Report – Opening Keynote: Nadiya Hussain
Tonight at Sheffield City Hall, CMC Advisory Chair, Sue Nott, welcomed the huge gathering of CMC delegates and asked us all to reflect upon what it means to be ‘limitless’- the theme for CMC 2019.
With an outstanding address made by Changemaker Noga Levy-Rapoport, the 17-year-old student challenged the audience to eschew a diplomatic approach in addressing climate change in children’s media. Her call to action asked that we all create much needed and vital content, across all platforms- from YouTube, to ‘Insta’-stories as well as in publishing and conventional TV programming. She notes that there is a ‘global call for children to become the leaders of today’, so why not start with their media?
- Create the space for children to talk about their mental health.
- Don’t wish away diversity, celebrate it.
- ‘Elbow’s Out!’
In what felt like more of a familiar chat amongst two friends, than an interview on stage in front of a poised audience – Leah Boleto introduced Nadyia Hussain, by beginning with her GBBO win in 2015. Nadiya’s humorous confession of changing all the clocks in her house so that she could put her time-unaware children to bed at 5.30pm instead of 7pm, and then practise baking in the kitchen until the small hours of the morning, put a smile on everyone’s face. Nadiya reflects that, ‘it was actually my husband who filled out my application to ‘Bakeoff’ as a way to help me manage my anxiety’ – the topic of her forthcoming debut children’s picture book ‘My Monster and Me’.
She spoke candidly about her own anxiety, and the fact that she has, ‘always called my anxiety “my monster… There are moments when it’s consuming me; it’s so big in my face and I can’t look away. Other moments it taps me on the shoulder. Other moments I stick it in my pocket.” The book is a way, she believes, to create a space for conversation between children and adults about mental health. Nadiya is clear that she sees no point in having a platform if she doesn’t use it to do something good.
Leah Boleto continued the conversation asking Hussain about diversity, and whether or not media diversity might be classified as a trend? Hussain responded, “people look at mental health and call it a trend. They might be right. But if we call it a trend we’re wishing it away”. She went on to discuss the fact that we shouldn’t “label the little diversity we do have a trend, instead celebrate it – even if in the smallest amount.” Hussain drew upon her own personal approach to diversity in media from when she did the Hajj. When pilgrims who value their personal space in the huge crowds are told to Keep your elbows out”. She explained she tells her children, metaphorically, “If you want your space, keep your elbows out”.
As a young, British-Bangladeshi, muslim woman, Nadiya said she attends many festivals and events where she is sometimes the only person from her community and of her colour – something that can be isolating at times and cause her self-confessed imposter syndrome to flare. However, she wants to be the change that she teaches her children to be; so she takes a break to breathe and comes back with her elbows out, to create and celebrate her space.