The Super Humans of 2020

Well, this year has been quite something, huh? Still, not even a global pandemic is going to stop me from announcing my Super Humans! Every year since 2011, I have shared a list of the people who have had positive impact on my life in the previous 12 months and, in my opinion, deserve an award for their greatness. These are some of the fabulous folk who have shaped my year and brought me both joy and inspiration, so I want to thank them for all they have done and also put them on your radar too.

Allie Katz – We’ve been friends for about a decade now, but had slightly drifted out of touch by the end of 2019. However, at the start of this year we vowed to reconnect and I headed over to their place for dinner in January and again February. Of course, March’s plans went by the wayside, but we have since met up for many picnics and walks in Greenwich Park. Chats with Allie have been one of the highlights of my year. They are a truly excellent human and I am lucky to call them my friend.

Jana Melkumova-Reynolds – Back at the end of March, Jana and I admitted to each other that we were kinda fascinated by what people were wearing during lockdown. We were both taking very different approaches ourselves; I was getting dressed up for the hell of it, while Jana was hibernating in comforting sweaters. Unexpectedly, out of this little chat came the Lockdown Clothing project and three academic conference presentations. Hopefully we might be able to see each other again in person in 2021, but in the meantime there’s always WhatsApp.

Cat Widdowson – Another long-term friend, Cat visited me in London back in February and I’d made plans for a return visit, but with the pandemic that somehow turned into weekly Skype calls. Yes, I know Skype is rather old fashioned, but neither of us use it for work so it meant that the calls felt instantly different to work meetings. (Also, I think we started back before I’d even got myself a Zoom account!) Our weekly chats have been lovely markers in time throughout months where many days seemed very much the same, and I’m very much looking forward to (one day!) visiting her in person again.

Dr Eleanor Janega – I’d love for someone to ask me how the esteemed medieval historian Dr Janega and I first met, because the story involves an anti-Trump protest and a hip flask. No George Michael chat though, as far as I recall, although that may have happened in the pub afterwards. Suffice to say, we got along rather well. We met for beers in February (which seems like YEARS ago now) and then again right at the start of March, and I was thrilled to pop my ‘Zoom quiz cherry’ with her gang in April. I look forward to being able to do actual pub stuff again in 2021.

Poorna Bell – A journalist and author who inspires many with her frank discussions on topics such as mental health and the enjoyment of powerlifting (yes, really!), I have followed Poorna on social media for quite a while and was very much looking forward to attending a writing workshop she was due to be running in August but… well, you know the rest by now. This is 2020 after all! I highly recommend following her community Instagram account @seemystrong for lots or wonderful stories of womxn and fitness across colour, culture, age, body size and ability.

Leyla Bumbra – Back in March, I was due to be a part of The Courtauld’s annual RES|FEST event thanks to Leyla’s interest in my research and belief that her event’s audience would also find it fascinating. Due to the cancellation of, well, everything, this is how I ended up presenting a little bit of fashion history and fashion psychology as part of the first ever Open Courtauld Hour online event. Definitely a highlight of my year! I also very much enjoyed a more recent episode in the series, which Leyla hosted herself, about British Art, Immigration and Migration – worth checking out.

Tigz Rice – As a boudoir photographer, Tigz had to do a bit of quick thinking when lockdown hit as her usual busy schedule of shoots and tours was put on hold. In the summer of this year she launched her virtual boudoir package and I took full advantage to get some wonderful shots of me to share on my social media. Tigz has also brightened my year via a number of Underpinnings Museum team video calls. I think we’re probably due another one of those soon!

Hilary Davidson – I’ve followed Hilary on Twitter for a long time and am a huge fan of her work as a dress historian, and this year I had the pleasure of meeting her in person. Sadly this was because she’s been stuck in the UK since the first lockdown, unable to return home to Australia, but thankfully she’s been able to continue working and meeting up with friends safely. I really hope that 2021 brings her a flight home that doesn’t get cancelled!

Professor Alixe Bovey – No list of super humans would be complete without the woman who keeps my sanity intact on weekdays. Not only is she an art historian, Dean and Deputy Director, and Head of Research at The Courtauld, but she is also a keen artist. The first few months of lockdown restrictions saw Alixe filling sketchbooks with beautiful drawings of weeds, and she may be the person who finally convinces me to try drawing again myself. After all, no one else could have convinced me that a 9am catch up every Monday morning was a good idea, so her powers of persuasion are strong!

And, as always, I’ve saved one spot on my list for a group. This year, it’s the wonderful community of bloggers who attend the Friday Uborka Cocktail Hour, a weekly 5pm Zoom call where we show up and see who else is about. Over the last few months we’ve been talked through Rachel’s cheese delivery, went camping with Susan, joined Gordon on a dog walk, celebrated Karen & Pete’s civil partnership, waited in the supermarket queue with Ann, listened to Alex‘s cat demand attention, and have had tours round many people’s houses and/or enjoyed the beautiful views from their windows. We are continuing the tradition with a Christmas day chat and have even bought some Not-So-Secret Santa gifts for the occasion.

The image for this post was created by me, from four photos of my laptop screen, because I’m That Person who live tweets talks, conferences and events… even when they’re on Zoom! Clockwise from top left: Hilary Davidson, Leyla Bumbra, Eleanor Janega, and Alixe Bovey. (Sadly, they were not all part of the same event. How marvellous would that be?) Check out my @MasterOfBras account for more live tweet shenanigans in 2021.

2 thoughts on “The Super Humans of 2020

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  1. Awww. It’s been so lovely doing (slightly retro – the Skype ringtone is now entirely associated with you in my mind 😂) chats with you. Here’s to something a little less screen-based next year x

    1. I do love how retro Skype is! And I’m really looking forward to (maybe) doing something in person next year (at some point!)

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