Ellie Watson is a second year philosophy student at the University of East Anglia. But that’s not all. Here she talks about becoming a Co-op Member Pioneer – and collaborating on a ‘little lockdown’ book full of vegan recipes, uplifting words and nourishing art
If I had to describe my life up until now, I’d say (as a slight understatement) that it’s been haphazard. One year I’ll be working as a marketing executive, attending networking events in London; the next I’ll be teaching creative writing to students in local schools. One moment I’ll be jumping out of a plane for charity; the next I’ll be collaborating on a lockdown-survival guide for creatives.
The numerous challenges I’ve faced in recent years have not only made me stronger but have given me opportunities to grow in ways I never thought I could.
I’m a Norwich girl through and through. The year before returning to Norwich, I had lived in Birmingham, Telford and Oxford. As any Norwich native who leaves the city will understand, I never felt like anywhere else could be called ‘home’. I really missed the quirky locals, and of course I really missed my partner (we’d been doing long distance for a while).
Wind back to year 11, and I had applied to do a Maths summer school at UEA. I absolutely loved the campus and the facilities (that library!) So, when I was on the bus to work one day, the idea of studying philosophy popped into my mind, and it wasn’t a question of where to study it. I was way past the deadline for applying but decided to write a personal statement and send it off anyway. Now, here I am. And, luckily, without any regrets!
I’m a big introvert, so online teaching is actually quite ideal for me. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been difficulties, though. Not only did I lose my dad to a stroke a few days before the first lockdown was announced, I have also been battling anorexia nervosa for the past year. Being stuck at home has been challenging in this sense.
Not being able to have close contact with my course friends has made me feel a bit lost at times, but I respect the guidelines and, to be honest, I just want the pandemic to be over. Plus, I absolutely love my degree. I’ve been keeping busy with my nose deep in some philosophical books.
At the start of the pandemic, I really wanted to work to help local communities. I saw the job of Co-op Member Pioneer advertised and had to apply, because I felt I had the skills and network to really make a difference.
I work for four hours a week, bringing together Co-op Members, colleagues and local causes. I run a WhatsApp forum to make dialogue easier between the three. Essentially, I look at what could be improved in the area, and I try my best to change it.
Recently, I set up a community bookshelf in the Earlham Road Co-op store, and I also run an online book club called LGBTQ+ Reads. Likewise, when parents were home-schooling, I created a free, downloadable recipe booklet with easy, Fairtrade recipes (contributed to by colleagues from our Norfolk and East Suffolk team). For our colleague communications, I create a monthly podcast full of reminders, tips and interviews: MPs in a Pod.
I would hope that the pandemic has helped people to become more community-minded. Through studying environmental philosophy, I’ve been considering how various governments have responded to the pandemic. It certainly seems as though the countries who are community-minded, as opposed to subscribing to Western individualism, have bounced back from Covid-19 a lot quicker. I think we still have a lot to learn.
Lydia Greaves, the incredibly talented Norwich illustrator, is a great friend (and massive inspiration) of mine. We’ve got so much in common – from being Christian women and creators, to our aspirations of generously serving others.
We came up with the idea as a pastime activity in July 2020. My final assignments had been cancelled for the year, and Lydia had more free time to create. We didn’t expect GROW to blow up as much as it has. We simply wanted to boost those, who were struggling, with uplifting words, nourishing art and tasty recipes. Plus, cooking is my favourite form of therapy, and I wanted to share that with others!
Last summer I opened my kitchen (Maple Spinach) and cooked cheap vegan meals for collection. For instance, I was selling a large portion of katsu curry for £5, and a meatball sub baguette for £4. I cooked a range of dishes and managed to get booked up for months at a time. I was hardly making a profit, and it was hectic. But it was so worth it – more people were trying plant-based food!
Maple Spinach received great feedback, so I put my creative-writing brain on and wrote down my favourite recipes in a fun style. In GROW, the reader chooses what they’d like to make based on how they feel: down in the dumps, under the weather, sluggish, full of energy, or colourful.
Lydia is an art queen. There was no hassle in creating this book, because every single idea we came up with the other one also loved. It was the most fun project I’ve worked on.
As you can probably decipher in my previous answers, my plans tend to be quite sporadic. I think I might change my mind more than I change my socks. So, I’ll give you today’s answer.
I would love to be a philosophy lecturer. Perhaps part-time, so I could cram in the other projects I’ll inevitably be juggling.