Deputy editor Yvonne Martin visited the Life Lessons Festival at the Barbican Centre, in London, to get some inspiration for body and mind.

You’re flawed. I’m flawed. We’re all flawed. And it’s ok, because that’s an essential part of being human. This was the main thrust of Ruby Wax’s talk at the Life Lessons Festival at the Barbican Centre, London, at the weekend.

Inspiration for life

The two-day festival brought together 80 speakers including authors, scientists and comedians to spend two days exploring how we live our lives and how these bodies and brains we have can work at their best.

Around 6,000 visitors went along (with their flaws) to hear some interesting thoughts and perhaps get a little inspiration for life.

Ruby’s Sunday talk (she spoke on both days of the festival) was especially enjoyable and put together a snapshot of the ideas contained in her book How To Be Human (Penguin Life). At its heart, it’s this: don’t add to your woes by beating yourself up for not being perfect. You’re not supposed to be perfect!

The Sunday Times event aimed to take a broad approach to wellbeing. You could listen to a discussion, browse the stalls, join a meditation or yoga session or even do some crafts.

Don’t get frazzled at a wellbeing festival

There was plenty to keep us occupied. We didn’t want to go to a wellbeing event and frazzle our brains trying to do absolutely everything though, so we paced ourselves.

The £60 ticket price got you into three talks/discussions as well as the other events, plus a book by one of the speakers. Whatever aspect of wellbeing interests you, there was something there to entertain or inform. The line-up took in many of the most prominent thinkers, podcasters and authors in the area of mental and physical health. These included Derren Brown, Alain de Botton, Dr Michael Mosley, Marie Forleo and Dr Rangan Chatterjee.

Maintaining a healthy brain

We started with the discussion on brain power chaired by Claudia Hammond. This featured Professor David Nutt, Kimberley Wilson and Dr David Adam. It looked at what we can do to make the best of our grey matter and ways to stave off the deterioration of the brain in old age.

We heard that exercise, sleep and a bit of caffeine (but not so much caffeine that you can’t sleep!) are some of the most effective ingredients for an active, working and protected brain. We went off and got a cappuccino after that.

Our need to belong

We also took in the session on belonging. This was a discussion, chaired by Owen O’Kane, with David Lammy MP and neuroscientist, Dr Rahul Jandial. It looked at how we need to belong and yet how belonging to one ‘tribe’ can separate us from others.

The festival seemed to be pretty successful. They struck a good balance between the types of subjects covered. So, it was hard to choose which talks to go to when booking as they were all interesting to me. It’s a good approach and seems to have found an engaged and interested audience. Let’s hope the festival returns.

Photographs: Johnny Stephens Photography