Calder Navigation

Liz Leach Murphy

In this episode Sam is joined by Liz Leach Murphy. Liz founded the social enterprise Imagineer in 2009 to take her work in health and social care further.

Over the years, Liz and the Imagineer team have moved from a small local organisation to one with a national reach, and they are doing incredible work, making real change for people and families. Liz has also encouraged and supported people to develop their own community initiatives.

Her leadership style, steeped in kindness and an extensive understanding of her work is something we can all learn from.

In today’s chat, Liz kindly shares in depth some of her experiences throughout her career, including significant challenges that she’s overcome and her thoughts on leading with kindness and putting people first.

A heads up that part of this episode could result in feelings of sadness, grief or distress. Listener discretion is advised and we encourage you to prioritise your mental and emotional wellbeing while deciding whether to listen to this episode.

Liz outside with the countryside in the background. She has curly grey hair and is smiling.

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Liz outside with the countryside in the background. She has curly grey hair and is smiling.

About Liz Leach Murphy

Liz is the Founder and Managing Director of Imagineer. She is also Chair of Disability Rights UK and a director at Lives Through Friends.

Liz has worked in health and social care since she was 18 years old. She has had a focus on looking at how to provide the best possible support and focusing on how the services available can be supplementary and complementary to the others sources of support available in a person’s life. Liz founded Imagineer in 2009 and it became registered as a social enterprise in 2012. The organisation has moved from a small local organisation to having a national reach. In this time Liz has also encouraged and supported people to develop their own community initiatives.


[00:00:02] – Samantha

Welcome to Calder Navigation, the podcast that embarks on a transformative journey through the lives and stories of the incredible people of Calderdale.


[00:00:12] – Samantha

I’m your host, Samantha McCormick, Artistic Director and founder of Curious Motion, and I’m thrilled to have you join me on this adventure.


[00:00:20] – Samantha

Calder Navigation invites you to open your hearts and minds to the tapestry, everyday moments and significant events that shape our lives. Through authentic and relaxed conversations, we’ll delve into the complexities of what it means to be human, celebrating the diversity and resilience of our community. This podcast is not just a collection of stories. Each episode is a unique exploration, a tribute to the rich tapestry of our shared experiences.


[00:00:48] – Samantha

So come and join us on this journey and let’s celebrate the remarkable individuals who call the Calder Valley home and let’s uncover the depth and beauty of the human experience together.


[00:01:00] – Samantha

I’m joined today by Liz Leach Murphy. Liz has worked in health and social care since she was 18 years old, with a particular focus on how to provide the best possible support and how the services available can be supplementary and complementary to the other sources of support available in a person’s life.


[00:01:19] – Samantha

Liz founded the social enterprise Imagineer in 2009 to take her work further. Over the years, Liz and the Imagineer team have moved from a small local organisation to one with a national reach, and they are doing incredible work, making real change for people and families. Liz has also encouraged and supported people to develop their own community initiatives and her leadership style, steeped in kindness and an extensive understanding of her work is something we can all learn from.


[00:01:52] – Samantha

In today’s chat, Liz kindly shares in depth some of her experiences throughout her career, including significant challenges that she’s overcome and her thoughts on leading with kindness and putting people first. She also speaks openly about a tragic incident where a member of the Imagineer team, Beth, lost her life. This is something they could never have prepared for, but is now part of their story and something that Liz has learnt to talk about in case someone else might find support by listening to her story.


[00:02:25] – Samantha

So a heads up that part of this episode could result in feelings of sadness, grief or distress. Listener discretion is advised and we encourage you to prioritise your mental and emotional wellbeing while deciding whether to listen to this episode. A transcript is also available on Curious Motion’s website, if preferred.


[00:02:45] – Samantha

Liz is a beacon of resilience, hope and kindness. I felt so privileged and grateful to be chatting to her and to be able to share this with you.


[00:03:01] – Samantha

So hi, Liz. Thank you for coming to chat to me today. I really appreciate it and for inviting me into your home as well. It’s lovely to be here.


[00:03:10] – Liz

It’s quite all right. You’re very welcome.


[00:03:12] – Samantha

To start with, could you just give us a little bit of background on you and Imagineer as well?


[00:03:18] – Liz

Yeah, absolutely, I mean, I’ll be speaking more about Imagineer as we go through the rest of it, but Imagineer is an organisation that I founded 15 years ago. It’s an independent organisation and it’s set up as a social enterprise. So it’s registered formally with Companies House, but also with the CIC regulator.


[00:03:41] – Liz

And basically what that means is the organisation has to have a formal commitment to doing good for the community, so the directors of the organisation don’t gain financially from it at all. And it’s what’s called asset locked, so anything that the organisation generates remains an asset of the organisation or an asset of the community.


[00:04:05] – Liz

I set that up independently with the idea of it being open to anyone to access. And for myself, I’m Liz Leach Murphy and I moved to the Calderdale area ten years ago. I made the fatal mistake actually when I first moved to the area of saying that I live in Sowerby Bridge, and somebody overheard me and I was very quickly corrected and I now know it’s Sowerby Bridge. And the way I remember it is by thinking of lemon sorbets and so, Sowerby Bridge.


[00:04:35] – Samantha

That’s great, I’m going to use that. Thank you.


[00:04:37] – Liz

It works really well. Anything dessert related and I can remember that. And it was interesting because I realized very quickly that I’m what’s known as an offcumden to the area, but my mum at the same time did the family tree and actually found out that we are originally from Hebden Bridge as a family. So I felt very confident in dropping the title as an offcumden. And I believe now I’ve come back to the area that I was originally from, so yeah.


[00:05:13] – Samantha

Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah, great. So let’s talk a bit about Imagineer then. What led you to set it up?


[00:05:22] – Liz

I’ve been working in health and social care now for 29 years. I think when I reach 30 years, I’ll stop counting from that point. So I’ve been in health and social care for 29 years and actually I didn’t start off life with any intention to be doing support work or working in health and social care. I’d been a student at Leeds College Music as a cellist, and I reached my second year of study, I think it was, and I started to experience quite significant pain in my neck and in my back and in my arms, and at a young age had no idea what was going on, just like what is happening. Eventually, after various tests and consultations, I received a diagnosis of cervical ribs in my neck, which has quite a compounding effect on your core nerve system. So at the age of a tender age of 19, it felt quite a tender age. I was faced with a decision of whether to live with that condition or whether to have an operation to remove the cervical ribs. But the operation had quite a high risk threshold for paralysis. So I took the decision to live with the condition, learn to manage the condition and find something else to do with my life because I could no longer continue to play the cello in that capacity.


[00:07:00] – Liz

So I was lost. I was a bit set adrift at that time. And interestingly, that personal experience has also influenced why I’ve decided to go into the work that I do and actually having that direct personal experience of accessing health provision and what that is like and facing that in my own life has been quite informative for me. And I think has meant that I have a greater level of understanding and empathy around what people experience.


[00:07:34] – Liz

Anyway, a friend of mine who I used to see down at the pub on a regular basis at that age, we used to love going to see live music and we were the girlfriends of the boys in the band so we used to go, so we used to sit and chat whilst the boyfriends were on stage. And she said, I really think you’d love the work that I do, why don’t you come and see what it’s all about? And I called in for a cup of tea and met these five guys who she supported and cared for in this scheme and absolutely fell in with it. I just loved it completely and that’s where it started really.


[00:08:13] – Liz

So it was unintentional. I was not meant to be working in health and social care, but 29 years later and I’m still here and for me it was really eye opening, that whole recognising that these five men had been in Meanwood Park Hospital. They’d been put into hospital under the age of ten. They’d left hospital in the mid 40s, completely institutionalised and really realizing how their lives had been so severely impacted by institutionalisation. And one of the-, I read the original assessment documents. So in the house there was the original assessment documents for why they went into Meadwood Park Hospital. And one of the men at age five years was placed in Meanwood Park Hospital because he was born out of wedlock. So the term was morally deficient, morally deficient family. When he came out of Meanwood Park Hospital he could hardly walk, he couldn’t speak. So the environment and whatever had happened to him in there that I dread to think had actually been completely disabling to him.


[00:09:27] – Liz

And so from that moment, I had this massive commitment. It’s like it’s got to be better than this, it’s got to be massively better for this. And then I were introduced to person center planning by default. So person center planning was new in the UK, it had just come over from Canada and America. It was early-, well, actually no, it was the late nineties. I was trained in person center planning 1998. And it was my manager that just simply didn’t want to go on this course, and she were trying to find any way she possibly could to get out of going on this course and she just practically begged me to take a place. I went, I said absolutely. To me it sounds amazing. So I went on this training and it was so eye opening. The people that had brought the training over from Canada and America had worked with people that had been institutionalised and had worked with people to regain a place in community. And so they were talking from a place of real understanding and knowledge. And it shifted away from making sure that people were getting by day to day and having good food and getting out the house and taking care of themselves and each other in the house to having aspirations and having forging a future that made sense for them.


[00:10:49] – Liz

And so then I was hooked. I was absolutely hooked that we raise the bar on-, you know, that people can achieve anything if we create the conditions to make that possible. So I started working as a support worker. I became the bane of my manager after doing that training course. I think she regretted sending me on it completely. She was just like oh no, what have I done? And I were really pushing for things to be better. And I ended up managing that home for a little while. I got it deregistered from residential care into support living which created a whole load more freedom for the five people living there. And then I went on to running a person center planning project throughout Bradford district. So that was bringing person center planning to people, families, communities, services, social care directorates, health boards across the whole thing, really influencing change. And I managed to set up a team of-, I think I had about 15 person center planning facilitators that purposely was not from serviceland. I put a call out to community people to come and train in person centre planning with me and become a team of facilitators that weren’t ingrained in serviceland. So they could really affect change and really help people to be as aspirational as they wanted to be.


[00:12:16] – Liz

But there was still that little sticking point for me in that role that the money that’s available in social care was still anchored into services and releasing the funding to use it in a different way was really quite challenging. And because the project was funded by the council, there were always an element of the person centre planning project being seen as this nice project that happens, isn’t it lovely? And it’s really nice that Liz gets to do that nice work, but then we need to get down to proper business. And I was always fighting in saying well, this is the proper business, absolutely, this is what it should really be about.


[00:12:57] – Liz

So I was working for Mencap at the time and they started making redundancies and I’d been included in the redundancy pool of people and I put a lot of thought into it and I thought, well actually, maybe this is my opportunity to do something different. So I took voluntary redundancy and set up Imagineer. And the reason I did that is because I really felt that the ability to be independent was the key.


[00:13:25] – Liz

So rather than being a nice little project on the side of the proper business, I could be in a better position to push that agenda a bit further, because I wasn’t being funded by the local authority that I was trying to push further. It’s always really difficult when you funded, when you-, what’s the term? Biting the hand that feeds you. It’s always tricky. It’s always really tricky to get that right. Whereas I knew that if I was completely independent, I could position myself or support the person I was working with to position theirselves to be stronger advocates for themselves, so that’s where it came from. So Imagineer was completely self funded. I used the redundancy money that I’d got, I sold my beloved campervan, and because the house I was living in the time had spare rooms, I started to live like a student again and rented out some of the rooms to generate an income so that financially I could get by as I was setting up Imagineer, yeah.


[00:14:34] – Samantha

And how did that feel like, to just take the plunge and you’re taking a financial risk as well? I assume it affects more than just your professional life, but it sounds like you had a very big driver there, a real big commitment and passion that kind of pulled you through, I imagine.


[00:14:53] – Liz

Yeah. I would say a bit like a Newton’s cradle of emotions from one extreme to the other. So there were times where that feeling of being quite excited and it being quite liberating, I’ve created this opportunity and making the most of it and really kind of recognising I’d created this space that no one else could determine. Actually, at that time, it was very much down for me to determine the shape of that and where it was going. So it was really exciting. And I love that sense of autonomy to kind of create, which was definitely there.


[00:15:35] – Liz

But then I’d go through periods of going, is anyone else going to believe me? I’m on my own, I’m on my own. I’m going into certain meetings with a whole range of professionals and I’m putting forward a different perspective and a different way of looking at things and that’s quite isolating. It’s kind of to be in that position and to be bringing something that goes against the grain is really quite scary. Who’s going to believe me? Who’s going to listen to me? Have I completely lost the plot?


[00:16:12] – Samantha

I’ve been there too. I’m like, am I just on another planet to everyone else and I’m on a planet I should not be on?


[00:16:19] – Liz

Yeah, absolutely. It’s like, what am I doing?


[00:16:23] – Samantha

Yeah, impostor syndrome sets in very fast.


[00:16:26] – Liz

Yeah. And it’s interestingly because I’ve used the term impostor syndrome again and again, but actually, I’m changing the terminology with that because syndrome gives you the impression it’s like a clinically derived issue, whereas it’s an experience. It’s impostor experience.


[00:16:46] – Samantha



[00:16:47] – Liz

It can be just a passing moment. It’s not something that’s so deeply ingrained.


[00:16:52] – Samantha

Oh I like that Liz. Okay, I’m going to use that too, thanks. You’re right, you’re absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong-, a syndrome like you say, that something’s wrong with you as well, doesn’t it?


[00:17:02] – Liz

Absolutely. It’s not the case.


[00:17:02] – Samantha

There is not-, it’s a normal human feeling.


[00:17:10] – Liz

I would say, kind of a range of emotions and that whole-, I don’t know if you experience the same thing, but everything seemed to take longer than I hoped it would, and I’ll set up the policies and procedures in a week. It’s like six months later, I’m still at work. Even thinking of the name took six months. The number of names I went through, and then you’ve got to check the URL, and then check Companies House, and then you’ve got to go through so many checks to make sure the name, check the patent’s office, make sure that it’s not already been taken elsewhere.


[00:17:45] – Liz

So, yeah, it took a long time, a lot of derivatives, and then I landed on Imagineer and the reason I really liked Imagineer is because the work that I was doing at the time and we continue to do as a team, is really about opening up imagination. It’s really about helping people to think beyond any kind of limiting belief and think about, well, if nothing was going to hold you back, what would you want to see happening? And really unleashing that imagination. And then engineer, which is around that piece of and we can make it happen.


[00:18:20] – Liz

We’ll design a way to make that happen together or support you to design your own way. So it’s a squashing the two terms into one. And so I went with that name. And about six months afterwards, and a friend said to me, oh, were you inspired by Disney? And I was like, what do you mean, inspired by Disney? And she said, well, at Disney, the people that are employed to create the characters and create the scenes, they’re called Imagineers. And I had no idea.


[00:18:49] – Samantha



[00:18:50] – Liz

And I was like, I am not giving up the name. I’m sticking to it. And I said, I’ll use that as a marker of success. If we’re ever sued by Disney for the use of Imagineer, then I know that we’ve been really quite successful. So I just put that as a marker of success rather than anything to be concerned about.


[00:19:12] – Samantha

Was there a difference between when you thought you might make some of that progress and when you actually felt like that was happening?


[00:19:20] – Liz

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I was really well networked. I think that’s one thing. Because of the work I’d done up until that point, I’d always made a point at getting to know people and finding out what people were doing, not just in my area, but around the country, and in other countries as well. So I was really well connected and I became part of something called the National Brokerage Network. So what we do at Imagineer is support brokerage. And the National Brokerage Network were a whole group of folk that were doing this stuff and I was really well supported. Some significant people at that time was Tony Phillips from Cambridge. He was really foundational and he did some of the early days training with me. There was Bob Rhodes and Colin Campbell who had a whole range of experience in health and social care and really shared their learning of that experience. And a guy called Andrew Carpenter as well, who was London focused and he was really pushing forward for support brokerage in London. So I connected in with them four people on a brokerage level. And then I had two fantastic mentors, Andy Pierce, who was running a program called Social Footprints at the time and one of the coaches that he had as part of his team, a chap called Nick Beanland, who actually became a director at Imagineers.


[00:20:47] – Liz

So what was really important at that point was having the support network around me and the mentoring from them people and also because of the work that I’d done. It was when families that I’d got to know over my experience, over the work that I’d done up to date got in touch with me and said would you come and talk to us?


[00:21:11] – Samantha



[00:21:13] – Liz

And I made a decision at that point for the company for the direction to go in. I knew I could either go down a strategic route and try and influence at a strategic level and sit on boards and meetings and really try and steer their meetings, or I could work with families and people. Now I’d been sitting on meetings for years and years and years and not seeing a massive amount of difference in the way that services were delivered. So I consciously made the decision at that point to work with families in the hope that if I can work with one family and then another and then another and then another, that hopefully the influence on a strategic level would happen from families, that it would reach a tipping point where families would be taking the lead.


[00:22:05] – Samantha

Yeah, that sort of ripple effect.


[00:22:08] – Liz

And it has made a difference.


[00:22:09] – Samantha



[00:22:10] – Liz

I think if I’d had chosen the other option I probably would still be in the same meetings, having the same conversation.


[00:22:15] – Samantha

Right, right, yeah.


[00:22:18] – Liz

And it’s a very skewed look on things, isn’t it? Because our social care systems are the custodians of the money that citizens have paid for a health and social care system. It is citizens that pay for the health and social care system ultimately through taxation. And our health and social care system are the custodians of what taxpayers have paid. And there is times where the people that receive the care and support should certainly be having more control and say over how that’s utilised, yeah. Oh, that was a bit deep, wasn’t it?


[00:22:53] – Samantha

That was great. We could do probably a chat purely about that one thing for the next 3 hours or days.


[00:23:15] – Samantha

So we often hear about the success of an organisation and perhaps not so much about what it’s taken to get there and I know it’s important to you to highlight some of this, and I know you’ve got two experiences that were particularly challenging, but also sadly, you and the team at Imagineer have experienced something beyond what anyone would expect. Could you share with us these three experiences and what they were like for you?


[00:23:43] – Liz

Yeah, absolutely. I mean it is interesting, isn’t it? Because it does take a level of strength and resilience to found and develop an organisation. I think one of the things that’s been always challenging from the beginning really is to be recognised by authorities, so to be recognized by local authorities and health boards. And there’s been numerous occasions, and it still happens now, where we are working alongside an individual, a person who is accessing health and social care, working alongside the family as well. But when it comes to working alongside the local authority, we are completely overlooked and not all the time, so that is varying degrees.


[00:24:44] – Samantha



[00:24:48] – Liz

Sometimes the relationship alongside the social worker or the clinical lead is really brilliant. We work together really well and there’s a recognition of the difference that that makes. But there is still times where we have as a team a really good understanding of the legal structures, we have a really good understanding of people’s rights, we have a really good skill set in supporting people to work out what a good life looks like for them and what they want to have happening in their life. And we are really good at finding ways to make that happen.


[00:25:28] – Liz

But quite often there’s a tension between that and what a local authority is doing or is prepared to do. And we’ve had instances where we’ve gone along to meetings and what we’ve brought to the meeting has been completely overlooked. We’ve had instances where we’re told that the local authority is going to bring an expert in to look at what’s happening. We’ve had instances where the local authority area where we’re based, because we’re based all over the UK, we’ve now got associates all over the UK, simply doesn’t see the value and worth of what we bring.


[00:26.13] – Liz

So that’s really challenging because you’re in this space of really understanding your topic and really understanding your subject. You can see the individual and the family, you can see the situation that they’re in, you can see the level of sometimes stress, you can see the amount of pressure they’re under, you can see what potentially is going to happen if that isn’t dealt with and addressed properly soon. So you can feel the pressure there and you can see how the family is being treated. So that’s a real challenge. And it takes quite a lot of skill and resilience to kind of get to that positive place when you’re faced with that situation. And it really is about pulling on all the potential ways of mediating through that, whether that’s different techniques to build the relationship, whether it’s standing in the social workers shoes and seeing, well, what’s happening for them? Is it a high caseload? Are they under a lot of stress themselves? Is it because they’re scared about doing something different? Is it because they’re worried about what the manager may say when they take the support planning? Is it trying to really understand it from their perspective so that we can work together in a better way?


[00:27:42] – Liz

But there has been instances where we’ve had to go into that legal language to say you’re not meeting your statutory duty. That’s always a last resort.


[00:27:54] – Samantha



[00:27:55] – Liz

Because we want to do this relationally as much as possible. But that kind of knowing when to go into that space is really difficult. When you set something up from a place of you’re passionate about it and you believe in it, it’s recognising that broadening your knowledge and your understanding, so you really know your subjects and you really know your topics, especially in the field of what we work in, because being ready for them conversations and knowing what to bring into them conversations is really key for affecting change. So that was kind of one of them. And the challenge of that is carving out the time to keep up on top of the changes that are happening. The new laws, the new guidelines and legislation. It takes quite an investment of time. But the second one, I think one of the things that I did get quite wrong on a few occasions is about getting the right people.


[00:28:56] – Samantha



[00:28:57] – Liz

Yeah. So I’ve had a number of real issues with team members that have really put the organisation at risk financially and reputationally. So I remember going back into work one day after Christmas, opening a letter from the wonderful HMRC only to read that we’d not paid any tax for a full year.


[00:29:23] – Samantha

Oh my God.


[00:29:26] – Liz

And so the person who I’d employed to be doing that job had not done it at all. But not only that, had somehow managed to hide the correspondence from me, from HMRC all through the year. So that it’s only by chance that I happened on this letter when I came in after Christmas, that I realised what had been going on for the full year. And so, you know, I’m thinking I’ve got my finger on the pulse and I know what’s happening in my very own organisation. And then I come across that.


[00:29:56] – Liz

So I had to go straight into an investigation and it was really hard. I asked him to go and leave without pay. And whilst it was all investigated and that was all really difficult, and then there was somebody else who joined the team who was again showing like a different character. So the person that I saw wasn’t the person that everybody else saw. And so that was really challenging where she was really showing a really unhealthy power dynamic in her relationship with people. I thought I’d done really well with regards to recruitment, doing the right interview, doing the right selection, right induction, right training, but still there were this and as a small organisation, small social enterprises only, just turning over at that time, just sustainable, it was really challenging. And these things cost money.


[00:30:57] – Samantha



[00:30:58] – Liz

To go through that costs a lot of money. So that was really challenging. And on both occasions I really sought support from good people. So I made sure that I was talking to people with employment law understanding, I was talking to ACAS, I was talking to Voluntary Action Calderdale. They were brilliant, really helped me through, especially the second instant. And I had to gain, draw on the networks of people around me to get the organisation through that. When it comes to the learning points from that, for me it was really about making sure that you’re asking the right questions. I’ve always found it really difficult to balance being self directed teams and not micromanaging people and people kind of forging their own place whilst balancing that with micromanagement.


[00:31:54] – Samantha

Yeah, because there’s certain parameters, there’s things you need and expect from people that are non negotiable really, aren’t they? And especially in the work that you do to have that, this will lead to affecting the families and it’s just non negotiable, some of it, isn’t it? So I know what you mean, it’s that thing about yes, people, you want freedom for people and you want them to be able to take their place in the organisation and be part of that. But that doesn’t mean that anybody can just-,


[00:32:31] – Liz

Yeah, I mean, it is. Because you base so much on trust.


[00:32:36] – Samantha

Of course.


[00:32:39] – Liz

With us being a small organisation, it wasn’t possible to cross examine, double check when you’ve framed the role that the person’s bringing into the organisation. It’s very much on trust that the person’s getting on and doing that so that you can get on and do what the organisation is there to do. So when that trust is broken, it is really difficult. Like you just said, personally, personally going through that and seeing that somebody’s misused the thing that you’ve invested everything into, that thing of I’ve built this so that the people who come to us, who want support from us have a good experience and actually have they actually had a good experience. So that then leads you into that place of we’re not doing what I intended for this to be about. This is not what this is for. And people not valuing what the organisations therefore I mean, both of them jeopardised the organisation to a point where without real energy and time investment, the organisation could have really not survived.


[00:34:06] – Samantha

Yeah, that’s a lot to process and deal with.


[00:34:12] – Liz

Yeah. And I think that the thing that I took from that is making sure that as a team of people that are coming together, we’re really clear on what the values are, we’re really clear why we’re here, what’s our purpose, we’re really clear on where are we going, what’s our vision. And so that when we’re functioning as a team, we’re using them three areas as anchor points.


[00:34:42] – Samantha



[00:34:44] – Liz

So when we’re making decisions about what to do, when we’re observing each other in how we’re doing things, we’re using them three things as a steer as to, well, are we keeping within, are we keeping within this? And then creating the culture where every member of the team and even those support by the team are able to speak out if they feel something’s adrift.


[00:35:09] – Samantha

And have you found that that has really helped with building a much taking the organisation where you want it to go, but also being able to find the right people?


[00:35:18] – Liz

Yeah, definitely. It has helped. And making sure that when we’re opening up get togethers, meetings that we start with why are we here, what is this about? And recognising when we’re in purpose and recognising when we’re not and doing something about that. And the other thing as well, that’s been there all along but probably is stronger now is making time. So as a team, we get together and listen to each other’s story and we listen to each other’s aspirations and we listen to each other’s interests and what is a strength and then we form the organisation around that. So rather than kind of creating a strategy that we expect people to fall into, the strategy is created around the people that are there.


[00:36:22] – Samantha

That sounds like a real inclusive way of working in the sense of you’re not trying to make anybody fit a box or fit into something. That whole kind of anything about making people feel like they have to fit in is never usually positive, is it? It’s something that’s just not helpful for anyone.


[00:36:43] – Liz

Yeah. It’s a breeding ground for an unhealthy organisation. And what I’m hoping to do is that the next step for me within Imagineer and the team is to really move further down the self directed team’s route. One of the things I’ll be bringing into the team is a self determined role description. I’ve designed a bit of an outline around who am I, what’s important to me, when I feel I’m at my best within the organisation, what I’m doing at that time, where I feel I’m really in purpose within the organisation and what I’m doing at that time and what I feel I bring. A description that’s been written by each member of the team, whilst in the background we’d have collated a list of what the organisation needs and we’ll map across what’s come from each individual’s, each person’s outline, we’ll map across. What does that meet that the organisation requires, and where is there any gaps, and where do we then fill that gaps? And rather than shoehorning a member of the team into the gap so say, for instance, there’s a gap around financial management or there’s a gap around promotion or wherever the gap is that the organisation needs, we then explore, well, who do we find that can bring that into the organisation?


[00:38:10] – Liz

But they’re not doing it because they’ve been shoehorned into doing it because there’s no one else available, they’re doing it because that’s a passion of theirs as well. So that’s where I’m hoping to go with that. So we won’t have job descriptions anymore at all within the organisation, the idea is that it’ll be more in keeping with that self directed ethos.


[00:38:32] – Liz

And two years ago, I trained in something called Be Humankind. And this Jules Casey who developed Be Humankind is really behind the impetus behind all this thinking and all this work. And Be Humankind comes from that place of we function well together when we are good together as people. It’s not what you do, it’s not your tasks and your milestones that matter, it’s how you are together as a group of people in the pursuance of that purpose. And it’s around creating that culture of kindness within an organisation to really create the conditions for effective, helpful, fun work. And it’s brilliant. It’s a brilliant programme she’s designed.


[00:39:21] – Samantha

Sounds amazing.


[00:39:23] – Liz

Yeah, it is, it’s fantastic. And it’s steeped in her understanding of people management, organizational development, person centred practices. And she’s really skilled as a counsellor and a therapist. She’s fantastic. So I work with her as a facilitator as well. And that’s a really interesting dynamic to bring into an organisation. And it’s not mistaking kindness with niceness.


[00:39:48] – Samantha

Oh, absolutely, yes.


[00:39:51] – Liz

It’s not about being nice.


[00:39:53] – Samantha



[00:39:54] – Liz

It’s not about just smiling all the time and saying nice things to each other. Kindness sometimes, there’s some really difficult conversations that need to be had, but they can still be done with kindness underpinning all of it. And the idea behind that is that that conversation helps that group of people to reach a better place together with no one losing. That win win kind of arrangement.


[00:40:36] – Liz

So you kind of asked about the three most challenging. So this is where it gets really hard.


[00:40:40] – Samantha



[00:40:42] – Liz

Yeah. So I think sometimes going through the most adverse circumstances gives you an understanding of what you definitely need to have to be able to survive and to get past them things. And we faced one of the most difficult things you could possibly well, I don’t think you could even imagine, to be honest. So we had a team member who’d been with Imagineer, she was young. She was 21. She started working with us when she was 19, and she was brilliant. She had so much zest and energy and she was leading up on a lot of the music side of things, so she were running the music sessions and she worked with Nigel a lot, Nigel being my husband, helping the outsiders. And back in 2019, we lost Beth. She was working with Imagineer at the time, getting ready to run a Beat It night in Huddersfield. There were a whole host of people turning up that night, getting ready for one of their night outs that month that they’d looked forward to. She was attacked on the way into work by her ex partner, and we lost her that night outside the club in Huddersfield.


[00:42:09] – Liz

So it was absolutely the extreme of a horrendous situation. I was there, so there were two members of the team there with her when it happened, and then I turned up just, I think it was less than a minute after she’d been attacked. You don’t ever imagine that you’re ever going to have to face anything like that. And the night kind of became this horrendous, surreal experience of paramedics and police and people just really struggling with accepting what had just happened and the loss of this wonderful young woman that had the whole world ahead of her and had so much to give as well. So not only was she fabulous with people, she was really into environmental, she really wanted to go into environmental. She was studying at York University, Environmental Studies, so she had such a future in front of her as well. And that hit us all really, really hard. The whole team, Imagineer struggled, couldn’t work, really found it hard to come to terms with. And as a leader and founder of the organisation at that time, I was left with really needing to be the point of contact for people. I needed to phone people up that she worked with, to let them know I needed to phone families, and I was really the only one that could keep the organisation going.


[00:44:06] – Liz

So even though I’d been there on the evening of losing her and I’d been with her when she died, I then had to keep the organisation going as well. And so that is, I think, when you go through something as extreme as that, it pushes you to really appreciate what’s needed to kind of keep something, to keep something going and to have the resilience to keep it going. But when you’ve got past keeping it going, when you’ve got past that kind of just keeping things going and getting to the point where you feel in a strength again, you really begin to appreciate what’s needed in the world.


[00:44:56] – Samantha

Yeah. Gosh, I’m so sorry.


[00:44:59] – Liz



[00:45:01] – Samantha

What an awful, awful thing to have to deal with.


[00:45:04] – Liz

Yeah, it was. And it’s had a huge impact on the team, on relationships, on so much, on so much. But I think there was a part of me, for me as well, there was definitely a part of me at that time and still now, where a lot of keeping things going was actually in her memory as well. For me at the time. It’s like she put so much into this, did Beth, that we can’t let this go.


[00:45:46] – Samantha



[00:45:48] – Liz

And it meant so much to her as well. We’ve done a lot since that time in raising our own understanding of domestic violence, of supporting the White Ribbon campaign around violence towards women, raising money, being an ambassador, making sure the whole team has ways of accessing the support that they need if they’re ever experiencing anything like that. And just doing whatever we can to not only support other people that are in the same position that Beth was in, but to also keep her memory going as well. There is an aspect of the team being very close, being much more aware. There is that element know, recognising that no matter what you put in place, you simply cannot control everything and you cannot possibly be aware of every potential thing that could happen.


[00:46:55] – Liz

And I think that was a massive learning point for me, that no matter what risk assessments you have in place, no matter what processes you have in place, no matter how much you plan for something, you cannot possibly cover every eventuality. And the most important thing in everything that we do is how we are together in what we do. That’s the key thing. And also recognising that you may not realise it, but you’ve got supporters that you cannot even see at that moment in time. The amount of people that came to help, the amount of people that just came to pop in for a cup of tea, the people that were just simply there, that weren’t associated with the organisation on a day to day basis. They knew about me, they knew about Imagineer, but they came.


[00:47:43] – Liz

I had a friend who, without her, the first week would have been horrendous. She said, I’ll just come and answer the phone. I’ll just make sure that I’m answering the phone so you don’t have to answer the phone.


[00:48:03] – Samantha



[00:48:04] – Liz

Just small things like that where you realise that part of your resilience isn’t about having to get through something on your own, it’s recognising that you’re not ever really fully on your own. There’s always going to be somebody there to help you when you need it. It’s part of my story, it’s part of Imagineer’s story. It’s part of the team story that we can’t ignore. We can’t ignore that. And it’s brought us to where we are now. And Beth’s contribution to what we did is fundamental as well. And we don’t ever want to lose touch with that either.


[00:48:45] – Samantha

No, of course. It’s a good way of having her legacy of influence at Imagineer and you can cherish the memories and see the impact of what that is. That must be helpful.


[00:49:14] – Samantha

Just to round off, I wondered what you might hope for the future, for Imagineer and maybe also for other similar organisations or maybe people who have had similar experiences to you or maybe are thinking about leading a team or setting up an organisation or venturing out on their own or any of that what your hope might be for how people could experience that. And again, that sort of central thread about people being together.


[00:49:52] – Liz

Yeah, I’ve got so many ideas.


[00:49:56] – Samantha

I’m sure you do.


[00:50:01] – Liz

I think one of the things that really strikes me now, especially under our current climate, with 13 years of austerity, cost of living, recovery from the pandemic, Brexit, it’s layered, isn’t it?


[00:50:20] – Samantha

I know it is, isn’t it?


[00:50:22] – Liz

There’s just so much that we’re up against at the moment that for anybody who has a passion to do something and has a passion to make a difference, it’s really clear at this moment in time that what people really need is some sense of financial security and the pursuance of that idea. What I’d love to see is an element of that being built into our commerce as a society so that people can feel safe and secure to move forward with an idea and just simply try something out and it would be great to see that happening.


[00:51:05] – Liz

So one of the things I’m doing at the moment I’m putting a little bit of my time into is really promoting universal basic income. So for anybody who isn’t aware of what universal basic income is, I’m not sure who is aware of it and who isn’t, but it’s an idea that means that every citizen has access to finance, that means that their basic needs are secure and are met. It means scrapping assessment processes, it means stopping people having to prove that they actually have a right to survive within society as a citizen, within society. So it means that DWP and assessment processes would go the amount it costs to administer DWP would shift into that money being funneled directly to citizens and that would be anyone.


[00:52:05] – Liz

You don’t need to meet a criteria to get UBI a universal basic income and I’m such a believer in that and I think that if we did have that in society then people would be able to pursue their passions in a way that they’re restricted from at the moment. And I really do believe that if people had chance to do that we’d just see brilliant things happening in community and communities would be much more cohesive and there’d be less separatism that happens. But that’s a big thing, that’s a big idea.


[00:52:38] – Samantha

Well, it’s good to have big focuses, isn’t it?


[00:52:41] – Liz

On a smaller scale, for me, in my whole journey, the thing that’s got me through the highs and the lows which as you’ve heard, have been extremes, have been people and being kind of networked into people. So it’d be great to have some informal network of people coming together who are entrepreneurial, have ideas who want to do something different, who want to try something out, to be supportive of each other, but also to be able to do some of that skill sharing. Say somebody who is great at marketing could speak to somebody who knows how to do bookkeeping, somebody who knows how to facilitate events, could speak to somebody who knows how to do something else, whatever it is.


[00:53:31] – Liz

There was a guy, I don’t know if you ever come across him, Ernesto Sirolli. He writes brilliantly about community activism, Italian, as the name suggests, and very passionate, which is a stereotype, but he’s definitely passionate. And he talks about not trying to be everything, not trying to be everything. He said if you’re setting up an enterprise, he separates it into three areas, a triad. So you’ve got finance, you’ve got marketing and you’ve got the actual-, he calls it technician, so that’s your topic.


[00:54:05] – Samantha

Right, okay.


[00:54:06] – Liz

It would work. Or if it’s social care, if it’s dancing, wherever it is. So don’t try and be all three. The best is when you just concentrate on one. At most, do two, but never try and do all three because if you try that, you’re open into possibly failing.


[00:54:23] – Liz

And the other strong message he’s got is don’t go into a space to try and do something without talking to the people that are in that space already, because they’re really the ones with the knowledge of what works in that area, whether it’s a geographical area, if it’s a local community, or if it’s an area of a certain topic of interest. Be alongside other people and listen to the stories and feed that story into creating your direction is really key. And I think as well, just being able to offer some-, for people to have access to some mentoring and coaching as I did with the National Brokerage Network. And so that’s one area that I’m quite keen on at the moment is to be opening up to coaching some people that are in that space of wanting to explore where they want to go next with their idea.


[00:55:23] – Liz

And for Imagineer, Imagineer’s in a good place really is great team of people, really passionate, really knowledgeable, dedicated, skilled. And it’s great that we’ve got over what we went through in losing Beth in then going into the pandemic. And to be in this space now feels in it really does feel incredible. So much so that I’m currently actually on sabbatical.


[00:55:55] – Samantha



[00:55:56] – Liz

So I’m halfway through a three month sabbatical and hoping to return in mid October, just part time to two days a week. And for moving forward with the organisation, what I really want to see happening next is that community of people that are engaged with Imagineer, either the core team, the associates and the people that we’re working alongside, that they shape the future direction of where Imagineer goes next. And I’m quite excited to see what that is and what that looks like.


[00:56:34] – Samantha

Yeah, I’m excited for you as well. Well, thank you, Liz. I really, really appreciate you sharing everything with us today and I imagine it’s not easy to talk about and I’m sending, I don’t think you need it, but lots of positive vibes and luck for the next phase and where Imagineer goes next. And I’m sure it’s going to be really continually exciting and who knows what the future holds, I suppose.


[00:57:06] – Liz

Yeah, I’m feeling very hopeful and optimistic for the future. Quite excited. I think it’s probably taken about two years before I could actually talk about the significance of what happened when we lost Beth. It took a long time to be able to talk about it, but all of that has fed into getting Imagineer to where it is now and the team to where it is now as well, and that’s just really positive.


[00:57:44] – Samantha

Keeping Beth’s impact alive, isn’t it?


[00:57:47] – Liz



[00:57:48] – Samantha

Yeah, great to chat to you, Liz, thank you.


[00:57:50] – Liz

Thank you, Sam.


[00:57:51] – Samantha

My deepest gratitude to Liz for this chat. It takes a deep sense of courage and resilience to share such challenging experiences and be so open about the realities of life. I’m sure you’ll agree that the work she and the Imagineer team does is incredibly inspiring too.


[00:58:08] – Samantha

If you’d like to find out about support relating to domestic violence, there’s a range available, including national organisations, refuge, Women’s Aid and White Ribbon. In Calderdale, you can access support via Calderdale Staying Safe, go to calderdalestayingsafe.org.uk. Links to all of these organisations and further information are included in the show notes and on the episode page of Curious Motion’s website. You can also find out more about Imagineer and the incredible support they offer@imagineer.org.uk. Huge thanks once again to Liz.


[00:58:47] – Samantha

And that brings us to the end of another captivating episode of Calder Navigation. Thank you for joining us on this voyage through the stories that shape Calderdale. We hope that these conversations have touched your heart, inspired your mind and reminded you of the power of human connection. As we navigate life together, let’s carry these stories with us, cherishing the lessons they teach us and the bonds they strengthen.


[00:59:11] – Samantha

Remember, Calder Navigation is just one part of the Welland Activator Project, a collective effort to combat loneliness and isolation in our community. We encourage you to explore the various classes, workshops and walks offered through the programme and join us at our special showcase event, Welland, where we can come together and celebrate the magic of Elland and Calderdale. You can find out more about the project at curiousmotion.org.uk


[00:59:38] – Samantha

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Calderdale Council Reaching Communities from the National Lottery Community Fund and Arts Council England for their invaluable support in making this podcast and the Welland Activator possible. Thanks to Untold Creative for production support.


[00:59:53] – Samantha

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Calder Navigation on your preferred podcast platform so you never miss an episode. And please help us spread the word by sharing the podcast with your friends, family and anyone who might find solace, inspiration or a sense of belonging in these stories. As we conclude this chapter, we invite you to keep exploring, keep connecting, and keep navigating the currents of life with curiosity and compassion. Remember, the journey continues and together we can make a difference. Until next time, fair winds and warm hearts.

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