On Friday the 6th December, the FGRLS team were invited to London branch of The Wing, the women’s club nestled in the heart of Soho, to host a talk on Cultural Burnout and discuss how we can avoid, well, burning out. We defined Cultural Burnout as the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the amount of content we’re expected to consume: from hundreds of thinkpieces, to never-ending emails, WhatsApp groups and even dating apps. We’re saturated with culture day in, day out, and we’re exhausted. So how do we tackle that feeling without dropping everything and moving to a remote countryside town with no WiFi? We invited four amazing women to come and join us for the discussion and unpicking of the topic, and held an evening of performances, a quick panel discussion and a Q&A from those who attended.
First up on our roster of talented women was Beth McColl, author of How to Come Alive Again and general Twitter hero. Beth read an extract from her book and spoke about how the soul-crushingly depressing news of late doesn’t help those who have depression in general. She said “Feel free to switch off. If your Twitter feed is teeming with political hot-takes and breaking news, then get a new Twitter account, used solely for following comedy and cute animal accounts. When your main feed is too much, head over there.”
Next up, Sophie Thakur, a prolific spoken word poet and author of Somebody Give This Heart a Pen. Sophia read from her book and spoke about the pretence we keep up to assure everyone around us that we’re fine. She read: “”I’m fine thanks” is my stabiliser / protecting us both from ugly truths / protecting me from being moved/ protecting us both from being swallowed whole by my suppressed moods.” Her extract was deeply moving and I think all of us resonated with her words and the feeling of wanting to break free from the expectation that you should reply ‘I’m fine, thanks” when somebody asks how we are. Food for thought.
Lifting us up with a fierce comedy set about the online world was Karen Hobbs. Karen had the audience in hysterics as she tackled the temptation of ‘stalking’ our exes’ significant others on social media, the prevalence of memes which use the name ‘Karen’ as the unfortunate character, and later, how comparison culture brings us nothing but misery. She said of the topic: “It’s painful, it’s really hideous. When people say it actually eggs you on to do better – no it doesn’t. Good, positive things, e.g. nights like this when everyone’s lovely to each other make you think you’re doing something right. I really have to check myself, because the people you’re being bitter and jealous about will never know. The bitterness only holds you back.”
Last to perform was the lovely Charly Cox, poet and author of She Must be Mad and Validate Me. Choosing a selection of entries from her works, one of the poems Charly read was ‘Bodies,’ which focuses on how we obsess and analyse our bodies without acknowledging how miraculous they are for simply existing and doing what they need to do to keep us alive everyday. Later, in the panel, she talked to us about the joy of going a few hours, or even a day if you can manage it, with your phone on aeroplane mode or off altogether. She explained how she feels relief and release when she’s out of contact from everyone on occasion and from the loudness of social media. When one of our audience questioned how to do this without fear of missing out on important news, she made the very valid point that if someone has news that’s that important, they’ll call or text you or find a way to get in touch. Take a few hours to yourself – you have Charly’s permission (and ours).
We want to say a huge thank you to The Wing for inviting us and to all who attended – we had an absolute blast. Keep your eye out in the future for more events!