Liz Akers - Team Nice
You may not have noticed it yet, but a new movement is sweeping the globe. It has so-far spread to Mexico, the US and Canada and across the UK – and its epicentre is Brockley.
Team Nice is a network of people brought together by a uniting philosophy: People are essentially nice, but sometimes, they just don’t know how to show it. The network has spread virally, as people given ‘niceties tokens’ to friends, family and strangers who’ve been nice to them. Only 100 tokens were originally produced, but they have been passed on many times, so that the network now reaches as far as New Zealand. If you get one, you simply register your details on a website and pass it on to someone nice.
Its creator, Liz Akers, works in the publishing industry and has been living in Brockley for four years. I thought she’d be a perfect interviewee for Brockley Central, so I contacted her to see if she’d agree to meet. And, being the nice person that she is, she said yes.
Naturally, we agreed to meet in one of Brockley’s nicest spots – Moonbow Jakes – and as I went up to order some coffee, the woman behind the counter spotted the word NICE written at the top of my pad.
“Is that Nice as in the place in France, or the adjective?” She asked.
“The adjective,” I said.
“Did you know, nice used to be a derogatory term?” She said, before proceeding to quote some of the less flattering ways in which Shakespeare used the word.
While she talked, I wondered whether this was the sort of thing people got niceties tokens for.
“There are no rules for who gets them,” said Liz, when I came back with my coffee.
“We don’t have a code of conduct. I wouldn’t like to get judgemental – it wouldn’t be against the spirit of what we’re trying to do.”
So what is it Team Nice are trying to do, exactly?
“Well that’s the hard part – describing what it’s for. It’s just about encouraging people to talk, to feel good about each other and to celebrate niceness in all its forms.
“Because people invite each other and there are no rules, I think the best people to describe what Team Nice is about are its members.
“That’s why we’re planning a short film project, where we’ll interview members and get them to share their experiences.”
But there’s no doubting that the idea is a powerful one and that Liz has been a fantastic ambassador. The media quickly embraced the concept and, since the story first appeared in Metro, Liz has been interviewed by everyone from the BBC to Mexican TV.
“Like a lot of my best ideas, it came from a drunken night out,” she said, a little embarrassed.
“The difference with this one was that I remembered it the next day and decided to do something about me. Luckily, I have great friends (like Pete, her friend who joined us for the interview and who runs the website) who believed in me enough to help me out. It’s was a collaborative project.”
Then, she produced a token – sadly only to show me, rather than give to me – and I noticed it was made of Fimo (the bake-in-the-oven modelling clay), which I remembered from my childhood.
“I can tell you’re a child of hippy parents,” she says, semi-accurately, “I think we all must have been given Fimo when we were younger.”
It’s a simple thing, with a unique combination of marks and colours, which sets it apart from its brothers and sisters. In the best traditions of Brockley’s creative cottage industries, the tokens are lovely little homemade objects. Liz says that their appeal has been a bit of a problem.
“People like them – they tell us they don’t want to give them away. But that means that the nice-trail dries up, so we have had to produce some more – 500 this time.”
Last weekend, Liz threw her first Team Nice party since launch, in Soho. It was a chance for people from the network to come together to throw the nicest party in the world.Unsurprisingly, there were no fights:
“Everyone got in to the spirit of things,” said Pete, “and we somehow ended up with a mish-mash of themes, ranging from mask-ball through pirate adventure to circus clown!”
As for the future, Liz says there’s no masterplan:
"I'm happy to let it grow organically. It's spread through word of mouth and that means it has taken on a life of its own. My role is to help encourage a sense of community.
“Having said that, I would like to get some celebrity members – my dream team would include Kylie, the Dalai Lama, Simon Cowell and Ann Robinson. Like I say, I believe there’s something nice in nearly everyone…”
Liz on Brockley
What first brought you to Brockley?
"I moved here to be with family, near Hilly Fields. I arrived at the same time as Jam Circus and haven’t ever thought about leaving. It’s perpetually “up and coming” but it doesn’t really seem to have changed since I’ve been here."
What's the nicest thing about Brockley?
“The sense of community. The fact that it still feels a bit cut-off from the rest of London, even though it isn’t.”
What would make it nicer?
“At the risk of contradicting myself, I’d like it if there was less… segregation. There are a lot of different classes, ethnic communities and generations living together here, it would be nice if there were more ways in which we interacted.”
Would you every throw a Team Nice party in Brockley?
"It would be a great place for a party – if people can work out how to get here."
For more information, visit www.team-nice.co.uk