Walk in my shoes

Our big opportunity to improve maternity experience

On 11th and 12th September the biggest NHS conference of the year takes place: the annual NHS Expo in Manchester. It is traditionally a gathering of the 'good and the great'. But increasingly these days, there is acceptance of the need for a far more diverse mix of people. This includes in particular (shock horror probe) users of the service and 'front-line' staff if co-produced transformational change is really going to happen.

I like NHS Expo. It always feels rather last minute and slightly chaotic, but it always seems to come off on the day. I like to think I have done some 'fab stuff' there. It has certainly been different…

In 2014, I was invited to run a Whose Shoes dementia cafe, right in the middle of the whole event. And I did a live 'Google hangout' with my friend Ken Howard.

For those not in the know This is Sir Bruce Keogh. I have no idea what I said But it clearly knocked him dead. πŸ˜‚ And when people laugh, they relax, and you can have real conversations. This is the essence of Whose Shoes.

By 2015, our successful #MatExp Whose Shoes work was really taking off and we were invited to run a pop-up University. This is my partner in crime Florence Wilcock. Luckily I don't think there is a picture of us singing Daisy Daisy together when the technology let us down! πŸ˜‚ But perhaps the first seed of #MatExp the Musical was sown. 🎢🎀🎹

We also commandeered a table in the cafe and juggled lemons, which was a very effective way of getting people to come and find out more about #MatExp – and a lot cheaper than one of the big exhibition stands! πŸ˜‰

And as everyone now knows, πŸ‹lemonsπŸ‹ are FUNdamental to building a change platform. πŸ˜‰ You can read the Steller story here.

In 2016, we progressed to a satellite session with people from NHS England leading the maternity transformation.

FUN was - and always will be - very much part of the formula. When you connect with people as human beings, the barriers break down and everything becomes possible.

But we felt that maternity is everyone's business, so it should command a larger stage. We visualised the future…

And then a 'stuff of dreams' tweet... but so much to do before the big day! πŸ™€

Oh boy! I remember Flo and I 'waiting anxiously outside the school gates' when other people ran their first #MatExp Whose Shoes workshop without us. It is all growing up so fast!

We put lots of calls out on Twitter, #MatExp style, to see who would like to be involved.

Loads of fantastic people responded. We are not great ones for meetings as we prefer action. But with two worlds coming together, some of the most creative people on Twitter and NHS England people who need to make sure these things fit the bill, came together for a meeting in Bristol.

The timing has been very difficult. Sadly, my lovely Mum died recently - I wrote a Steller story as a tribute to her. I spotted these yellow roses in Bristol.

I was pleased to hold the meeting in Bristol. I have done some of my best Whose Shoes work with Ann Remmers & the fab team in the south west – five workshops this year. I had met Cally and Emma who could really add to the creativity, especially with #FabObs Flo, who had got things off to an amazing start, now away on holiday

Some of you will remember the Steller story about our 'May the fourth be with you' #MatExp stormtroopers event in Bristol. πŸ˜‰

I also went to university in Bristol and met the long-suffering @MrWhoseShoes. πŸ’œ

As invariably happens on these occasions, I was disappointed to miss a social movement event locally in Coventry with my fab #CovMindTheGap friends. I promised to give them a shoutout! 😘

I felt a big responsibility and as always, did my best to check things out with my Twitter pals, especially those who want to be involved on the day.

Claire and Grace are music therapists at Chelsea and Westminster hospital. They have offered to play and sing for us to bring #MatExp the Musical alive. Here Grace is playing with Florica in antenatal clinic: an extraordinary story!

When I do something creative, I like to build in time to walk and think. So I set it off across Bristol...

Life can be hazardous. Note to self: do not slip and fall on the stairs while you are reading notices…

A great omen!

Vibrant colour!

A missing shoe! πŸ‘€ Cinderella, where are you?

The guys on the building site were dazzled by my #MatExp necklace

I saw some extraordinary things along the way, which resonated with different areas of our work. #Boatrockers! 😱

A musical ... involving shoes. πŸ‘  πŸ‘ 


Lemony decorations! πŸ‘€

Shoes AND lemons! πŸ˜‚


Young mums. Were they rushing to our meeting? I wish! πŸ™πŸΌ

A Whose Shoes style map with four different perspectives meeting in the middle

This photo was taken at a recent 'Whose Shoes' event for young parents in Leeds. It is wonderful to see everyone having a voice and working together for positive change.

And it is all too easy to forget what it is like to walk in the shoes of the new dad

Perhaps we will get rave reviews of our #MatExp Expo extravaganza...

Walk in the shoes of young mums. Or perhaps some more practical ones? 🀣

And their families. Maternity care has to work for people with busy lives and growing families. A key message from our Expo sesh is that maternity is everyone's business!

I even spotted some shoes for Roy Lilley. 😎

Flo had a great idea around coloured T shirts to identify different stories on stage. Could we do this?

As I wandered along, I was pleased to see 'Feel Good' which is a key part of #CovMindTheGap thanks to @talk2mels. But the music didn't seem quite what we were looking for….

"It's only love!" πŸ’œ Much needed in the world at the moment and indeed in some debates in maternity care where deep divisions are in danger of damaging the fantastic work that is happening.

This guy must have seen me coming so packed up before he could be included in the #MatExp 'auditions' 🎸

I was nearly there!

Could we deliver something genuinely different at Expo? And more importantly, can women really hope to get a unique 'safe and personalised ' birth experience?

Would our creative ideas be acceptable to the conference organisers? Or would they be too worried about what people might tweet? Would it be 'risky' reaching out to the whole inclusive #MatExp community?

We are hoping Anna Geyer brings her pens (or crayons?) to record all the good stuff.

And that the 'ALL' that is written rather tentatively here becomes a reality.

I had arrived!

We had a great meeting, sharing our ideas - Emma tried to 'storyboard' it as we went.

Negative language stays with women giving birth for life. How to convey this to a main stage audience, the majority of whom will never have thought about these issues?

What will they make of Flo's lithotomy challenge? Can we get some of them DOING it rather than just thinking about it?

I walked back to the station with Cally and Emma. Excited, a bit unclear, needing a bit more of a steer but hoping something exciting and different can happen.

So much of big conferences is very standard, a bit monochrome and predictable.

#MatExp is known for adding a bit of colour.

There is so much good stuff happening. We need to bring it alive with a strong memorable message about why it all MATTERS so much.

We have to move fast. In an ideal world, we would have much longer. It is easy to put something 'traditional' together in a short time. PowerPoint βœ… Q&A βœ… Sorted. πŸ˜‡ Crowd-sourcing takes time. We can only do our best.