Cressida Bonas

What I learnt about fear from Richard Branson

What I learnt about fear from Richard Branson
Richard Branson, Getty
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More than any other season, autumn brings to mind change. Perhaps it's the sense of letting something go. The movement of the seasons is present in New Zealand artist Angela Heisch’s first solo UK show at the Pippy Houldsworth gallery, entitled Burgeon and Remain. Her semi floral abstracts represent the peak of summer and her use of bright colours are a warm welcome before we head into a darker time of year. The limitless feel to these paintings suggests growth and change, provoking a playful engagement. Stepping closer to these conceptual forms, I want to leap inside them. They are interactive and dramatic with a curious sense of mischief to them. The repeated spinning symbols grow outwards and seem to communicate to each other like trees. I love Heisch’s paintings because they don’t complete a set narrative but allow multiple interpretations. Her work celebrates uncertainty.

Diving for Pearls, 2021 by Angela Heisch (Pippy Houldsworth gallery)

I don’t much like September. It reminds me of going back to school. The flowers are wilting, the days are already getting shorter, another summer gone. But things move forward and a new chapter begins. Or as my four-year-old nephew recently announced, 'Mama I have to get back to school, I need to find myself a wife.' He clearly has high hopes for the autumn. I, on the other hand stubbornly cling to the summer.

Not all changes are welcome. I went on the tube for the first time in a while (since lockdown I’ve been walking everywhere). It was packed. I put my headphones on and found a seat. My view was a mass of masked commuters with their eyes dancing. People were back, but the covered faces were eerie. I tried to smile with my eyes at the lady opposite me. She looked uncomfortable. I'd almost forgotten the innate fear of strangers that existed well before the pandemic. I put my head down and carried on listening to my music.

Someone who never shies away from facing his fears is Richard Branson. How interesting then to ask him about those moments when he has felt fear and where he finds his courage in the third season of my podcast Fear Itself. We talk about space, failure, intuition and God. He is a man driven by passion and instinct who has never lost his boyish sense of adventure. I’m always curious to know at what age that wonder ends. As someone who shakes things up and embraces change, I asked if he ever doubts the future. He suggested that whenever he falters,  there is always the beginning of a new day to revive his optimism.

I started this podcast because I have a fascination with fear and how it shapes us. My own experience of fear stems from a deep-rooted wariness of change. The onset of autumn can make me worry about what lies ahead. However, this year I am determined to follow Richard Branson’s lead and enjoy new dawns. I must be grateful for my lot, put aside autumnal thoughts and look to the future for its fresh challenges.

Cressida Bonas's podcast Fear Itself is available to listen to on iTunes