“When you go to the House of Commons”, said my friend Lins, “make sure you look up. It’s definitely a place for looking up.”

And how right she was. Having been invited to attend Smart Works Reading’s 4th birthday celebrations in the Churchill Room (don’t you know), I walked into Westminster Hall and was immediately wowed. Beautiful ceilings, priceless artworks and lots of statues of dead white dudes who carved out the beginnings of our democracy. It was an incredible opportunity to walk into a place where politics really happens. And to be frisked by a member of the security staff after going through the airport-style scanner.

I saw stained glass windows, yet more statues and a bronze of Winston Churchill’s head. But what was more impressive than that was the people gathered in the room:

  • The women who form the Smart Works Reading board and contribute their time and expertise on top of their full-time jobs.
  • Sarah Burns, Chair of the charity and now an MBE thanks to her incredible efforts to build something that is having a large and lasting impact in the Thames Valley.
  • Clare who overcame some serious nerves to speak with grace and humour about how Asperger’s impacts her life and how the Smart Works volunteers have helped her.
  • Aman who described how Smart Works gave her clothes, “that suited me, not just fitted me”, before going on to say how the company she now works for has chosen Smart Works Reading as its charity of the year.

There was also the marketing director who challenges the views of other families in her village: “What do you mean you earn more than your husband?”, the magazine founder who’s planning a series of talks that promise some very exciting conversations and the lawyer who I fully intend to help set up an anarchic internet radio station.

There were more, for sure, and everyone in the room gave everyone else something to think about, to move them and to inspire them. We all had someone to look up to.

I’m a proud supporter of Smart Works Reading, and provide compering and stand-up for their events (not this one though – far too risky for me to be ‘Lording it up’ in the Commons :D). To find out how you can support them, visit https://smartworks.org.uk/reading-smart-works/

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