I knew this was going to be a conversation with "loads" of laughter. From my 13 years of experience living in Ireland, I absolutely LOVE how the Irish know how to "have a craic". Which in Irish slang means, to have a fun, entertaining, enjoyable gossip and conversation.
I invited my dear friend, and collaborator in different projects - past, present and future - Cormac Walsh, to meet me at the Bar Alegria, in the old neighbourhood of Sant Antoni in Barcelona. The neighbourhood of Sant Antoni is known for the 19th-century Sant Antoni Market designed by Antoni Rovira i Trias, and founded in 1882. An example of the city's wrought-iron architecture. It has a good atmosphere and some quite old precious places with a heart still beating, which is the case of Bar Alegria, which was founded in 1899.
The name couldn't be more appropriate - Bar Alegria - meaning, Joy Bar, as I knew it was going to be a joyful moment.
I have to confess that I still don't manage the public transport timing in Barcelona… therefore, I was a bit late when I arrived. On my way, around the corner of Bar Alegria, funny enough I passed by a bar called Bar Miserias 😳 . Which literally means, Misery Bar…Miseria close to Alegria? Weird…😜
Cormac was already there, seated outside, on the terrace, waiting for me. And he greeted me with, "well within the Irish punctuality darling", meaning I was less than 15 min late, and that was ok. 😉
Before starting our conversation, I suggested that we should order first, so then we would be free to indulge ourselves in our soooo long needed catch up. When they bought us the menu, what immediately caught my attention was their slogan - Alegria cada día desde 1899 - meaning, Joy every day since 1899. ❤️
Their concept is tapas para compartir, tapas for sharing. So, we selected, pan de coca con tomate (coca bread with tomato), navajitas (razor clams), berenjena al miel (aubergines with honey), and bikinis (typical ham and cheese white bread sandwich - the name comes from a nightclub called Sala Bikini, founded in 1953, which started serving this sandwich to the clubbers).
Food ordered, then, the drinks: water, lots of (too hot this day), and some Rose Wine from the Penedès region.
All set. Let's start laughing. 😁
Of course, we had to do some warm up with some "typical Irish anecdotes" which can be anything from, mothers, religion, and sex. And, Gosh, did we laugh? I had belly cramps, really! 🤪
Now, once we had "our moment", it was time to get into our topic of the day.
There are so many things I would love to spend time having a conversation with Cormac, however, to keep focused, I decided to explore with him his project, 4 Voices, when it started, why it started, and what are the future plans. Also because I want to revive the Speak Up Challenge, an event I created in Zurich and Munich, which has been halted since the pandemic. And Cormac has already agreed to join forces with me to revive it. But, let's focus on 4 Voices.
I asked Cormac to tell me how this amazing project, 4 Voices, or should I call it "movement", started. And what is the vision behind it?
Cormac told me that all started very spontaneously (as most good things do). Cormac was the MC in an event I organised in Barcelona back 2015, the AWE Summit event in Barcelona. Carrie Frais was one of the speakers. Cormac runs Educate to Communicate, where he teaches individuals to communicate better in life and business, and Carrie runs MumAbroad which is a parental resource platform which helps parents to "find their ground" when moving to Spain, Germany, Italy and France. For both, education is important, and communication is the foundation for it.
Together, they had the idea of creating a platform to support youngsters to develop their communication and speaking skills in a fun way. They wanted to teach them, and then give them the opportunity to show their learnings to the world. So they created a competition style graduation.
Interestingly enough, in another part of the planet, precisely in Zurich and Munich, I had created a couple of years earlier the Speak Up Challenge, which, at a certain level, had the same vision behind. The Speak Up Challenge is for adults, professionals, and it is also a competition… is this serendipity? 🤔
By this time our drinks had already arrived, and I was indulging myself with the lovely cold rose wine… yummy… 😋 and following came our coca bread, and our tapas selection started appearing one by one… I must say I like the taste of the navajas, however, I can't look at them very much… it is something related to their appearance… The same happens to me with fish… I can't have a full fish and have it looking at me… I always put the lemon to cover their eyes… 🙄 judge me as you like…
So, 4 Voices had its debut in April 2022 in the Juno House in Barcelona, and it was an immediate success. Featuring 12 English-speaking teenagers from 4th ESO (obligatory secondary education) and 1st Bachillerato (baccalaureate), the competition showcased a diversity of youth, keen to develop their communication skills, share innovative ideas and transform minds and hearts as a consequence.
Cormac said, "They did not disappoint! From speeches about love and the secret to happiness to decade-long friendships and the importance of versatility, these incredibly talented youngsters delivered powerful and moving monologues to a captivated audience. The 12 finalists were chosen from dozens of entrants initially for their passion on a specific subject close to their heart. After a number of intense public speaking training sessions and one-to-one tutorials from our specialist panel of communicators, each finalist became competent in arguably one of the most important skills needed in the modern world."
It is definitely exciting and heartwarming to see a youngster on stage delivering a powerful message. 💯
I had the pleasure to experience it firsthand when Cormac invited me to be one of the judges of the second edition of 4Voices, last March 2023 at CaixaForum here in Barcelona.
I've been a judge in many competitions, and I tell you, in this one, it was quite difficult to make a decision, of being pragmatic, not biassed, not emotional… well it was quite emotional, and this is why it was difficult to make a selection and put the names forward…🥴
By this time we had already devoured all our tapas! The bikini de mi infancia (bikini of my childhood) was absolutely delicious! Amazing how you can up-level something so simple with one extra ingredient, by adding some grated truffles…
I asked Cormac what was the vision for 4Voices for the near future. And I was pleased to know that there are many educators in other parts of Spain, and abroad, approaching them wanting to use their concept in their schools and communities.
WOW! Can you imagine how much better this world will be if the young people of now, the ones who will be leading, and taking decisions in our world in the future, learn from an early age how to express their ideas with clarity, learn how to communicate with empathy, learn how to become better listeners?
And above all, learn that every word they say has a ripple effect impact. Touching first a person, then a community, then the planet. And… that words can heal, or hurt… and their choice of words is their responsibility… and, by knowing that, and learning how, they will always be equipped to choose the right words, the words which will move humanity forward, always towards a best place for them individually, and as collective…
Can you just imagine for a moment the impact such an initiative can have on the quality of the lives of the inhabitants of this planet in the future?
I can. Cormac can too.
And this is why he is doing this, this is why I do what I do too.
Cormac is helping these youngsters to become the best version of themselves in the future. I'm helping the adults to unleash their best version in the present moment, so they can abolish bad habits in their communication and leadership skills and have a conscious and positive impact in the future.
And the good news is, Cormac and I will be joining forces to support each other in this process.
We had much to celebrate in this conversation. 🤩 🥳
We closed our meeting with something which, although it is a Spanish creation, represents quite well my "joint forces" with Cormac, which is…
TADA… a carajillo de Bayleys. It contains coffee, Brazil, and Bayleys, Irish liqueur.
Want to know more about the Speak Up Challenge, or how you too can develop an impactful voice? Get in touch.