In a typically dreary corner of London, amongst a sea of brick facades, six radiant words in bold type are splashed across the side wall of a beer garden: “Talk to Someone. Anyone. About Anything.” Their maker, Naomi Edmonson, knows that staying positive is an art form. She first wrote those words only to herself, as part of a list of things she needed to remember to do when she was feeling sad. Now, her colourful project Survival Techniques, a series of uplifting messages painted on London’s walls, reminds other Londoners to do the same.
The message may sound simple. But for Naomi, it made all the difference in some of her darkest days. She realised that, when she was feeling depressed, simply leaving the house and having a tiny conversation with the staff at the corner shop made a huge difference to her mood, though it was often the last thing that she wanted to do. So she wrote it down to remind herself.
However, the message is an important one for others too, and it was for that reason that Naomi took her list of “Survival Techniques” and broadcast it across London’s brown walls in bold, colourful typeface. She realised that some of the moments that had helped her the most in her life were moments when other people had spoken openly or admitted things that could make them vulnerable. So Naomi decided to try it herself. She told a work friend about her list. It was a big step.
As a former professional freestyle skier, and a young person with everything going for her, Naomi was a little embarrassed to admit to feeling depressed and sad. However, Naomi’s friend thought it was a great idea, and said that she felt like she needed a list of her own. From there, Naomi went on to mention it to more people, all of whom reacted positively to the idea. Armed with the positive reactions of her peers, one day, Naomi saw Camille Walala painting the exterior of a building near Old Street and was inspired to transform her list into wall paintings. Naomi says “I wanted them to live in democratic spaces, where they could be accessible by anyone.”
Naomi’s story is one about the power of community as a source of motivation. The inspiration for Naomi’s first wall painting “Hide Less, Chat More” came from that same friend she had first confided in. That message resonated with others, and soon Naomi was being offered more walls to paint. At every stage of the project, people have expressed to Naomi how the phrases resonated and stuck with them. They, too, have felt marooned by the same low feelings that Naomi herself has experienced. And that has inspired her to create more art. Today, Naomi’s work continues to be influenced by her community. Her website invites people to send their own Survival Techniques, which might become future paintings. In turn, the words that she has painted have become coping strategies for her at different times in her life. For example, the words “Hide Less, Chat More” not only helped Naomi when she was feeling low, but also provided her with the courage to speak openly about her project and drive it forward.
Now, Naomi is starting a new project – a series of illustrations about celebrating everyday moments that make her feel good. She says that one of her favourite parts of her day is when she pushes off on her bike in the morning, and accelerates down the hill and around the mini roundabout. It is a “golden” moment. Another is watching the “politics of the geese and the moorhens” by the lake in the park, and remembering that she is “both an integral part of the world but also insignificant in the grand scheme of things”. But it’s not all moments of quiet introspection. Naomi also talks about the power of comedy to inspire and empower. In fact, one of her original Survival Techniques was to think about the last thing that made her smile. In her words, “I can be sustained for days by a good joke.”