Jamie Colston

Facilitator, Catalyst, Coach, Parent

"Jamie has vision, strong organising capabilities, and the energy to make things happen. He is a tireless advocate of young people and the innovative contribution they can bring when given the opportunity. He is an innovator and a role model, always deepening his own professional practice as a change agent and facilitator, and on a personal level embodying values of openness creativity, and courage."

Tim ‘Mac’ Macartney, Founder, Embercombe

Parenting and Gender

Two weeks ago I went on an adventure with my Daughter (4.5 years old) to the New Forest to join 6 other fathers on a fathers and daughters weekend. My daughter had been looking forward to this since she was 2.5 years old after my son and I went on a fathers and sons weekend.

Before we left I asked her to pack some clothes for the trip. After about 20 mins upstairs I went to look for her to find her placing every item of clothing neatly folded into her Trunki and my suitcase. I was taken aback to see her drawers empty of socks, pants, trousers, tops AND jumpers. I said calmly “Are you taking everything?” to which she replied “Yes daddy, I need to have all my nice things with me”. Now this was a surprise because in all the time I have been a parent she has pretty much worn only pyjama’s, has shared often with me her passionate dislike of socks and pants, and is often very difficult to get ready to go out anywhere. She certainly had never shown any sense that she loved the beautiful collection of clothes that I and others have got for her in the hope that one day she might wear them.

We arrived on time on the Friday and she immediately made friends with the other girl (8) that had arrived and showed off her collection of kids (cuddly toys) and clothes. They went off on adventures pretty much straight after that in the park next door to the cabin. Soon after the other fathers and daughters arrived and my daughter immediately introduced herself and started talking about her clothes and kids. The older girls who arrived all knew each other and initially connected to her in a way which I witnessed as a tension between a group of older girls and some younger ones. Within about 20 minutes I could see my daughter’s frustration at not being able to connect to the older ones through play and I mentioned to her that if something didn’t feel good to her that she should feel free to express herself and try and work it out. After that she disappeared off and within an hour, all the girls had come to some understanding and were playing together in a beautiful way which continued throughout the weekend.

The next two days were a complete honour for me as a father to witness. I was part of a weekend where girls were freely loved and encouraged and played with by their fathers, who were all supporting each other and enjoying a shared brotherhood which is sadly lacking in our modern society. We canoed together, climbed together, played night games, ate marshmellows, cooked shared meals and walked several miles over wild countryside to visit the local cider makers and café to eat cake, scones, chips and drink cider, hot chocolate and milkshakes. In all that time the girls were full of joy and off together in a free spirited way and I spent much time reflecting on how it is in our culture, girls, women, boys and men, get so caught up in social structures which don’t help them to feel good about who they are.

Following this weekend, last week, I ended up going to see my friend’s performance on “How my skin fits?” a poetry piece around relationships, men and self-esteem. I turned up as the show was about to start and walked into a room full of women. I was taken aback and slightly scared to find a place to sit as I was on my own and the only man in the room (apart from the sound engineer). Luckily I bumped into my friend who was performing and she immediately brought it up with everyone, we laughed and I felt welcomed. What happened next was a privilege to witness. I found a deeper understanding of the difference in the view of men and women on relationships and how our roles as fathers really has an impact on this. This was not a surprise so much as a deep appreciation and deeper understanding of what it would mean for me to be a father who was present and available to my daughter as she grows into a young woman.

Lastly, tonight, I went dancing for the first time in ages with another friend who facilitates elemental dancing and I was again the only man there! Feeling comfortable in myself as I was among some others I knew, it was less of shock and a larger question was raised for me. Where are the men? And I ask this because I notice something specific about my friends dance experience having attended before. I find it free, soft and deeply connecting to the earth and the elements. It is about deeply connecting with oneself, and is distinctly different from other similar things like 5 rhythms that I have been to which can often have a much more sexual nature.

In all of these experiences I see common threads of thoughts which centre around how we raise girls and boys to honour each other and see connection and intimacy as more than something about beauty, sexualisation, body image and traditional gender models. AND how do we allow them to be themselves and love clothes, dressing up, feeling good about themselves, enjoying their gender differences and exploring what it is like to be authentic to what is going on in the moment without seeing it as a lasting experience.

I’ll end with a great line delivered by my 4.5 year old daughter when I explained to a friend why I never shout at her or shame her for drawing on the walls in our her house but politely remind her that she needs to use paper or other art materials.

Me to my friend: “You know, she may just be a great artist one day and I don’t want her to feel that her creativity is being held back in anyway.”

My Daughter shouting from the top of the stairs: “Daddy I am not going to be an artist when I am older, I am going to be a police woman. How many times do I have to tell you!”

If you are interested in the weekends away as father and daughters/sons then check out Ben Gold www.just4parents.co.uk

If you are interested in being part of a deep exploration and experience of our roles as men and fathers in our culture then I with some fellow adventurers will be hosting a weekend retreat for fathers and children on September 30th, October 1st & 2nd 2016. Email me for further information.

Coming out!

A few days ago, I came out to a few groups on facebook. I have been living with a dream and with a question that has emerged over many years and that I have been afraid of sharing. It is a big step, because for a long time I have questioned myself; who am I to dream this dream? Who am I to think that I have the skills and knowledge to contribute to this field of change? Who am I to think that my voice matters?

What has changed for me to begin this new path is that I know right now that it is the only thing that fully motivates me. The only thing that makes me feel fully alive with an abundance of energy. I have had many excuses around time, being a parent, not being good enough. Finally, I know that if I actively engage with this, then regardless of whether I fail or succeed, I know that I will be living what I know to be my life’s purpose.

So what is it?

How do we create and support the next generation of leaders who will usher in the new human systems that we need to restore balance of life on Earth and facilitate peace?

And breathe.

Big huh.

And who am I to be dreaming and imagining that I can do anything about this?

Well firstly I have been thinking about political leadership since I was 7 years old. I have followed politics and been interested in how we do things since then. At 16, I moved from a secondary school to one of the most culturally diverse colleges in London because I wanted to start up a student union. Over the first 12 months, I explored and made friends with people in the variety of sub cultures that made up that college and decided that what we needed was a way of bringing everyone together. I failed at this. But I succeeded in fucking it up so much that everyone knew who I was!

At 18 I left with poor A Level grades having spent so much time trying to make this idea come to fruition, unfortunately traumatised but stronger as a human being by the result. I worked in a bar, a recruitment agency and finally a start-up where I first learned about what it takes to set up and grow a small business. I also learnt that when people started to take advantage of you and play you off against each other that the best option is to leave that dynamic behind.

By 21 I had a two failed long relationships (for a young person), I had experienced being engaged, almost getting married, losing an unborn child, my parents divorcing, losing my parents a significant amount of money, working in a tech start up environment, earning more that £40,000 a year, renting my own house, living abroad, drinking, smoking and drugs.

By 25, I had been a drug addict, I had started up my own company with my now ex-wife, we had our own office, I had been part of the London club scene, gay scene, run a club night at Heaven, worked with music festivals. I had suffered from depression, almost lost my life, and had prayed to Universe/God to help me and had the experience of being helped.

By 28 I had got myself clean of drugs, I attended two 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreats, was initiated into a circle of Men (The Mankind Project), became a father, experienced our son’s home birth and lotus birth, and we had started a new, grown up business working with arts and cultural organisations.

By 30, I had been exploring parenting and working in equal measure, our business almost got bought out and we decided instead to pass it on to those who worked in it. I had experienced moving house 9 times in 3 years. I worked freelance and then found my passion as an active environmentalist with the Transition movement in Bath. I had learnt how to be a facilitator, fundraiser and community activist. I had helped start and grow a farm and began working with young people co-organising youth conferences on climate change.

By 32 I had fallen in love with someone else, almost lost my family, conceived another child, been present to her being born in water at home with just three of us present. I began my journey into systemic healing work, looking at both the family and organisations. I healed a systemic wound which shifted my sense of myself in relationship.

By 35, I was married and soon after separated. I was a parent to two children who I spent at least an equal amount of time parenting. I had been a carer for someone with a long term disability for over five years. I had helped a group of young people start up a not for profit business, run several youth conferences on climate change and systemic issues young people face. I had trained over 100 youth leaders in facilitation and catalysing skills. I had experience of Art of Hosting, Non Violent Communication, Systemic Therapy, Organisational systems theory, Parenting by Connection, meditation in various forms, forest school training and working with a democratic school. I had the experience of being paid properly for my skills and time. Most importantly I had experienced deep and uncontrollable grief, anger, forgiveness and joy.

Now I am coming up to my 36th birthday and I am ready. I realise that instead of a standard path to a career, I have a road that had been a collection of big experiences that have shaped and moulded who am I, what I stand for and initiated me into the human condition. I know that this moment now is ground zero. The beginning of taking the experiences that I have, the talent for bringing people together around ideas and taking action, reflecting and honouring, learning and growing and turning it in to my life’s work.

With this letter, I remind myself how I got here, who I have become and I am deeply grateful for it all. And importantly, that I have it in me to co-create something amazing.

My invitation to you is, come and join in!