Just back from the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights UK ‘Ripples of Hope‘ conference in Manchester, a stepping stone to the Ripples of Hope Festival next year. Put together by a great team, led by Dennis Marcus.
The evening before the event, Wednesday, 20 or so of us were hosted by ASK Italian CEO Chris Holmes – who I plan to meet shortly back in London. I had walked across to the restaurant in the company of the extraordinary Kerry Kennedy, seventh child of Bobbie Kennedy, a long-time hero of mine. The seventh child of a seventh child, I discover.
(I saw him once in the late 1960s, as I travelled to London on a train from Kingham, in the Cotswolds. I imagine he had been to, or through, the U.S. air base at Brize Norton.)
Then had the great privilege of sitting next to Kerry during the meal, alongside Eva Bishop (see below) and Kim Polman of Reboot the Future (ditto). A wonderful, multi-way conversation, then walked back to the hotel with Kim.
The next morning, our opening panel session was introduced by Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley. I kicked off with a 20-minutes presentation on the 2020s as “The Exponential Decade.”
Then I invited the panellists onto stage at the wonderful Home theatre, working to ensure that our speakers didn’t club themselves senseless on a low-hanging ceiling on. the stairs up to the stage. Our 90-minute session featured, in alphabetical order of surname:
Eva Bishop of 53 Degrees Capital
Gina Miller of SCM Direct – and hugely influential anti-Brexit campaigner
Ian Stuart, CEO of HSBC UK
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the first female Prime Minister of Denmark
The session, including an extended and lively interchange with the audience, was enormously well received. I may have chaired, but the truth is that the panel developed a life of its own.
Afterwards I could relax, attending two workshops led by Rosa Sommer Martin and Eric Levine, both of Leaders Quest. Great catch-up with (Lord) Michael Hastings and others later in the evening, before the final plenary session began.
The evening event was kicked off by Kerry – and included an extraordinary series of delights and horrors. Among others, on the upside, I was blown away by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and by Jude Kelly, who is leading the charge in the build-up to the 2021 Festival.
Was also thrilled to hear a reading of poems by Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate. He began with the wonderful In Praise of Air, then moved on to the intensely moving Black Roses, in memory of the murdered goth Sophie Lancaster.
But, at least for me, the most moving session of the evening came when Dennis interviewed Illuminée Nganemariya, a survivor the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. An intense mixture of unimaginable brutalities, countered by the remarkable story of an extraordinary woman.
I talked to Illuminée afterwards, and her co-author Paul Dickson, bought a copy of their book Miracle In Kigali, and read it in its entirety on the train back to London this morning. The worst – and the best – of humankind.
And overarching it all, the memory and legacy of Bobbie Kennedy. A timely reminder of what true leadership – and true courage – looks like.