The Idea of Persivilience: A Motivating Masterclass with Alastair Campbell

Emily Holmes is a graduate management trainee at Nottinghamshire County Council, having graduated last year from the University of Nottingham with first class honours in History and Politics. Whilst completing her degree, Emily participated in the Patchwork Masterclass programme and found the experience both informative and inspiring. She is passionate about human rights and the intersection between political and humanitarian spheres; this has led to a range of research and campaigning work for Amnesty International, Care4Calais and The Rights Lab.

After recently graduating from Patchwork’s Masterclass programme last year, I have been looking forward to engaging with the alumni community and continuing to #GetInvolved. When I saw that there was going to be a Special Masterclass with Alastair Campbell, such a prominent figure who I had frequently referenced in both my degree and A-Level studies, I was extremely excited. The Rest is Politics podcast and his recent book, But What Can I Do? are recent projects which have increased the engagement of Campbell with a younger audience, and I was looking forward to hearing more about these.

The Masterclass began with discussing the importance of getting involved in politics, and how every aspect of his career was made possible due to him being curious, interested, and having an opinion. He encouraged us all to never be fearful of who we are or what we think, as people from a diverse range of backgrounds are the future of politics. It felt very apt to hear such advice whilst sitting in a room full of fellow Patchworkers, a hugely diverse group of young people, all eager to be politically active and have a positive impact. 

Topics regarding confidence and self-esteem were covered, with Campbell noting that success in politics often comes down to how people convey their confidence. Listening to him talk so openly about the realities of public life and the importance of being confident, Campbell almost instilled a sense of assurance to everyone in the room, that we already had the skills, experiences and knowledge to make a difference, but if we are to be successful in politics specifically, our confidence would need to shine through. Struggles with mental health were also covered, and it was moving to hear Campbell talk so openly about his own experiences. He implored us to practice being confident, even in the face of such struggles, and reassured us that despite the scrutiny and media attention that individuals in the centre of politics are subject to, practice and experience makes it much easier. 

My question to the speaker focused on how to reconcile wanting to be really involved in, and passionate about, politics whilst also not becoming drained and demotivated by political decisions and rhetoric which go against what you believe in. We discussed focusing on the idea of ‘persivilience’ – a term coined in his book to encapsulate being both perseverant and resilient. Anger needs to be turned into something positive, that we should use our sense of injustice to ‘get the good out the bad’ and keep going until change is made. Campbell also acknowledged that it is okay to take a break and take a step back when political issues are draining, particularly on heavy subject matters, linking back to his earlier statements about the importance of protecting your mental health and wellbeing. I found this both inspiring and reassuring, as it is difficult to be constantly switched on and up to date with everything in politics. 

Overall, the Masterclass was motivating and I could sense that many of us left feeling extremely encouraged by Alastair Campbell’s own experiences and advice. Campbell proclaimed that our voices matter just as much as anyone else’s, that things are constantly changing so there is no reason to believe that we cannot contribute to such change. As someone who has just started their career in the political sphere, I am excited to use some of the ideas that Campbell offered in this session, and move forward with the ‘persivilience’ which he emphasised.