Local speakers took to the stage once again at the fifth annual edition of Gib Talks. The event saw people share their experiences and some deeply personal stories at the John Mackintosh Hall during the seven hour event.
Sharing stories and life experiences is what Gib Talks is all about and in the afternoon session of the event people spoke about their challenges or perspectives.
Talks varied from education to dealing with an injury with a further eight talks delivered.
The event was organised by Julian Felice in collaboration with the Gibraltar Cultural Services.
Over the past five years the talks have had a combined length of 20 hours.
Mr Felice and the team at Cultural Services are already looking at organising next year’s event on Saturday 1 February 2020.
Mr Felice bid for people to nominate others to take part in Gib Talks for the following year.
For Sonia Golt ‘age is just a number’ and she encourages everyone to forget about their ages and persevere with their life goals.
In a motivational speech she called age a fact of “mind over matter” using the example of how at 52 years old she decided to leave her business for a job in the Bahamas.
At the time she was running ‘Golt and Associates’ and within two week shut her business down, packed her clothes and set off for the Bahamas for a six month job.
The six months turned into eight years and she returned to Gibraltar at 60 years old.
But retirement was not on the cards for Ms Golt, she went travelling across the US and later worked in Monaco until the age of 69.
“All that glitters is not gold,” she said.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer while in the Bahamas travelling from there to Miami for treatment.
“If age didn’t stop me cancer wasn’t going to either,” she said.
Once she returned to Gibraltar she founded Bosom Buddies, a breast cancer charity.
Nathan Payas is an opera singer, accountant and open water swimmer.
Over the years he’s challenged himself to swim the English Channel and the Catalina Channel in the US.
He’s part of the Blue fin open water swimming club locally and regularly practises tough swims around the Rock to be able to these challenges.
“I put myself in difficult situations,” he said.
For the English Channel swim the biggest challenge for Mr Payas was the cold water.
He also swam the ‘double’ Strait of Gibraltar and was successful despite rough conditions.
The Catalina Channel swim was one of his hardest.
The swim is from Los Angeles to Santa Catalina Island, and if has to be done at night.
Through that journey he swam into seaweed, had his feet “nibbled” by unknown sea creatures, was stung by jellyfish, and swam into planks of wood.
“I was scared but I was able to do it as I was completely focused.”
Nicole Stein-Jezulin – Vox Pop
Nicole Stein-Jezulin was the third vox pop speaker of the event.
She spoke about the Montessori method of education. She said the system founded in the 1900s by Dr Maria Motessori was different to standard education.
Ms Stein-Jezulin described of teaching children in mixed age groups and the importance of independent learning.
Rose Oliva and Charlotte Lowe
On behalf of the Pro-Choice movement Rose Oliva and Charlotte Lowe were invited to join the Gib Talks line-up.
They described the emotional toll on women crossing the border to terminate their pregnancy.
Both women shared their stories of why they terminated their pregnancies.
Ms Oliva was in an abusive relationship and was ready to leave when she found out of her pregnancy.
Ms Lowe found out she had thyroid cancer during the early stages of her pregnancy and needed treatment.
Both women advocated for access to counselling, better sex education and a clinic in Gibraltar.
Tommy Finlayson talked about his life and how he was awarded a Victoria Mackintosh Scholarship to read history at the University of Edinburgh.
From there he started teaching in the UK for some years until he returned to Gibraltar.
Upon his return he worked at Bayside School as a history teacher and after some time took up the post of Government archivist.
In his role as Government archivist Mr Finlayson hopes he contributed to peoples knowledge of Gibraltar.
Tamsin Suarez was the fourth and final vox pop at Gib Talks.
She is a wife and mother of eight children and shared the story of one of her sons who was diagnosed with leukaemia at two years old.
In her talk she described the difficulties of travelling to the UK to receive treatment and the tough times the family faced.
At the time her family consisted of herself, her husband, her eldest daughter and her son.
Finding a place for everyone to stay when her son was receiving treatment was tough for the family and with nowhere to go they were offered a helping hand by another family at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The treatment went on for three years and Ms Suarez and her husband had to sell the family home to pay off their debts.
At just the age of 19 Stephen Whatley was the youngest person on the Gib Talks stage last Saturday.
He described himself as an engergetic, ambitious and enthusiastic young boy who was a National Chess Champion at age seven and a black belt in Taekwondo at age 14.
One of his highlights was playing the Spanish number one in chess, and he is also a keen fencer.
Stephen had always raised the bar and aimed to enter medical school.
He was preparing for his Oxford entrance exam at the time.
Just a day before the exam he was fencing and as part of a warm up played dodge ball. It was during this game that Stephen and another player crashing into each other and he was struck on the right temple and knocked unconscious.
After a hospital visit he was diagnosed with having a concussion and missed his exam the next day.
Five days after the concussion he still wasn’t back to normal. He wasn’t speaking properly and he was in such a state he told his mum to leave him alone as he was a “40 year old man with three children”.
A visit back to the doctor saw Stephen diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome – a syndrome that can last up to three years.
This incident was just over a year ago and for most of the year he was unable to play competitive chess. He had headaches, light and noise sensitivity, poor balance and was unable to find the words to use when speaking – meaning holding a conversation became difficult.
He used fencing to slowly recuperate and even recently took part in the Commonwealth Fencing Championships.
Now he looks forward to overcoming this syndrome to become a new version of himself.
Some might recognise Lindsay Weston from your local television screens and on the Gib Talks stage she shared her Gibraltar story.
In her open and honest talk she described finally settling in Yorkshire with her family and not wanting to move with her husband to Gibraltar.
Falling in love with the Rock was difficult for Mrs Weston who moved to Gibraltar in 2009.
She wanted to live here for just two years before moving back to Yorkshire, but somehow she slowly fell in love with Gibraltar.
During her first years on the Rock she was a stay at home mum and fondly remembered her first introduction to Gibraltarian hospitality at a children’s birthday party in a social club where everyone wanted to know who she was and what she was doing in Gibraltar.
From there she helped form Trinity toddlers craft and play group for children. Now she works for GBC and is producing a life stories podcast.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja