Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Matt Hopwood has walked long distance collecting love stories as he goes. A former teacher and a musician, he described himself as “going on this amazing pilgrimage all groovy and pure” when he first started seven years ago. Author of A Human Love Story – Journeys to the Heart, his dad was a Methodist minister and he has discovered that his way is all about love.
When walking he appeals to strangers to accommodate and feed him, and in return he does an equally precious thing – he listens to their accounts of love. This book is testament to his prodigious listening skills and admirable for his aim to build a shared experience and compassion by publishing them. “I hope the reader might think, ‘Ah, there’s someone else that thinks like me’. That’s when we know we’re not alone”.
The chair of this event is Ryan Van Winkle who asks what happens after he has amassed the narratives: “You’re the shepherd of these texts. What is that responsibility like?” “I listen to the recordings and the first thing I do is take myself out, then the people emerge,” says Hopwood. “It’s not really anything to do with me”.
Hopwood is eloquent with words, energy, and gesture. He’s quietly amusing, self-deprecating, and he tells a good tale himself. On Van Winkle’s urging he tells us his story, and romantic it certainly is. He sits upright at the front of his seat, touches his heart, squeezes his nose, he opens his palms and moves them from the centre of his chest towards us – the body speaking clearly of his desire for openness and connection through sharing. “This amazing person just kept allowing me to be,” he says of his wife in the early stage of their relationship, and when the time came he was ready to offer that to others.
At times he struggles a little, searching for the right vocabulary because this is akin to therapeutic talk, which he knows some aren’t familiar with, and that most find it pretty tricky to talk about such matters. “If I’m not [just being],” he continues, “I don’t meet anyone. Nothing happens. But when I still myself, then everything happens, people just sit down beside me”.