The weather. It’s always a talking point. Maybe its because its something that the whole world has in common. Or maybe its because its an easy topic to start with if you want to break the ice and start a conversation with a stranger. It’s always going to be there, the weather. Good, bad, exciting or indifferent. It’s a talking point.
So it’s not really a surprise that the weather was the first thing that occurred to me as being a great talking point when I attended Focallocal’s “Give a Bubble” event in Amsterdam one windy afternoon in June 2015.
Focallocal is an organization set up with a goal of bringing communities together and uniting the people that make up a community. Andy, the chief executive of Focallocal says “Focallocal is about bringing people together to suggest their own ideas to make their local community a friendlier, safer, more connected place” and so, when I received an invite to the “Give a bubble event” in Amsterdam, there was no way I could turn that invite down. Who doesn’t want to feel more connected to the community they live in?
The Amsterdam version of this event was held in Dam Square on the 13th of June- A Windy Saturday. Across the world, other cities held the same event, in different locations. What I don’t know, is how windy the other cities events were… what I do know, is that all of the other cities had the same goal: to give the gift of bubbles.
As I arrived to the Amsterdam event, I was initially awe-struck. As I walked through the main shopping street into Dam square I could see the palace glistening in the sunlight and better yet, I could see hundreds of bubbles floating into the sky with no obvious source- these bubbles- these little orbs of glittery rainbow cleansing soapy goodness were coming from everywhere- or nowhere? It really wasn’t obvious where they were coming from. What was obvious was the joy they were bringing. After the initial shock at the amount of bubbles passed, I stopped staring into the sky of bubbles and started looking at people’s faces. Old, young, Dutch, foreign, stag weekends, tourists… all of the faces were smiling. People were looking towards the sky, elbowing their friends, partners, children, nearest stranger and pointing at the sky. It was quite simply, a magical few moments when I stepped into Dam Square. Almost in slow motion I felt a wash of happiness pass over me.
It wasn’t long before I could no longer contain my excitement and I needed to join in. I needed to blow bubbles with strangers and get even more strangers to join in. I had come to the event well prepared. As a lover of bubbles, I had brought with me my trusty bubble gun and was also armed with a backpack full of different shaped and sized bubble pots. So off I went blowing bubbles.
What surprised me the most, was the very quick realization that blowing bubbles alone is really not as much fun as giving bubbles, or sharing the bubble blowing experience. I saw groups of tourists who had just wandered into Dam Square without bubbles, looking up at the sky and I wanted them to be part of it. I wanted them to feel the love that this city- my city- has to offer. Before long I was handing out my pots of bubbles to anyone I saw who didn’t have some. I had a moment of pure joy when I turned round from blowing bubbles to see a Chinese tourist I had given a pot of bubbles to spinning wildly in a circle, entwining herself into a spiral of bubbles. Next to her were a group of grown men, all involved in trying to blow giant bubbles, laughing, smiling and really getting into the spirit of giving bubbles. Strangers talking to each other, asking each other what was going on and smiling at the sky. I didn’t see any frowns, I didn’t see any complaints. I just saw my city smiling.
This is exactly what Focallocal is about and what they aim to achieve with their events. They arrange small events, large events and run various small projects with the aim of making the world a better place to live in.
After the event of giving bubbles I quizzed the organisers about why they would create such an event. Henny Trippe, who organized the event in Amsterdam has been a long-term giver of bubbles and has experienced often, the joy that a small pot of soap and a plastic loop can bring. Giving bubbles is not a once in a lifetime opportunity; it can be done at any time. Both Henny and Andy are known for carrying bubbles around with them and handing them over to people who either try to remain strangers, or who need some bubbles in their life. On a rainy day in Amsterdam Henny can often be found handing bubbles to people who sail past frowning on their boats, encouraging people to release their inner child and remember the feelings of happiness so often expressed by children but repressed into adulthood.
Andy uses bubbles as a tool to get strangers to talk to each other. People who would otherwise ignore each other or remain within their social group. Andy believes “getting communities to talk to each other and come to understand other points of view alien to their self-assigned social group, would heal a lot of the ills of the world” and having experienced first hand the unity provided by such a simple thing- bubbles- I would hasten to agree. Bubbles are such a simple, and yet effective way of getting people to unite, to share something and to smile. If you would like to get involved with a Focallocal event, you can too! For more information go to visit the Movement at www.focallocal.org
Start a bubbleution. Make happiness orbs not war! Whatever you do, get involved, be part of your community, even if all you can give is a smile or a conversation. Its your community too.
Thank you for Reading,