Meet Alice Reeves, an extraordinary woman with an alternative idea to bring people together to fight loneliness with inclusion: BelongCon is a conference about community, acceptance and belonging. Alice is the founder of BelongCon and also runs a social media and content marketing consultancy, ‘The Joyful Web’.
What you need to know…
BelongCon takes place on the 28th of March in Brighton, UK and ultimately aims to inspire all those who attend to make a positive difference to the world. A diverse range of inspirational speakers will cover a variety of subjects, including campaigning, combating homelessness, breaking out of your bubble, building communities, and self-expression.
According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain is the ‘capital of loneliness’ and in the face of current political events, growing numbers of people are reporting feelings of powerlessness and despair. Its people like Alice, and the speakers attending BelongCon who are breaking down barriers with positive and productive ideas.
Attending the event are a range of speakers including Natalie Lloyd and Sophia Hill, who will tell the story of their “speed friendships” experiment, Manner, which brings people together through food. As well as burlesque artist Vanessa Barrett – aka CocoDeVille – on self-expression, and Martin Rowsell on founding the charity Postcards for Peace.
ALT-MU sub-editor Bex, caught up with Alice to chat about the Launch of BelongCon and why events such as these are not only needed, but essential…
Hi Alice, thanks for chatting with us! Firstly, what inspired you to create such a positive movement?
Over the last year, it feels like there’s been a big shift in peoples’ feelings about the world around them. For a long time it really felt that we were being progressive and moving forward in terms of becoming a more diverse, accepting society.
Now, given various events over the last year – particularly Brexit, Trump’s election, and debates around trans rights – It does feel like we’re taking a load of steps backwards. There are a lot of people – myself included – who genuinely felt safe within the echo chamber of our Facebook feeds before these events rocked our worlds.
All of a sudden, usually upbeat people were feeling depressed, disconnected, and hopeless and I kept wishing someone would do something to show us that it would be OK if we all stood together, stood up for what we believe in, and publicly spoke out about the importance of communities for creating change that moves towards a wholly accepting world.
I’ve felt breaks in belonging throughout my life which have left me feeling lonely, anxious and depressed, yet what’s saved me every time is finding communities of people with shared experiences and passions which exist to support each other. That’s why BelongCon is happening, because I believe we can create a world in which everyone feels like they belong – we just all have to be in on it. My driving force is the belief that we can create a world in which nobody feels like they’re disconnected and alone.
Is BelongCon aimed at anyone in particular?
BelongCon is for absolutely everyone. It’s for everyone who’s out there in the world making a difference already. It’s for people who want to make a difference but feel like they have no idea where to start. It’s for people who want to, but don’t believe they can make a difference. The aim of the event is that everyone leaves feeling inspired, empowered, and connected with the belief that we can create a world that works for everyone.
Have you faced any major obstacles or setbacks in the setting up for the event, if so how have you dealt with them?
We haven’t had any setbacks or obstacles (touch wood!) In fact, I’ve been blown away by people’s support for the event. We’ve partnered up with some fantastic organisations and groups who share the same vision including Brighton Digital Women, The People Who Share, and We Spring Forward. We also were endorsed by TEDxBrighton which was amazing! I didn’t expect the first event to sell out a month in advance, which is why we’re already planning another event for the summer and a bigger conference in the autumn.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’m really looking forward to this event, the support and interest has surpassed my expectations by miles. Everyday I think about how lucky I am to live in a city as open-minded and accepting as Brighton. Please do show your support by following us on social media, sharing updates from the night, and keep an eye out for details of the next BelongCon events!
And finally…How can people get involved?
BelongCon Brighton is now sold out and has a fabulous team of volunteers for the first event but people can still get involved on social media. Follow @Belongcon on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We’ll be live-tweeting the event using the #BelongCon hashtag and live streaming some of the talks on Facebook too – so anyone who didn’t manage to get a ticket can tune in. We’d love to see BelongCon grow outside of Brighton, so if anyone wants to organise an event in their town or city I would love them to get in touch!
Whilst this is the first event of its kind, ALT-MU and the BelongCon team hope that further BelongCon events will take place regularly – not just in Brighton, but spreading around the country, and to cities around the world in order to spread the message of importance, inclusion and celebration of difference.
Watch this space for more information about further events in the future. We look forward to a happier, more inclusive future for everyone!
Interview by Bex Cole
Vanessa Barrett photography by Eddie Adams