloriously uplifting podcast How to Fail, being part of the season finale live at Words Weekend was a real treat. The cherry on the cake being journalist, activist and author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, whose contribution to the conversation on racism is nothing short of inspiring. Reni’s 2017 book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race feels like a historical, staple text on racism in the United Kingdom; as Elizabeth illuminates this book feels as if it has been around forever, never mind two years.

In an age whereby everyone on your Instagram feed is achieving more, doing more, having more success, and it seems as though everyone is happier and more fulfilled than you are (disclaimer… none of the above is true), conversations that recognise and celebrate failure has never been more prevalent, Elizabeth Day has opened a required conversation fit for our times.

Elizabeth opens the evening with an intimate encounter of her own failures – many of which rang true with much of the audience, sensed by nods of agreement and a supportive and respectful silence – depression, an earth-shattering miscarriage, numerous attempts of IVF treatment, the end of her marriage, being 40, single, with no children. Elizabeth’s seven principles of failure was a clear indicator of just how thought-provoking this evening was going to be. “Failure can be a nudge from the universe in a different direction” and “cling on because the real failure might be not finding out what comes next” both being remarkable pieces of advice, to spin the lid on how we think about our deemed failures.

Elizabeth’s charisma, charm and her remarkable outlook on the tricky bits of life, which I confess usually fills my kitchen speakers while I cook breakfast, translated effortlessly to the stage. The intimate setting in Sage’s Hall Two, with two small snug looking armchairs and a coffee table separating Elizabeth and Reni, made for a warm and intimate atmosphere. What followed was an imperative, inquisitive yet humbling and comfortable conversation about a multitude of topics from racism to mental health, from social media to Harry Potter, from Emma Watson to the general election.

When discussing Reni’s deemed personal failures, the title of her book was number one, which opened an informative discussion upon the construction of race across Europe and the difference between race and racism in a current context. Another personal failure shared by Reni, which was illuminated in a lively Q&A after the discussion was her reluctance to get help early on with her mental health and difficulties with anxiety. Topics that by nature are hard-hitting, were brought to light through Reni’s relaxed and calm approach to conversation. The evening did not pass without many a laugh – “I don’t know a lot of people in my life that get help for mental health…I know a lot who should” being a memorable exclaim from Reni.

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