Travelling to the Middle East to share my story

Being invited by the Middle East Youth Expo to present in Abu Dhabi was an honour which I did not believe could be true. With an open mind and a hopeful heart, I travelled with the wish to share the magic of creation, to teach how mental health is not a dead-end. 

Upon travelling to Abu Dhabi, I was conscious of portraying the vitality I feel in life, despite my own personal struggles with crippling anxiety. Art and creativity, through Maison de Choup, is my outlet. This, I believe, can be an outlet for anyone. In presenting my workshop ‘Create from Within’, I strived to portray this.  

Although talks have become one of my central mediums, this experience presented a challenge, in that Abu Dhabi’s culture stands at odds with a central detail of my story. To mirror this, I was advised to eradicate any mention of drugs, but this felt unfitting. To re-focus the chronology of my journey, telling a story without technically telling the story, defeats the purpose. Not to mention, an incredible challenge of brain scrabble!   

Alongside this speech, I sat on two panel discussions: firstly, how fashion and the relationship between consumer and company can be responsible for our current society and, secondly, exploring our relationship between social media and mental health.

Today, we are experiencing a societal shift; we are slowly learning the value of open discussion. Mental health is gradually losing its binary and monochrome associations, and this is so valuable. In presenting to such a new audience and culture, however, I feared my receival: presenting alone with a language barrier is daunting. Despite the strength I find in telling my story, I felt vulnerable. 

But I was amazed; humbled; inspired; filled with hope. The reaction I received, the engagement from the young people within the Q&As and the enthusiasm and creativity with which they approached my workshop was awe-inspiring. To collaborate with such a fresh, unique audience was a privilege I will never forget.


It was standing in front of those people - teetering between nervousness and apprehension – that I realised the beauty of storytelling. Every one of us, weathered by our distinct interactions with life, shaped by our private voyage has something to share. Standing and telling my story showed me the beauty in sharing life with others.

This beauty shone onto my exploration of Abu Dhabi; I was exploring through the eyes of someone with a story to tell. Every moment became inspiring and I was blessed enough to experience them with some amazing people: Kyle Parsons; Mariah Idrissi; Taryn Hipwell; my sister Charlotte.

Immersed in the stunning architecture of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque I was struck by the juxtaposition we represented at that moment. Each of us driven by our unique purpose striving towards change had the power to help change the future, yet we were so greatly overpowered by our surroundings. Being such a comparatively small person in such a large spectacle highlights the power we have as humans when we work collectively. Standing with those amazing people I realised this. 

Enveloped by sand, standing in the dunes, watching the sunset: my Abu Dhabi experience was drawing to a close. Five figures, isolated and in total mercy to nature, felt symbolic. The suffering, the drugs, the anxiety, the OCD, the art, the fashion… all of these grains of experience create my story; all of the grains of sand create the desert. To be able to share these grains, to present my work and my journey in Abu Dhabi was surreal.

Looking into the future, I hope to use Maison de Choup to widen the seed of collaboration I planted in Abu Dhabi. Renewed by this opportunity, I strive to expect nothing, appreciate everything and never forget the power of the personal story. 

Photography © George David Hodgson
Written by Hannah Emery (University of East Anglia Student) from an interview with George.

1 comment

  • Fab and well written :)

    Geoff Rush

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