The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which was set up by Jo before she died, worked with 13 charities and businesses, throughout 2017, to examine the issue of loneliness and stimulate debate about the issue. It was chaired by Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP and in December they published their findings and recommendations in this report
Meg lived on the streets of Oxford for 6 years after her life fell apart, following the birth of her stillborn son. She is now rebuilding her life and is being helped and supported in this, by volunteer John. John applied to be a volunteer driver through the Ami website. He was matched with Meg who suffers from agoraphobia and epilepsy and finds it difficult to get out and about. They have met regularly for almost a year. John particularly enjoys helping Meg to walk her two dogs. Now it is easier for Meg to get out of the house because she has someone to accompany her and provide some transport. As a result, her confidence has grown and she now attends a weekly “Chat Stop” in Oxford with Lois. She travels into Oxford by bus and is able to make her way independently to the café.
Our Big Day Out
Hence a trip to London was a very BIG deal for Meg. The BBC kindly made it all doable by offering to send a car for us. We were picked up at 06.30 and it was still dark as we left Oxford en route for Broadcasting House in London. As we drove, we chatted about what Meg might say during her interview. Our taxi driver was listening and soon he too opened up about the loneliness he had experienced. It was a reminder of just how widespread the problem is. The traffic along the Westway was crawling and we worried we might not make it on time. But we arrived just before 09.00. After signing in and having our bags scanned we were escorted through the building, past the famous BBC newsroom and down to the Green Room for the Victoria Derbyshire Show. Today it was being hosted by Tina Daheley
In the Green Room
We chatted to the other guests on the show and watched them as they took their turn in the studio. Every 15 minutes another topic is introduced and each one has several guests lined up in the Green Room. So it was very busy with people constantly coming and going. We were due on at 09.45. At 09.30 we were escorted into the studio and miked up. The studio was enormous and consisted of 2 very similar sets. As one interview is taking place live on one set, the interviewees for the next slot are seated and prepped on the other set. Tina Daheley switched seamlessly between different topics. From interviewing people about Cystic Fibrosis, to a live broadcast outside parliament. Suddenly, she was introducing Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy in Leeds and we were live on TV.
Live on TV
Meg was a star. She spoke eloquently, bravely and movingly about her experiences on live TV. I was full of admiration for her. By being so open about her own experiences, she is helping to break down the stigma of loneliness. This stigma prevents many people from seeking help and instead they continue to suffer in silence. You can see a little of Meg’s interview below.
A heartbreaking account of the dangers of loneliness.
Meg said her busy life changed massively after her son was stillborn, leading to almost six years living on the streets.
— Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) December 15, 2017
It was all over in a flash and very soon we were being escorted off the set and back to the Green Room. There we met the next group of interviewees on the sofa. They were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Anton du Bec for an item about the upcoming Strictly Come Dancing Final. We thought we might get to meet him, but our taxi arrived too soon, much to Meg’s disappointment.
Back in the taxi, Meg and I laughed all the way home, re-living every detail of our adventure. We got back to Oxford, exhausted, at around 12.30. The whole thing had taken around 6 hours, for just over 10 minutes on TV! not something you’d want to do everyday. But it was a lot of fun and we were pleased to have helped to publicise the work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.