Q. Who visits the SOS events?
A. Couples who want to ‘break up right’ – especially those who have children. People considering break up but wanting to know what is involved. Couples who have got together post divorce but still have legal or financial issues that need sorting out. People who have already got divorced and are looking for the inspiration to really start over. Happily married people who are bringing along ‘a friend in need’ (which is why we provide two tickets for the price of one).
Q. How did you come up with the SOS concept?
A. There are fairs for people getting married, but nothing for those getting divorced – when they need even more support, especially emotional support. I discovered this when I was breaking up from a 10 year relationship with 3 young children.
Q. Was the SOS in March 2009 the first in the UK?
A. Yes, we were the first. I knew there would be demand for such fairs and I wanted to set a high standard, an ethical approach, as I feared that other event organizers would focus more on the divorce rather than the starting over, as had been done in the rest of Europe (SOS does not have any Private Detectives firms or DNA testers exhibiting – unlike other ‘divorce fairs’.
Q. What are the SOS Road Shows?
A. SOS Road Shows are local resource-based events, usually taking place on a Thursday evening after work so local residents and employees of local businesses can drop in and experience free legal & financial powwows, parenting and wellbeing salons, and find a better way to start over from divorce and break up.
Q. Why did you begin with an SOS Road Show in Farnham?
A. I create the SOS Road Shows in collaboration with key local firms who effectively sponsor and host a series of local events. My first SOS Road Show is hosted by the Collaborative Family Law Group who are based in the Blackwater Valley on the Surrey/Hampshire border. We felt that Farnham Castle was a fitting venue for our first Road Shows – an uplifting and inspirational venue for an uplifting and inspirational series of events.
Q Are you planning shows in other parts of the UK?
A. I would love to create SOS events throughout the UK. It is important that people have access to local support and expertise, which is why the locally based SOS Road Show events will provide a valuable local resource – nationally.
Q. Who are you aiming the show at and does it cater for gay people too?
A. The shows are ideal for anyone considering divorce and wanting to know what is involved, and how to proceed in a way that helps maintain a healthy relationship with their partner irrespective of whether they stay together or not. SOS is also ideal for couples going through break up or even a few years down the line post-divorce, who have unresolved legal or child access issues, or just feel a bit stuck! We are an inclusive event and welcome people breaking up from civil partnerships, which is one of the reasons why we chose Brighton as our very first location.
Q. Don’t you think you are profiting from people’s misery?
A. Does a doctor profit from another’s pain because he makes a living by helping others to heal? Our exhibitors include many who have been through divorce themselves, and are passionate about helping others to go through the process in a healthy and empowering way.
Q. What about people from different religions?
A. As an inclusive event, we welcome all races and religions – fundamentally, divorce and relationship breakup is a process identical to that of bereavement. Human pain has no cultural or religious boundaries. Our show includes the presence of non denominational pastors who can give support and spiritual advice to people of any religious background.
Q. Why do you think the first show was such a success?
A. The press and the visitors were expecting a miserable, depressing event – or something that felt very commercial. They experienced something very different! Visitors felt relaxed enough to chat with each other and share stories, and they knew they were somewhere brimming over with information, inspiration, and where no one was made to feel like a failure just because their relationship hadn’t worked out as planned.
Q: I’ve heard of some other similar events taking place – are you involved in those?
A. There are some copycat shows happening which demonstrates a real need for such events, but I am deliberately distant from other ‘divorce fairs’ because of the fundamental differences between our approaches. We are not a ‘divorce supermarket’ – rather, SOS is more like the friendly local organic shop where you can interesting and healthy alternatives to what is on the supermarket shelves. Consequently, the atmosphere of our shows is friendly and relaxed, and there are no private detective agencies (the only UK divorce fair so far that can make that claim).
Q. How do you respond when people say you are helping to promote divorce?
A. No one goes through divorce or relationship break up lightly. It is one of the most painful and difficult experiences anyone can experience. The idea that something so painful and difficult could be ‘promoted’ is ridiculous, and a claim that could only be made by those who have never experienced it. To deny people – thousands of people – easy access to emotional and practical support, which will encourage them to take a non-combative approach to the divorce process, can only be a good thing.
Q. What sort of people are exhibiting at the next events?
A. It’s early days yet, but already we have some great exhibitors. Jane Orr, The Mystic Housewife, Collaborative family lawyers and mediators, a Wills specialist, a photographer – a holistic mix of inspiration and information. We have financial experts, relationship experts – including Vena Ramphal, a holistic coach who ‘unwraps the gifts of passion’, and also a private surgery for couples wanting parenting advice and support. Also present will be the interfaith ministers who created such interest at the last events with their ‘letting go’ ceremony.
Q. Why won’t you allow DNA testers or private detectives at SOS?
A. Both professions provide a valuable service – but they are not part of the ethos of ‘starting over’. We are determined to encourage people to break with tradition and focus on non combative ways to go through break up, keeping a healthy working relationship with each other despite some inevitable low points.
Q How can people exhibit?
A. Contact suzy (at) startingovershow.co.uk or ring her on 07525 059 634.
Q. How can people get tickets and where exactly are the shows?
A. Tickets can be bought online for only £8 from most pages of the www.startingovershow.co.uk website, and we always provide 2 tickets for the price of 1 in case you want to bring along a friend/family member or a new partner. The first SOS Road Shows are on 11 November 2010 & 10 February 2011 from 5.30pm to 8.30pm at Farnham Castle.
Q What are you doing to promote the shows?
A. We promote the events in a variety of ways, including making some tickets available for free to charities or organizations who see the SOS events as a positive HR resource. For example, BT and the South East Fire Brigades’ Union gave out the code for free tickets to their staff which reflects their positive approach to their own corporate social responsibility. The Brighton & Hove City Council and GLA also shared the code for free tickets with their staff.
Q Are you planning more SOS road shows?
A. I would love to put on more shows around the UK, but since I am a co-parenting mother of three with only so much time and energy, I plan to invite collaborators to take on the organisation of local SOS events in other parts of the UK as an ideal start-up business opportunity for parents looking for part-time flexible work, whilst maintaining they high quality of experience and strong ethos which is the mark of the Starting Over Show brand.