URGENT: find what you’re brilliant at.
Last week I was a proud part of a wonderful community arts event, which, by a happy coincidence was in my home-town. Luton gets a jolly bad rap a lot of the time. It’s a bit grey, a bit ugly, a bit chavvy and seems to only make the news during reports about gangs, terrorism or being Britain’s Shittest Town (2004). BRILL.
Growing up there, however, I seemed to never really notice. What was apparent for me about my home-town was the thriving Am-Dram community. Go ahead, mock am-dram all you like, I had an absolute blast growing up with that loud, loyal, kind and hilarious bunch. (Any teenage boys reading this- you’re missing a trick if you’re not in a youth theatre. Girls get PRETTY naked backstage, and remember: a boy in a youth theatre is like a female fresher at Loughborough: OUTNUMBERED 5:1) I spent many a happy day singing my teeny lungs out on the stages of Luton (particular highlight: winning Luton Stars in their Eyes with two of my pals as Atomic Kitten) and many a happy night running around the drinking establishments of Luton town centre with a bunch of gobby drama kids, drinking Reefs, dancing, pining for boys who never really noticed me and not really doing any harm whatsoever.
So, it was an absolute pleasure to return to my roots and perform, once again, in Luton. The event, set up by the wonderful How It Ended productions, was a festival all based on the theme of carnival which had been commissioned by the UK Centre for Carnival Arts which has it’s base in Luton. 8 new short plays performed by a mix of professional actors and local folk, DJs, a flashmob, circus performers, a bitching band ‘Minor Pilot’ (made up of some of the best bearded blokes I’ve ever laid eyes on) later, and we had ‘FutureSpark’. And it was wonderful. The plays were funny, poignant and clever. The circus performers hula-hooped and juggled with exceptional focus and skill. The band were moody, vibey and intense. The whole thing was just a BIG OLD TREAT for the senses.
On the Friday morning, we did a more low key performance of the event, and a troop of sulky GCSE-ers shuffled in, clearly having been brought by long-suffering ever-hopeful teachers. There was one girl, dolled up in her tracksuit, big gold chain and hair scraped back so tightly off her head you could practically see her molars through the skin on her cheeks. She watched the plays with the same look of disgust as if someone had just been sick on her box-fresh Nikes. In the interval, I heard her friend ask ‘Which one do you like the most then Sarah?’ The reply came defiantly, ‘None. They’re shit.’ And I was just washing my hands like…..HEY GUYS I’M RIGHT HERE. I looked at her in the mirror and had to suppress a giggle. She was just such a stereotype of herself. Disinterested, rude and unwilling to be engaged.
But really, I just felt so sad for her. What a shame to be confronted with the arts in such a vibrant, explosive, relevant way (most of the performers were home-grown talent and lots of the plays were set in Luton) and to just not be able to care about it. Seeing teenagers like her makes my heart weep. How sad that all they have to care about is the bbms on their ever-bleeping blackberries and what they’ll order at KFC. I used to work as a teaching assistant in a college in North London, and whilst the stories about the students often made for good anecdotes (like the time I asked them individually what their best quality was as part of a careers class, and one boy said ‘Hitting up bare gash’. Seriously) it really made me ache with fury and sadness that kids like that have never found their ‘thing’. They never found what they were good at, what they excelled in and what they could feel passionate and proud about. Because once they reach Sarah’s point, I’m not sure that they ever will. There’s lots to be criticised with the current Education system, but I can’t help but side with the wonderful Sir Ken Robinson on this one. Be it nuclear physics, writing sonatas or laying bricks- I think everyone has the innate ability to be brilliant at something, and it’s sad that kids like this never have the chance to find it. Poor old sulky Sarah.
So I urge you, go find your thing. Try stuff and when you find what it is you’re brilliant at, do it as much as you can, as often as you can. Fan the shit out of your fire so it never burns out. You’re never too old to experience stuff for the first time, that’s one of my favourite things about this confusing thing called life. So go and BE. And when you do find what it is you’re the TITS at, let me know, and we’ll form the new A-team. I’ve already covered ‘Articulate’ and Harry Potter trivia. WE’LL RULE THE WORLD!
Check out How it Ended and their work here:
I can also seriously recommend the Ken Robinson TED talks for a bit of brain food. Try this one: