Challenging others to think differently

The Art of Pollination Literati poster
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 17 June 2021

In my Literati book club last month, we read a book that is very special to me called The Art of Pollination. It was written by Martin Flanagan and tells the incredible story of a life-long friend of mine and a powerful force of nature – Jane Tewson. I was so pleased to be joined by both Martin and Jane, all the way from Australia, to discuss the stories behind this story in an Ask The Author interview.

Richard Branson's Literati interview with Jane Tewson and Martin Flanagan

Jane told the wonderful tale of how we met – she was in her early 20s when she visited me on my houseboat and asked me to fund the overheads of her new charity (that later grew into Comic Relief and Red Nose Day – which have raised more than £1bn for charity). I was immediately convinced by her bright energy and enthusiasm to try change the notion of charity from being something that you do to people, to something that you do with people.

Fast forward and Jane now runs Igniting Change, a ‘deliberately tiny’ charity in Australia, which is documented throughout the book. It’s incredible to see the impact Jane has had as the charity works to connect people, start conversations, and give a voice to people facing injustice.

An odl photo of Jane Tewson wearing a Red Nose Day t-shirt
Image from Jane Tewson

Marty had some lovely insights to share about Jane and how ‘she is a mix of someone who is ordinary and extraordinary’. Being ordinary helps her connect to people from all walks of life, but her drive and ability to bring about change makes her extraordinary in so many ways. I couldn’t agree more.

We also discussed the importance of listening to other people with experience. It’s something I try to do – there’s always someone that knows more than you and there’s always something to learn. I try to approach every problem with a sense of curiosity and an openness to my mind being changed. 

Jane Tewson and Richard Branson presenting at a Virgin Unite Gathering on Necker Island
Image from Virgin Unite

Jane said that’s how she approaches every project – making sure she works with those who have experience in that area. She always tries to see the person, not the issue they are facing or the word they have been labelled with. She wants to give people who are facing injustice or inequality a voice and connect them to other people who can help bring about change. 

She is always challenging others to think differently and I enjoyed Marty recounting how they went to an art gallery and Jane asked him to lie down on the floor to try and change his perspective on the art. It worked! Jane said her dyslexia has been beneficial to her in later life as she is a much more creative thinker and sees the world in a different way to many other people – something I can very much relate to.

We finished talking about the power of storytelling and Marty said how he wants to tells stories that give our young people a sense of hope and direction – and with The Art of Pollination, he has certainly done that.  

The Art of Pollination book cover
Image from Jane Tewson

Thank you to all our Literati readers for your fascinating questions – I really enjoy getting involved in our thoughtful discussions.

Visit Literati to learn more about our book club.