Throughout secondary school, getting out of Doncaster was the main, sometimes only, thing on my mind.
I knew the kind of work I wanted scarcely existed here and I felt like I couldn’t be my “true authentic self” due to the shame I felt. I dreamed of escaping; that way I’d never have to tell anyone my secret. It took me until age 20 to finally come out to my family. Even then I didn’t do the whole sit down ‘right… mam, dad’ thing, I wrote it down in the form of a really unfunny joke and swiftly left the country. It was to re-board the cruise ship I worked on at the time (RIP Marella Dream) but, still, I definitely timed it so I didn’t have to face anyone’s reaction.
By this point my dream of getting out of Doncaster, working and finding myself was underway. It had been three years since I left sixth form to play Robinson Crusoe in a U.K Panto tour.Naively, I was thrilled to accept £212 a week to do two shows a day, involving hefty get ins/outs, building and dismantling our own set, teching our own shows, and driving for hours on end to locations all over the UK. Our tight schedule would require us to be in the van ready to set off at 5/6am most days. I’d sit in silence and come up with harmony lines in my head for songs on the radio and eventually started writing my own lyrics to them. Every tour I did, every plane journey I took, every night before bed I’d be going over these melodies thinking “not much longer, hang in there, soon enough you’ll figure it out, find your voice, and you won’t have to be singing other people’s songs” but it didn’t take long until I found that my own creative voice was non-existent and that I didn’t believe that what I had to say was at all worth listening to.
I decided I’d make music for myself and never share it – a defence mechanism – I am a people pleaser, always minded my p’s and q’s, and conformed to whatever the big dogs who were in charge of me at the time wanted. “Keep the fire burning” I thought, but I could already feel it going out.
Despite how I felt, I kept working for that same company for three years before I moved on in 2017 for the ship. I found myself back in Zante the following year singing in a hotel lobby and tried my luck teaching English as a second language in Belarus that winter and the next.
Come 2019, the decision to no longer do what I love for the big dog’s profit was set in stone. I put mye foot down! No more conformity, no more running from job to job, or running away. No more suppressing who I was and no more slogging my guts out for people who couldn’t care less about my well being on jobs I was not being paid nearly enough for. I knew that I still wanted to write and to create and to perform but not for anyone else, for myself and for others like me.
I got to travel to many parts of the world and I made lifelong friends from every walk of life but I’d missed out on so much back in Doncaster, and at the back end of those years working away I lacked confidence completely, I’d given it away and had nothing left for myself.
Loneliness can get to us no matter how many people we’re surrounded by, no matter how bright the sun is and no matter the location. Things don’t always go as planned either, and things didn’t, I needed to move on, so I did. I needed help, both mentally and professionally. Having never officially trained in any of my fields I had to work very hard but was eager to do so; choreographers would call me an absorbent sponge. I had to grow up very quick and lived through things that I wanted to share. I had so many thoughts and so many feelings, so many melodies in my head. so I didn’t come home empty handed or empty headed, but I didn’t know what to do with it all. I needed an outlet, so using the only thing I had, my phone, I started making electronic synth music.
Trying to make connections again back home in Doncaster didn’t prove easy at first, but once I allowed myself to open up and once I realised that not everyone is a big bad dog my mind was put at ease. I didn’t feel so alone.
There were other Doncaster creatives who, just like me were wanting to make a difference and not be exploited whilst doing so. We want to create our own work, based on our own stories and our experiences as creatives.
Since being back in Doncaster I have noticed, creatives and cultural leaders from outside, sit behind their zoom screens initiating conversations they have no part in, preaching injustice, promising change, never to be heard from again. They direct work they have no business directing. They tell us how we should feel and how we should do art based on their experiences.
They pity us then take our stories for the big dogs to plaster on billboards for inclusivity promo. We know how to ‘do art’, and we certainly know what we have to say. We shouldn’t have to leave home to take on jobs we’re not passionate about. We do NOT want pity, we just want and need genuine support.
We need to feel as though you are alongside us, not our superiors. To do this you need to listen, because what we have to say is ours, and it needs to be shared the way we choose.
I’d like to give a shout out and massive thanks to some local artists who have always made me feel seen and appreciated: Rachel Horne, Warren Draper, Ryan Harston, Rajnish Madaan, Sam Dunstan, Lauren Townsend, Charlotte Gaylor, Jow Bedford, Levi Payne, Daljinder Singh.
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