Fayon Dixon is a long-time Broadcaster, Presenter and Motivational Speaker, currently hosting an array of STEM related events and her own radio show on Wandsworth Radio: The Kids are Alright!
Phi was lucky enough to interview her as part of our Urban Profiles series in our Urban Issue, chatting about how her identity as a Buddhist has influenced her work, her latest projects and what community work is all about.
How did you discover Buddhism, how was your relationship with it developed and how has Buddhism influenced your community work?
Well, Buddhism found me. I was at a party at the Lido in Brixton in 1995 and this guy, who was interested in dating me, chatted me up and ended up giving me a card that said ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ on it and his number on the other side. I really gave it no attention at all, I put it in my back pocket and a few days later I was watching the Tina Turner film What’s Love Got To Do With It?, and in that film, because she’s a Buddhist, she chants “nam myoho renge kyo” and I was like, “oh my gosh!”. So anyway, I did start dating this guy for six years, and I learnt more about the Buddhist practice. At the time I was in my mid-twenties and I wasn’t that interested in being a Buddhist, I thought it would be a lot of work, a lot of discipline and it just wasn’t for me. And then it was in 2000, as my relationship was breaking down with this guy, I started looking more into the practice for myself. I just felt like every day my eyes were becoming more and more open. So my relationship with my community is incredible, because Buddhism is for oneself and others. You can’t just go through this world thinking about yourself and what you need and not even think about how that is going to impact on anybody else. So, I would say that before I started practicing Buddhism, I was a pretty self-centered person. I wasn’t nasty in any way but I just didn’t really have any goals that were for the many instead of just myself. So what Buddhism has done is introduce me into the world which for me is my community, and how I can make a difference in the world by being myself. Being the Buddha that’s myself, raising my life state to one where I’m recognising that I’m courageous and have a huge amount of compassion. I chant every day at my Buddhist altar in my home ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ and I say it over and over again. And that is the title of the Lotus Sutra, and in those five words I am encompassing all of the Lotus Sutra. I devote my life to the cause of mystic law, I accept cause and effect. You make a cause and there’s going to be an effect: sometimes one that you see immediately, sometimes it brews and you don’t see it for a long long time. Buddhism has enabled me to really see the potential that I have and silence my inner negativity and go for things that are not just going to make me happy, but others in the future. So for me, what makes a difference for me, and what’s impacted my community work is my voice. I’ve always had the voice, but I never really knew how to use it. The voice does the Buddhist work, and I use my voice to encourage, motivate and empower people. And I see that all the time in the work I do with young people..Being able to use my voice to support others to find theirs is part of what I call my mission.
What current projects are you working on?
I am working on a project currently called The Big Assembly for Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week started on the 5th of November and finished on the 9th of November. I am the host of the big assembly, which is an assembly that has been live streamed out to over 400 schools across the UK. We reached 50,000 people simultaneously in a live streamed broadcast at 10:30am on the 7th of November – but if you include social media on that day it reached about 100,000 and with the playbacks that are going to happen it’s going to reach even more! That has been the most incredible experience, I had the most awesome panel of young engineers who are all on a mission to make the world a better place through smarter energy, smarter buildings, having fun as an engineer, IT protection, saving animals – it just goes on and on and on. They’re just incredible young people. One of them is still at school and he’s come up with a vest that sufferers of epilepsy can wear and that is just revolutionising the world already and he’s not even eighteen! In the background I’m always working for schools doing my motivational workshops, and working for InterAct. I have been a reader for them going to hospitals and reading to stroke patients for over sixteen years now. I have also been working as a liaison officer for them – I go into the community looking for stroke survivors and stroke groups, and anyone really who wants to take part in our creative workshops with a couple of our pretty awesome actors. I do a radio show for Wandsworth Radio, The Kids Are Alright, which happens every Saturday 12-1, giving the opportunity to young people aged between four and twelve, sometimes up to the age of fifteen, to talk about their interests, their achievements, the things that they love, what they’re good at, who their friends are, what they want to do in the future. I teach them how to use the desk to they get some technical experience too! I get them to introduce songs and basically anything they want to do I am open to. I also get called in to BBC Radio London to do the review of the day with Jason Rosam on his show which is really fun, looking at my favourite stories of the day and having a good ol’ chat about them.
What has been the most surprising thing about working within the community? What has been the most rewarding?
I think it’s the kind of people that you meet. You would never imagine the kind of people that would be happy to give up their time to do things for the community. I’ve done community events in my local street, the park, inspiring young people or just getting the neighbours together. The most wonderful people I worked with was on those projects: Pam and Henry. They used to be the Youth Club organisers, and they were well into their seventies and they’d done so much in the community over the years. We made friends and they had so many ideas – I had all the energy – but they had tons of energy too. They were just so passionate about their community and bringing people together. So in terms of what has been the most rewarding … you can pick from that! Because what is rewarding is seeing your neighbours come together. People who generally don’t speak – they leave their house early in the morning, come home and it’s late at night, go off to the shops, come back, lock their doors – if you live anywhere near me you’re gonna know me! I can’t ignore people who walk past me in the street because I think ‘you could be my neighbour’. So I talk to everyone, and so life is rewarding for me every day because I’m always making new friends.
What advice would you give to your twenty year old self?
Number one, read more. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the more opportunities you have to interact and speak and meet with wider people than your immediate circles so definitely read more. Second bit of advice would be to have more patience. I know now that when you wait before acting the results are just so much better. I don’t regret anything that I’ve ever done in life but I can see with age that, you know what, if I’d just sprinkled a little bit more patience on that thing, I probably would have had to work less hard. And one of my sayings that I take into schools when I speak to young people is: “It’s about working smarter, not harder.”
And the other piece of advice I would give is to have more respect for time. I never really appreciated time until I was way into my thirties. I wasted a lot of time. I just had no concept of time at all – what took time, how to make time, or do things in a certain amount of time. And as a result, again it is working that much harder, and getting into all sorts of ridiculous scrapes that you could’ve totally avoided.
What is the best song to start your day right?
I have so many! I am a really musical, always-got-a-song-in-my-head kind of person. I call myself the human jukebox so I can’t actually choose one, I’m going to choose four: Stevie Wonder’s As, it’s beautiful – listen to the lyrics it’s just so so beautiful and uplifting. Don’t Stop Me Now – it’s my jam and I even have a dance routine for it. And River Deep, Mountain High by Tina Turner – I just, you know, you wanna get up and move, you wanna go! That is my song and I will shake my tail for that, I don’t care where I am! Or Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy, if you’ve never heard it just listen to it! It’s just rock gold!
What is your go to place in London?
My go to place in London is actually my home, cause I’m never here! I’m out all the time so yes, it’s a lovely space to go to, I love being with my family – I just don’t see them as much as I’d like to!
Any future projects?
A project I will be working on is in December of this year, and it’s actually confidential! I will just say that an American company will be sending eleven girls to the UK to do the most awesome workshop over five days. These girls will get to meet with celebrities, entrepreneurs, all kinds of amazing people. And I will be the host and the facilitator of this event. I can’t say much more but after mid December everyone’s gonna be hearing about it!