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Peerfest

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Peerfest is an annual celebration of Peer Support and a fantastic chance to meet, learn about and share ideas with organisations and individuals from across the country. This year’s event took place on Monday 9th October in Bristol.

Nick (Volunteer and Peer Support Worker), Emily (Education and Short Course Co-Ordinator) and Adey (Peer Supporter) decided to rise to the challenge and soak up as much of the event as possible.

“The Peerfest programme was packed with countless workshops, panel Q&As, stalls, magicians, poetry, wellbeing walks and even a chance to go stargazing at the planetarium!

While we waited to register for Peerfest we took in a quick complementary tour of the science museum (accompanied by 100 children on a school trip). Then we set up stall and went about networking with the other organisations including ‘Horses Helping People With Depression And Anxiety’, which was particularly fascinating.

After the official event opening we joined our first workshops. Emily and Adey stayed in the main room for the ‘Peer Working in Youth Mental Health and Campaigning’ workshop while I broke out into a group looking at ‘Hurdles to Peer Support’.

A quick lunch and then back into the auditorium for a planery session looking at ‘the future of Peer Support and what challenges it faces’. There were some fantastic insights in the room and the session saw interesting discussions about the future of Peer Support in the NHS and ideas about how to develop the culture of Peer Support on a wider scale across all mental health services, which is no mean feat!

Before we knew it we were filing into our next workshops. But not before swiping ANOTHER coffee from the, quite splendid coffee and pastry selection on offer. While Adey dashed off to enjoy the wellbeing walk group around the stunning Bristol Harbourside, Emily and I teamed up with some new friends at the LGBTQ+ Peer Support workshop.

During the workshop we tasked ourselves with forming a campaign to tackle heteronormativity in services in just 5 minutes. Which in hindsight, was quite ambitious, but we gave it a good go! It was also a great chance to make some good contacts in light of some ongoing development work we have been doing with Trans Oxford (link) and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

After the workshops it was time for the magician. But with a rush-hour bus ride across the city to the train station looming, we decided to make ourselves vanish before the magician could.

The bus and train journey back to Oxford allowed for some reflection on an incredibly interesting, thought provoking and inspiring day. The only regret was that we didn’t have time to go to the planetarium!

I am personally taking away from Peerfest a rejuvenated commitment to Peer Support and an even more solid belief that the culture of mutual support and empowerment amongst peers is a vital component in living with, and recovery from a problem with our mental health.” Nick

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