How can we make sure compassion is embedded in our lives, institutions and communities?
In a week-long festival run by the University of Exeter this November, renowned experts will address this question by exploring compassion in its broadest sense, through art, yoga, music, photography, therapy, spiritualism, guided nature walks and much more.
The Festival of Compassion, which runs from 19-28 November and coincides with the celebration of World of Compassion Day, is open to all and will feature free activities online, on campus, in Exeter itself and at the University’s Penryn campus.
It will bring together the learning community, artists, campaigners and activists working in a number of fields who will present their ideas on compassion while offering suggestions on how to implement compassion in our lives.
There will be a roundtable discussion with psychologists Dr Theo Gilbert, Dr Kathryn Waddington, Professor Louise Lawrence and Reverend Professor Keith Magee that will explore how we go about moving away from a stress and competition-based university environment towards more caring and compassionate campuses.
Reverend Magee will also be delivering a public lecture on ‘compassionate cities’ in Exeter Cathedral.
Other speakers at the festival include the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Lisa Roberts, ‘the man who plays French horn with his toes’ Felix Klieser, and the researcher, teacher and trainer Liz Lord, who will be talking about bringing mindfulness to education.
There will be music from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, mindfulness sessions, a wellbeing campervan and compassionate café as the festival explores its core themes of compassion in relation to wellbeing and mental health, ageing, disease and death, education, refugees and violence, cities, playfulness and acts of kindness.
Other events will look at compassion through poetry and photography and there will be talks from students, and local schools will also be taking part, while a ‘tree of compassion’ will display messages of kindness on its leaves.
The festival is described as a ‘bottom up initiative’ but will be officially opened on 22 November by the University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Lisa Roberts.
It follows on from other initiatives at the University including this summer’s KinderExeter Festival and The Playful University education incubator.
Dr Maarten Koeners is a Senior Lecturer at the College of Medicine and Health and one of the organisers behind the Festival of Compassion.
He said: “Making the Festival of Compassion a reality has been a humbling experience and a shared adventure in which have attempted to create something that will make others feel better at a time when the value of compassion to our lives, institutions, and communities has arguably never been greater.
“An act of compassion starts when you can truly see and accept the nature and causes of suffering.
“The challenge, I believe, is to acquire the awareness, skill and freedom to develop and foster abilities that can help you to be and act compassionately – be that for ourselves, for others, an organisation or a community.
“At the Festival we will explore how we can promote and foster a community where doing something that makes others feel better is celebrated. It’s going to be a lot of fun and everyone is welcome so come and join us!”
The Festival of Compassion runs from 19-28 November. See here for updates and the full programme as it develops.
And there is still time to submit your own ideas for sessions and activities that you wish to be part of the festival. See here for more information.