Just shy of a fortnight ago, I found myself in Totnes, a small town in Devon. As a native Londoner, I came unprepared for two things: the wonderfully friendly people and the godforsaken hills. What I did come prepared for though, was the great goings-on that were happening that weekend, otherwise known as Bodykind Festival. That plus a cream tea, obviously.
Created by one woman machine Dinah Gibbons, Bodykind was born to celebrate body acceptance and self love in a world that doesn't care much for either. Spanning from Friday through til Sunday with a core event on Saturday, Bodykind was sprinkled with incredible workshops, talks, and other entertaining tidbits that people could attend that would leave them feeling happy, inspired, pensive, even overwhelmed in places. But this didn't just happen overnight.
Six months before, in that very same town, Dinah held a workshop that posed a simple question: how could we feel more comfortable in our own skin? The workshop was held in the form of a free drop-in, where people could chat about their bodies and enjoy some cake. Enthusiastically received, Dinah knew that there was more to come. 'We just put the question out there... and watched with awe at what came bouncing back,' she told The Unedit.
This wasn't just an idea that came out of nowhere though. With her background in midwifery, Dinah had noticed certain things during her career when it came to the way women view their bodies. 'I was alarmed by [...] a narrative of discontent and dissatisfaction of the body, even after it had performed miracles,' she said, adding that the 'endemic fats within the medical establishment' was something that also really troubled her. With that, she ended up working alongside Susie Orbach, running workshops for midwives and student midwives, where they learnt how to 'address body image issues and disordered eating'.
When it came to working to put together an event so jam-packed, the core principles used to keep Bodykind headed in the right direction were, according to Dinah, as follows:
'1. Promoting inclusivity.
2. Celebrating diversity.
3. Eliminating and challenging toxic non-acceptance.
4. Meeting fear and shame with sensitivity and kindness.'
The core event featured talks from Harnaam Kaur and Megan Crabbe, a.k.a. Bodyposipanda, speaking out about finding how to love yourself and how society fears fat respectively. Stand up beat poet Chris Powell shared some gems to an audience on the Friday evening, followed by feminist stand up comedian Glory Pearl and a strut masterclass by School of Strut.
Despite running over three days, it didn't take long for Dinah to know that Bodykind was the right thing to do. 'Already by 10am on the Friday, I knew it was all worth it,' she said. The festival was kept as low-cost as possible, and was funded with the help of a grant from a local organisation and a small legacy that Dinah's late once-anorexic mother had left her. Looking back on Bodykind Festival, Dinah added how the event 'made itself'. 'The right people came, for no material benefit to themselves. How could it not be beautiful when it was made from pure generosity and open hearts?'
One festival-goer, L from Brighton said: '...an actual life-changing weekend... I've become aware there's a lot of woman of such fearsome power locked away inside my whole life and she's not going to stay locked up much longer.' J from Plymouth also added that Bodykind 'is not just for women, blokes like me need to hear this, too.'
It's so important that these kinds of events take place within communities to open up the conversations surrounding body image, self acceptance and finding peace with yourself as you are. Excitingly, due to the amazing response to this year's Bodykind Festival, dates have already been set for 2018... October 12th-14th, people. Mark your calendars!