A year at Headway in the words of our community

By Elisa
Posted: 15/01/2024

Last year, to announce our 25th Birthday anniversary programme, we shared a poem from our member and artist Billy Mann, which inspired an artwork by artist Sam Jevon:

Headway is big and generous and full of love. Its heart beats strongest when its people do their daily dance to all its sounds. Its smells never fail to entice, its rhythms guide us powerfully through every step we take” – Billy, member and Submit to Love artist

We think the essence of our community is beautifully captured in this piece, and invited a member, staff, volunteer, and trustee to share their experiences of the past year in the Headway community.


Sam Jevon and Billy Mann, Headway is Big and Generous and Full of Love


Mike Poole has been a Headway East London member since 2016. Before his brain injury, he was an art director, and he is now a prolific artist at Submit to Love. Alice Kershberg is a Trustee at Headway and Neurotrauma Clinical Nurse Specialist at Royal London Hospital. She supports the team delivering our Better Together project and spoke at our brain injury Conference in October 2023. Firoza Choudhury has been a member of Headway since 2008 and in 2023 joined the staff team as the Peer Researcher for our Heritage Project. She is a fantastic artist and public speaker. Ilaria Marchetti is a Community Support Worker and recently started supporting our Wednesday Evening Service. Her role across different services makes her a key reference point for many of our members. After joining our community as a volunteer, Eliza Stone recently became part of the staff team as a Day Service Coordinator. She brings plenty of new ideas to the team and is working on a new project to share our delicious recipes (watch this space!)


Q1. If Headway was a song, what would it be?

Christmas Week in our main space in Haggerston

Mike: “I wanna celebrate another day of living”. It’s what Headway does, it makes it feel good to be alive.

Alice: “Celebration”, by Kool and the Gang. The following lyrics really just shout Headway: ‘There’s a party going on right here. A celebration to last throughout the years”. Hopefully our celebration will last for the next 25 years and beyond.

Firoza: “Express yourself” by Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – for me this song encapsulates the feeling of Headway. It is fun and positive, just like Headway, and we are encouraged to be who you are without judgement and to open up and share whatever we like. We do a lot of expressing ourselves with words, movement and art.

Ilaria: Any Christmas song! Every year we organise an amazing Christmas week and this year we celebrated with our new evening service members for the first time with a Christmas quiz and a delicious roast for dinner

Eliza: Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac. The song came on speaker in the kitchen when I had just started working in my new role of coordinator, and one of our volunteers, Adrian, said: “Don’t you think this summarises Headway?” He was right! With its positive and encouraging message about the possibility of a better tomorrow, it’s a great song for Headway.


Q2. If Headway was a smell, what would it be?

Our Spice Mix workshop at the Barbican in Summer 2023

Mike: Barbecue. It’s an entertaining and tempting smell and reminds me of gatherings with friends.

Alice: A collection of spices. There are always the most amazing, comforting smells coming from the kitchen.

Firoza: Spring flowers, as there’s always something new to discover. Or Aromatic herbs and spices, representing our diverse and ‘differently various’ community, to quote late member Quentin.

Ilaria: The smell of the lemons, bitter and sweet. It reminds me of Headway because everyday members and staff bring in their contagious energy, but I am also aware of the challenges and the suffering that people face because of the brain injury.

Eliza: Freshly baked apple crumble. I often work in the kitchen on Wednesday and a group of members and staff prepare cakes in the main space. Everyone is so chuffed when we serve dessert after lunch.


Q3. If Headway was a feeling, what would it be?

Ilaria and member Yoki at Not Just a Conference, October 2023

Mike: It would be hope because Headway is a place of opportunity.

Alice: HOPE, HOPE and more HOPE. It embodies thriving after brain injury and fosters hope in all that come through its doors.

Firoza: Warmth and love ❤️

Ilaria: Confidence and self-esteem. For example, I think about members like Jesus and Yoki, who I work with through the support work service, and I see how much they enjoy being at Headway and how keen they are to try new activities and take on new projects. Headway helps them to feel valued and recognised, not only by their fellow members, but also by the wider society, whether is for an exhibition, a talk or a supper club.

Eliza: An infectious belly laugh. Just by walking into the Headway main space, you can find someone laughing or trying to make someone else smile. Even on a quiet day, the sound of somebody bursting into a loud laughter will make you happy.


Q4. What steps has Headway helped you to take in 2023?

Artist Mike Poole in The Curve gallery of the Barbican

Mike: Headway made me realise I am not useless. This year I have been involved in the Steering Group that co-produced the differently various exhibition at the Barbican, which was a success. It made me feel like I can contribute, which is something I had not done in a long time and I missed it.

Alice: Headway has continued to help me support those affected by brain injury. It also helped me gain a better understanding of co-production when I worked with the amazing steering group on the October conference.

Firoza: Create an exhibition at the Barbican Curve with fellow Headway members and get a job as Peer Researcher for the Heritage Project.

Ilaria: Headway helped me to push my boundaries, to step out my comfort zone and try something new. I learnt how to support members during cover sessions, which means meeting them for the first time and having to learn quickly what they need and how to establish a connection with them. I also took on a new role as service coordinator for the evening service!

Eliza: This year I went from a volunteer to a coordinator, a mighty step! It’s been great to get to know members well, listening to their stories, learning what they like (and dislike!). It takes time to build fondness for one another, but it’s very rewarding.


Q5. What is one thing you love about Headway?

Our member Paul at our 25th Birthday Party

Mike: Lunch! And the art studio. I was an artist before my brain injury, but I never painted. Now I paint all the time when I am in the studio. I am here twice a week every week and I never get bored.

Alice: This is hard, there is definitely more than one thing…I would say its sense of belonging. When I visit everyone makes me feel welcome and a member of the Headway East London.

Firoza: The passion it has to make people’s lives better and feel part of a family!

Ilaria: what I love about Headway is the friendly and relaxed environment, that make you feel comfortable. I love how Headway makes its members feel safe and accepted. At the end of a session members often thank me for being there for them, and it’s great to see how they much they appreciate what could look like a small gesture, like crossing the street together, which are actually very important and meaningful for them.

Eliza: I particularly love mornings at Headway, the greetings and the smiles, the way the room fills up with natter and chatter. It’s impossible to go from one side of the room to the other without being stopped multiple times. It’s a great way to start the day.

Checkout other blog posts!

Posted: 16/04/2024

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