• Rebecca Robinson

The Festival of Hygge: Cosiness in the City

Stanley Park and the Isla Gladstone Conservatory - one of Liverpool’s most beautiful Victorian glasshouses, and a fantastic example of urban regeneration for its restoration after being left to rust for over 30 years – today played host to The Festival of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah).

Hygge is the popular Danish art of being comfy, cosy and content, and this festival ticked all the boxes for a cheerful celebration of the little things we can do to create a happy, healthy life – from pouring ourselves a cup of tea to baking a batch of cupcakes as a treat or taking some time out to just breathe, do yoga, meditate and simply ‘be’.

Organised by Positivity Inc, who sow seeds of positivity across Liverpool with yoga, mindfulness and creative outdoor activities, and Healthy Souls, who create an annual health and wellbeing festival, with events for body, mind and soul throughout the year, it offered something for everyone.

As people gathered underneath the glass roof, unrolling brightly coloured yoga mats and wrapping themselves in fluffy blankets, the blue sky and autumn sun shone through the windows, providing warmth, light and a link to the natural world whilst we were cosily tucked up inside – all perfect elements for a relaxing hygge-inspired Sunday.

The day had everything from bath-bomb making, mandala painting, chill-out zones, a complementary therapy area, to tea tasting and mini talks from local stallholders.

There were lots of lovely stalls to browse selling hygge and wellness-themed wares, such as knitwear, aromatherapy oils, organic soaps, tasty cakes, bakes and vegan treats, local honey, candles, pottery made by Marta Andrzejewska’s Under The Stairs pottery, healing crystals and jewellery from Navajo Dreams, to kombucha stands – a fermented tea good for gut health and immunity due to being rich in probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and one of the latest trends in health and wellbeing, to Vonnybee natural medicine and therapies such as reiki and reflexology, Barnett’s Wholefoods and Rawfully Good 4 U who offer detox food and juice plans. There was also a book stall from News from Nowhere – a women’s co-operative committed to social change and Liverpool’s longest established bookshop and not for profit community business.

As I browsed, I treated myself to a few hand-blended artisan teas from Lady Liver Tea’s very tempting stall. I spoke to the lovely and super-knowledgeable owner, Sarah Kinney, who recommended some teas to try and gave my husband and I some delicious samples to taste and, being a bit of a magpie when it comes to sparkly things, I came away with a tiny glittering teaspoon, a dinky tea infuser and three bags of delightfully-named tea: the tropical Coconut Dream, the rose, chamomile and lavender Fairy Garden and the de-stressing blend, Calm Your Pants!

The mood of the day was light-hearted, relaxed and friendly, with a good mix of festival-goers ranging from hygge devotees wrapped up nice and toasty in big sweaters (like myself!) to yoga fans in gym gear, and people who love a sticky cinnamon bun to vegans who whip up incredible sweet treats made from nuts, seeds and berries. Everybody was made to feel welcome, from people who had come alone to enjoy some peace and quiet, to couples, families with young children and groups of friends and family.

There was something for everyone, with a great balance of talks and practical workshops that you could take part in if you wanted to, with Family Yoga with Jodie Moran, Sing-a-Long with The Bookworm Players, Beginner Yoga with Thalbir Kaur Sokar, a Drum Journey Meditation with Maria Barington, Energising Yoga with Natasha, Breath Work with Claire Cockburn, and Mindfulness and The Art of Being Awesome with Dave from Liverpool Mindfulness, ending with Candlelit Yoga and a Sound Bath with Eve Lynch, Catherine Odita and Andrew McGovern.

We took part in the Breath Work session with Claire, where we lay on the floor on yoga mats wrapped in fluffy blankets as we listened to primal music and practised deep breathing, taking in big, energising lungfuls of air through our open mouths, which we then released with loud sighs to pump oxygen around our bodies and relax, release tension and let go of any physical or emotional stress.

Claire encouraged everyone not to feel self-conscious and to join in as a group, saying we might feel emotions come up which we should just accept and release. She also said we might feel some tingling in our hands and feet as we revitalised ourselves through deep breathing. As the session drew to a close, Claire spritzed us all with an aromatherapy mist, and as we slowly sat up, I felt deeply relaxed and much lighter, whilst also feeling more energised and happier (fantastic as I have been suffering with a bad cold and felt completely drained, but I was determined to go to this event!). And my husband had nearly gone asleep as he was so chilled out!

Karen concluded by talking about how breath-work and a healthy vegan lifestyle, where we eat more plant-based food, full of the sun’s energy, can really boost our wellness. Though I am not vegan, it has made me seriously consider trying to eat a healthier diet with more fruits, veggies and natural produce.

We then attended the workshop led by Dave from Liverpool Mindfulness called Mindfulness and The Art of Being Awesome, which he re-named Are We There Yet? as a nod to how impatient we can be to get to some future destination whilst forgetting to appreciate the now.

He did a series of mini meditations and visualisations with us, including observing the breath and mindful awareness practices where we used all our senses to ground ourselves, and in such beautiful surroundings it wasn’t hard to do. I took in the rainbow sea of yoga mats, the emerald grass outside, the blue sky, white clouds and autumn leaves on the trees; I heard people chatting happily at the stalls; I felt the softness of the blanket I was cuddled up in, the brush of my husbands fingers next to mine as we lay side by side, and the floor supporting me; I smelled the mixture of sweet aromatherapy oils and freshly-baked cakes in the air. It really helped me to zone in on the present moment.

As we meditated, he talked in a down to earth and practical way, suggesting that we close our eyes and tell ourselves: I love you, Thank You and I Forgive You as a means of self-acceptance. He asked us to extend love in our minds to others in the group and beyond. We also introduced ourselves to the people sitting next to us, and we had to think of somebody we loved and then describe the person and how we felt when we thought about them to the person alongside us, ending the session with a circle meditation.

This was a great workshop too, with lots of simple ideas for new and interesting ways to be more mindful, and to understand that, whilst we might always be striving to get somewhere, where we are right now is the only moment we ever truly have, and that we should fully tune into our present space, wherever we are, to really live our best life – something that The Festival of Hygge warmly and heartily encouraged.