A year ago, I did a completely outrageous tweet. Visualising #MatExp on the main stage at NHS Expo. And then this year we made it happen!

Sarah-Jane Marsh was on board from the beginning. She has been the superhero in this story - a courageous and innovative leader, listening to women and families; leading with passion.

And as time went on, we cranked things up a bit by turning it into a musical. NHS Expo has never had a crowdsourced musical before! πŸ‘€πŸ‹

It was a very difficult summer. Flo and I had agreed to put something creative and innovative together, but we hardly got the opportunity to plan together. I was looking after my lovely Mum in her final weeks; Flo was holding the fort valiantly but then went on holiday. Somehow we muddled through.

The story is pretty amazing, I wrote a Twitter 'moment' capturing some of the best tweets. And a little film. But only Steller can tell the whole unexpurgated (well only slightly πŸ˜‚) story. πŸ’œ

I wrote recently about the meeting (hopefully not clashing!) of two cultures: old power and new power. Our #MatExp #BetterBirths presentation at NHS Expo was a wonderful example: exciting, frustrating, daunting and totally fascinating. As a keen observer of human behaviour, I am constantly amazed by what I am experiencing. Things that could be really simple are micromanaged and made extremely complex; things that deserve to have detailed attention are skated over and there is potential for significant disaster! I was sure it would all come right in the wash. 😬

#MatExp the Musical' extravaganza at NHS Expo- "an organic creation, planned with military efficiency". Walking a tight rope between 'old power' and 'new power', trying to bring everyone on board as a team. Quite a 'big ask'. πŸ‹

We wanted to showcase the best practice in implementing 'Better Births' – whether it came through formal channels of Early Adopters and Choice Pioneers or from our more maverick grassroots #MatExp campaign.

Flo and I did a lot of planning! So much good practice - how to pick the best?

Sarah-Jane had been away too. πŸ–πŸŒž When she came back she seemed to like what she saw. The tweet about ripping up the Expo rule book was very exciting. So far so good!

We were keen to get 'real' people from all perspectives to read Whose Shoes scenarios and poems to bring alive the vision and challenges of Better Births and what it all means for families.

We found it easiest to design the slides ourselves. A simple idea – one example of good practice per post it. Predictably people were thrilled to be included – there had been a lot of caution and over-thinking about this.

Everyone was excited and getting in practice for the musical 🎹 🎢

So much to prepare!

Fab Catherine MacClennan made us a poster!

And Rachel who had threatened me with women popping out of a cake during the performance, kept us all happy with home-made goodies!

I arrived in Manchester looking for positive omens...

Ripping up the Expo rule book! 😳

Unlocking the barriers: real and imagined.

I was chuffed to pull together an impromptu #MatExp get together. No hierarchy, just people of course. But we were very honoured when Baroness Cumberlege joined us! 😘

And she dropped by in the morning to collect her goodie pack, complete with her red #MatExp #BetterBirths sash, which was very considerate as I had quite a lot to think about! πŸ€• πŸ‹

It was brilliant when Sarah Jane arrived during our rehearsal. Smiling and encouraging. We needed that - we were being made aware that what we were doing was 'risky' - and it was the first time this group had ever met, crowdsourced from across the UK !

There was an 'element of nervousness' amongst the 'powers that be' about Jenny the Midwife's Skin to Skin Rap - as there had been when she originally climbed the stepladder to write it across the operating theatre wall. That has led to global change. So will this!

Huge thanks to NHS England for hanging on in there and believing! 😘

A few last minute tweaks to the running order. Inevitably, one or two people couldn't be there - others stepped in. This is the nature of our vibrant can-do #MatExp community.

I must have been nervous. I was there at the crack of dawn to suss the joint.

Forsyth Music Shop in Manchester very kindly provided our keyboard and it was wonderful to hear Claire and Grace playing this. At our rehearsal we'd had to manage with a travel guitar as even #MatExp had been unable to persuade Midland Hotel to move their piano into our room! πŸ˜‚

Paul started off with a Dad's perspective as that is so often overlooked and then he, Charlene (Mum) and Jenny (the midwife) remained on stage as a constant cameo to remind us what #MatExp BeterBirths is all about. And it was lovely when Sarah-Jane shared a 'new family' photo.

I was delighted when, about 20 minutes in, I spotted #FabObs Flo. She and Sam had done well - dashing up from the Sands/Bliss conference in Birmingham! #MatExp speakers are in great demand these days. I invited Flo up on stage - as you do.

Word got round that this was an event not to be missed. Soon there was standing room only! πŸ˜‰

We worked through the key themes of Better Births, bringing everything alive with people from all perspectives sharing real experiences. To find out more about the substance of our presentation, please see the Twitter Moment here. This Steller story is to share the behind the scenes story.

In fact I think I need to do a separate Steller story about the actual presentation - the key themes of Better Births and the great people who stepped forward to tell the story through their own experiences. Our #MatExp #WhoseShoes workshops are constantly exploring the themes further through a very wide range of perspectives, always looking to co-produce and share solutions. We have been running these workshops since 2014 and the board game was used at all the national Maternity Review listening events. Again, it is quite a story.

This was one group - the sashes were symbolic - bringing together #MatExp and #BetterBirths and adding a big splash of colour to an event that can be a bit 'corporate'. The sashes were colour coded to match key groups in Whose Shoes. Blue is the women and families themselves - the people using maternity services.

In addition to spreading the Better Births vision, brought alive by powerful storytelling, and collating best practice from around the country, we did some interactive sessions with the audience. We got people reflecting about what has been regarded as 'normal' over the decades – this helps people to understand transformational change.

We couldn't have done it without Claire & Grace - so talented and willing to go with the flow/Flo! #MatExp the Musical 🎢🎹 #AHPsIntoAction πŸ’œ

The official NHS coverage was a bit grey. #MatExp was not mentioned on the programme. Our session was apparently not a highlight. But the punters said differently… πŸ‹πŸ‹πŸ‹

Everyone loved Jenny's Skin to Skin Rap. Such a creative way of raising awareness of something so important.

Complimented on our beautiful singing! Perhaps the idea of going for a #MatExp Christmas Number One is not so outrageous after all ! πŸ‹πŸ‹πŸ‹

We definitely added some colour ! πŸ’œ

The graphic artists offered more colour and a great way of remembering the key messages - both Anna, New Possibilities, our 'official' artist...

And Emma @ForMed_Films who subsequently sent these brilliant sketch-notes...

Emma @ForMed_Films again πŸ‘πŸΌ

We had some great entries in our caption competition! But the truth was better still πŸ˜‚

Along with mini croc shoes, badges and the coveted #MatExp necklace, the #MatExp BetterBirths sashes are now a much sought after commodity!

NHS England are always keen to know 'outcomes' & 'deliverables' in advance. With an organic movement like #MatExp, these are often unknown. Certainly I didn't foresee this one!

It was business as usual. Flo and I finished the week by speaking about 'Nobody 's Patient' at the HC-UK maternity transformation conference.

Meanwhile, back to the day job - lots of Whose Shoes workshops coming up, including Poole: 6 October. Lots of development work.

Join us! matexp.org. Uk nutshellcomms.co.uk

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