Anna Anderson talks to Wellbeing Magazine about Kindred and Togetherness Festival

Tell us about Kindred:

Kindred is an open house for co-working, community-based events, and exceptional food & drink in Hammersmith, London. We have a three floor, multi-use space for a multi-generational community; designed to provide a gathering place for connection-seeking Londoners. Kindred was designed to be reminiscent of that feeling when you step out of the cold and gather with others around a fire; sharing ideas, food and drink, and bringing your whole selves to the party, beyond what you do for work. 

What made you want to put on a Togetherness festival?

Kindred’s TogethernessFest marks Loneliness Awareness Week (June 12th – 18th), and offers a message close to our hearts; that human beings do better when they feel connected to each other. We believe that the sharp rise in reported loneliness comes from a place of people feeling like there are too many barriers to building the relationships they want, and we want to make that easier. Recent research says that 700,000 Londoners feel lonely ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’ – and we’re trying to provide an antidote. A week of events designed to bring people together, encourage connection and celebrate the IRL, is just the starting point for us.

    How important do you think the community is for mental health wellbeing?

    Community is really easily romanticised, especially as a back lash to the predominant focus on individuality and self-expression we’re experiencing at the moment. There’s a reason why every business and organisation talk about building community (whether they are or not). We know it’s lacking in our lives, because we feel more isolated than ever, and we long to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. The truth is, the institutions that have really championed a strong culture of community in the past (e.g. some religious or cultural organisations) can come at the cost of our own individuality, and can sometimes be only a step or two away from becoming oppressive, which is of course, not good for our mental wellbeing. 

    We need to seek more of a balance. We have more freedom than ever to express and be ourselves which is a wonderful thing. But in cutting ties and creating more personal freedoms, we’ve lost our roots, and that thing that connects us with others. A true sense of community in the modern era can be fairly hard to find as a result, because they take a lot of work to create and maintain, but this is what it should look like when it’s working well: 

      1. A group of people who share a similar set of values or view of the world.
      2. Somewhere where you as an individual are valued beyond what you do for work, or what can be extracted from you, (but a give and take relationship between members in a community is what can make it really fulfilling).
      3. Somewhere you can go, or something you engage with that is on a regular and repeated basis. Connections don’t last if they’re not nurtured over a period of time.

      When you’re part of this kind of community, you feel like you’re connected to something bigger than yourself, yet you feel seen and valued as an individual. This is incredibly important for human beings’ ability to survive and thrive, but sadly, often feels not easy to find.   

      How did you think up the idea for Snap & Chat | Kindred Coffee Social?

      From day one, we’ve championed the simple act of gathering for a coffee in the morning, sharing what you’re up to that day and what your goals are for the week (both personal and professional). We find it’s the simplest, yet most effective way to build connections between strangers. A lot of us have left the conventional office environment, where a coffee with colleagues was a normal, uncelebrated, yet often lovely part of the week. We wanted to recreate the opportunity to close the laptop, have a normal conversation with someone you might not otherwise talk to, and meet others within our community. It’s strangely powerful. We’ve had business deals, partnerships and life-long friendships form as a result of our coffee socials. Snap and Chat is a casual meet and greet, with other like-minded individuals. Very low stakes in terms of engagement, but high potential for connecting with someone new. Simple, yet effective.

      Have you ever experienced loneliness?

      Oh yes. It’s a fairly dull story, but probably familiar to many. I had just finished school and decided to travel to Boston, find a job and have a little time to reflect before starting university. Facebook was in full swing by then, so seeing friends post pictures of their much more exciting gap years, amazing parties at university, or all their new friends, while I was living in a city on my own was hard. I felt incredibly dull by comparison, and struggled to make new friends. It was like a fog had settled around me. Nothing dramatic, just a faded version of the kind of life I thought I should be having. I was embarrassed that I’d totally failed at having a wonderful year like everyone else seemed to be having. I was lonely, and ashamed to be, so of course said nothing. 

        What are your tips for others who might be reading this and feeling lonely?

        Loneliness is horrible because it makes us feel like we’re the problem. As a result, the shame of that stops us from asking for help. Vivek Murphy, the US Surgeon General is really vocal about this, and defines loneliness as the difference between the relationships we want and the relationships we have. We can feel surrounded by people constantly and even have relationships and friendships, and yet still feel like we’re lacking in some way. 

        The truth is, there’s a lot more understanding now that the design of our cities (and it seems the busier the city, the worse the loneliness problem) has made the problem worse. Cities are designed to be productive, money-making machines, but as a result, we’re losing a lot of our ‘third spaces’, the places we go to that aren’t anything to do with our homes or work (e.g. youth clubs, barbers, sports clubs, cafés, place of worship etc). Traditionally, these were the spaces where a sense of community would be felt strongly, but we don’t have as many of them as we used to. They do exist however, (Kindred being one of them), and my advice to anyone who feels lonely is to tackle it like a problem they want to solve. It takes commitment to find and engage with a community they feel aligned with. And it’s important to stick with it. Keep showing up, engage, and ask how you can take part. The connections will follow. 

          What other things do you offer at Kindred outside of the festival to support people and their mental well-being?

          We see our job at Kindred as offering a stronghold for anyone who wants it, for whether that’s somewhere relaxing to work or hang out in during the day, have the bigger conversations at our events, or let loose at one of our legendary parties. We’re proudly an open house, and allow people to engage with us as much or as little as they choose, with zero long term commitment required. Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that’s good for us, like knowing there’s a place you can go where you’ll be welcomed and looked after regardless of what you do or how much you’re spending. We’re not home, but we’re a home for many, and that feels like a good place to start. 


          For Loneliness Awareness Week (12th June), Kindred – the events, restaurant and co-working space in Hammersmith – is hosting its first ever TogethernessFest – 12th – 17th June.

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