At Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, Stamford Street, London SE1 for the inaugural national meeting of the English Regions Equalities Network (EREN). The theme of the day is "Delivering Equalities in the English Region". Dee Martin, Chief Exec of Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL) and Chair of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP), is Co-Chair of EREN. She, Laura Horton (Project Manager of REDP) and I travel down from Leicester together by train, carrying our display material and give-aways. Laura and I are presenting a workshop together after lunch on the creation of our regional partnership.
When it comes to our turn, we are delivering to a group of about fifteen (a decent enough number, considering there are other workshops going on at the same time). We're out front, at the speakers' table, being introeduced by the fellow chairing the session and I'm about to step up to the podium and start. Laura and I have gone over the slide presentation, to try and share out the speaking duties fairly equally. I'm doing the first few slides, then Laura for one, then me again, then Laura does the last few. Just as I step forward to the mike, Laura catches my eye, holds up the printout of the presentation and mouths something like, "I've changed it". I don't know what she's trying to say, and can't see what changes she might have made.
I open up with acknowledging Leicester's reputation as a city rich in diversity, with great culutral variety. It has the largest celebration of Divali outside India; it's Caribbean Carnival is the biggest after the Notting Hill Carnival; right now, the city is celebrating Holi. But I tell attendees that my favourite cultural event in Leicester's calendar is its Comedy Festival, which has only just been and gone. In tribute to that festival, I invite our audience to think of Laura and me as an unexpected and under-rehearsed double act: Morecambe and Hardy, perhaps; or Laurel and Mortimer. I'm playing for time here, hoping that Laura will give me more signals so I can know what I'm supposed to be doing. But she probably thinks she's made herself clear enough and looks on serenely.
What I believe Laura has intimated to me is that instead of us alternating which slides we talk to, we'll do half of the whole set each - me first, then her. So I get to round about halfway and then say, "And now my colleague, Laura Horton, will take you to the end of this presentation." Laura gives me a look that says, "Wha'?" and her first words are, "I'm sorry, but George is a little bit misguided there". Well, if ever words sounded like they'd fit on my headstone ... I'm going to put Laura in charge of my epitaph.
In terms of our telepathy, we're not quite on the same wavelength for this presentation. We both agree that it's not the best we've ever done, but then again, it's the first time we've presented one jointly like this. And you know what? It didn't really matter. As professionals, we always can beat ourselves up about how we've done, after the presentation's finished. But it's self-defeating to be a perfectionist. We did our spot with humility, humanity and a sense of humour (all of which can be in short supply at this kind of event), and it was injected with verve, vivacity and vitality! More power to us ...
Find out more about the English Regions Equality Network (EREN):