A few days ago, I was fortunate enough to receive my official photograph with David Cameron, the British Prime Minister. And duly, like most of my generation does these days, I blasted it all over my Facebook and Twitter. Inevitably, people started to ask me questions about how I had managed to find my feet at the doorstep of Downing Street. And even more inevitably, here is the story.
It started months and months earlier with a casual meeting with a very impressive man called Dean Atta (Google him – he’s an amazing poet) who invited me to do some work with the Spirit of London Awards. I had long admired the organization for promoting young people and the positive things they do against the tidal wave of negative news that we face every day. It started off with a few small design jobs, before I managed to get the opportunity to design the official flyers for the event that was then promoted in the biggest young magazine in the UK, Live Magazine.
And then I got a very interesting phone call from the Damilola Taylor Trust, who invited me to their annual reception at Downing Street where Dave would be popping in. At first, it was a bit of a shock. And then I thought that it must have been destiny to cap off a fantastic year. Then it got even more interesting. I was also invited on the same day to go to Parliament, to watch Cameron give a speech on the Leveson Enquiry as it was the day after the report was issued. I was going to be at a Parliamentary Lobby anyway for the campaign I am leading on (#presschange4youth) to hear the conclusion of the argument.
So those 6 hours were pretty surreal. Jumping out of my Economics lesson and rushing all the way to the Commons. Then being confronted by some pretty aggressive protestors – many of them covered head to toe in tin foil (don’t ask…). Getting smoothly through security and sitting in a very lavish room and listen to Lord Leveson gives his announcement live. By this point I had to push my way out again and try to get into the visitor section of the chamber to hear Cameron speak. Couldn’t get in and so had to watch the speech on a big TV in another lavish room (lots of nicely decorated rooms in Parliament!) And then I walked out, walked down Whitehall and only a few police man stood between me and that famous door.
Once I got in, it was extremely humbling. To see that shiny door(which the idiotic policeman wouldn’t let me take a picture with), and walk over the threshold is one of those moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life. There are not many moments in life when you feel like you have made it, but that was definitely one of them. I had the chance to mingle with some extremely important people. Meeting Tasha Danvers, the British Olympic Athlete, and Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola Taylor were amongst the highlights. It took me a little time to drink in the surroundings, and then it was announced that the Prime Minister would be here any minute. I straightened my tie and walked to the front of the queue. No one was going to stop me.
In truth, he was an extremely kind and funny man. We chatted about Leveson and joked about his own performance at the Commons a few short hours earlier. It must have only been for a minute or two, but it felt like a lot longer. And he was a lot taller than I thought he would be. But I met him. And the Queen. All in 2012. And it was all caught on a very good camera. It is difficult to describe these memories as they seem to be etched in your brain, but you can’t convey how momentous that occasion was. It was simply surreal.
The most frequent question that I have been asked is how I possibly managed to wangle that? Honestly, it seemed to just fall in to my lap and so it was all the more fantastic. I believe that we are all given these opportunities in life even if we don’t see them, but they come up and give us the choice ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This particular triumph is about 20 ‘yes’ decisions down the line and I have seen the fruits of all that effort now. You must be prepared to take risks. To put yourself out there. But most importantly to tirelessly make the effort so that you can appreciate life’s little victories. I think the next stop is the White House. Watch out Barry, I am coming to getchya!