How to be a decent human being

It’s not difficult to be a decent human being – at least, I don’t think so. I can pretty much boil it down to one sentence. Be nice to each other. Anything else is just a sub sentence of this. IE:

  • Don’t steal other people’s stuff
  • Don’t discriminate because someone is different to you (be they a different gender, race, sexuality or species)
  • Don’t pollute the space you and everyone else lives in

These are all quite negative sub sentences. Here’s some positive ones.

  • Respect everyone equally – including yourself
  • Smile
  • Do random acts of kindness
  • Share

The reason for the post is because the other day, someone smashed one of the windows in my car, and stole my laptop bag. I’m sure many people have sadly experienced having something stolen from them – however this was the first time anything like this has happened to me. In 24 years of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to never had anyone violate my personal belongings like this before.

Since this incident, many things have gone through my head, and I’ve experienced a rainbow of different emotions.

Confusion: why is that all they took? It was actually probably the least valuable thing in the car. I had a speaker system in there, professional microphones and and a DSLR camera. My laptop was broken – hence why it was still in the car – I was due to be taking it to get fixed the next day – and the only other things in that bag were personal items such as some little bits of costume jewellery, paper with notes on, some clothes and my work diary.

Anger: I like to think that I am a good person. I do my best to stick to the “be nice to each other” thing. I give as much as I can to people. I’m currently working on a project that will hopefully bring a local community together with arts, and provide jobs and training for people. Why has something like this happened to me? How dare someone else feel like they can violate another person’s property, and just take what isn’t theirs.

Upset: Several times after this incident, I have thought “what’s the point?”. Why do I bother with everything I do – a lot of the things I do mean that I have to pay out of my own pocket to help others. I would rather go without a wage for a month if it means I can keep something that helps other people running. But after this, why should I bother? What thanks do I get for it? Someone causing hundreds of pounds of damage to my property and my life.

Blame: I left my laptop bag on view in my car. It was a silly mistake, and I can give you as many excuses under the sun as to why I did – it was a busy day that I had planned, I had parked up and went in to do a gig at a local pub, and it was the last part of my day – I was excited to perform, as I usually am, but also was happy that I’d got through the day, and I could go home to my other half and relax after it. I was parked in Old Portsmouth – an area I would consider to be quite safe. So I was careless. But that doesn’t change the fact, that I feel that it was my fault that my car got broken in to – like I was asking to be stolen from.

Frustration: Although my laptop was broken, it still turned on, and I had a lot of passwords on there. Most of the websites I visited would login automatically. And a lot of my passwords were – as I’m sure most of you have – pretty much the same, with small variations. This has meant I have had to create a list of every site I log in to – even if it didn’t log in automatically on my laptop – and change the passwords. I’ve also had to get all my bank passwords changed, as some of them were saved on there too. The other frustration was loosing my work diary – which to me, was a bigger loss than my laptop. As I am self employed, that has all my lessons, meetings, gigs and my to do lists in it. It is also the way I figure out my expenses for my tax return. Along with this is the monetary issue – I recently lost a big chunk of my income – happens sometimes when you are self employed – and to suddenly be faced with needing to find £100 to cover the excess of getting the window replaced, plus around £500 to get a new laptop – I just feel like it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Relief: This one I have struggled to honestly feel, but I keep telling myself how much worse it could have been. There are so many more people that go through so much worse every day. To loose just a laptop and a diary, is not that big a deal in the great scheme of things.

Pity: There are two reasons why someone would have broken in to my car. One is that they are a compulsive thief, and they go around looking for things to take. The other is that they could be homeless, or poor due to not being able to work, and the fact that benefits are so difficult to get, they could have no other way of getting money. Either of these characters deserve my pity. The first one will get their comeuppance one day. I have to believe that what goes around comes around. The other character, I just hope gets the ability to be given a second chance.

Despite all these feelings, I still feel violated, and, at the time of writing this, very insecure – no matter what it may appear on Facebook with my positive posts and turning this situation on it’s head – that’s my way of trying my hardest to honestly feel those things – by sharing them with others.

I wanted to write this post to help clear my own head a little bit, and share my experience with others. If I can help stop someone else having to experience this, then I will maybe feel a little bit better.

As a community, we need to treat people better, and raise people to expect more of themselves and others. I know some people say that there will always be those who are not nice – that they are born that way. I don’t believe it. I can’t believe that a child is born without a conscience. Some may be more susceptible to corruption, but the way we bring them up – as a society – is what changes people. The media, and the community has as much responsibility for the way people are as their parents do.

Going forward, I am hopeful that once my car is fixed, I have a new diary and a new laptop, I will be able to get over this situation fully, and continue my life the way I want – helping other people to be a better them, and create a better world.

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Thanksgiving

I have a lot in my life to be thankful for, and even though I don’t celebrate thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a few of those things with everyone today.

Recently my life has started to really pull together, although it has involved moving in what feels a little like a backwards direction in some parts of my life, I can really see where everything is going, and there are so many people who have helped with that.

First of all, my Mum and Dad. Now I know, this seems very “generic” but I really owe them so much, and I think quite often I don’t show how much I appreciate them. At the beginning of September 2013 they allowed me to move back into my old room in their house, after living away from them for almost 2 years. I can imagine that this has to be hard on them, but they have been amazing, and I am so grateful that I do have a place to live.

They have helped me when my faithful car, Polly, finally died by putting me on my mum’s insurance to allow me breathing space to sort out a new car. They are always looking out for me and finding ways I can expand my businesses – from articles I will find interesting to courses that I might want to do, through to helping with doing my accounts and finding things that I can apply for to help with funding.

Our parents are always the ones we complain about, but they truly are my rocks and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them – probably working in a job I hate, and not living my dream.

Second, all the people – members, mentors and volunteers – at my theatre school, OmniArts Performing School. I set up OmniArts in April 2013, and it has gone from strength to strength. OmniArts has been a dream of mine since I was about 15, and so to see it actually happening is something that is indescribable for me.

The mentors I have – Liz, Nicole and Caroline, and also Corinna and Lyndsey who have taught at OA in the past, have supported me throughout.

The members we have are amazingly talented and enthusiastic. I love the way that our meetings are a mix of learning and having a laugh – and that a lot of the members and parents of members have told me that OmniArts has helped their confidence and performing skills – that means so so much to me.

My Facebook friends. Now this one may sound odd, but I have found that when I post a status, I have had a lot of people commenting on them, liking them and generally supporting me. Now these may be people that I haven’t spoken to in a long while, but that support they give me, even just through a little “like” really boosts me to no end.

My vocal pupils. I love teaching. Over the past few years I have come to realise that it is what I want to do with my life, and that is down to my pupils. Watching them when they get something, and when their confidence is high enough to come and perform with me is fantastic. I also love the fact that they see me as someone they can talk to – they know I am not just a singing teacher, but a person, and if they need some advice, they can ask me. I love helping people, and so to see that people have that confidence in me, makes me very thankful.

Bev Craig who runs Scarlett Rose School of Dance. This lady is amazing – in February 2014 she allowed me to set up my office within her dance studio – this has allowed me to expand my private teaching and has also given me a new group of friends at the dance school.

Cosplay. Again, another odd one, but I was introduced to the world of conventions and cosplay in October 2013 and since then I have made so many friends online, and started bringing out my costume creative side again, which has in turn helped my life in general.

There are a number of other specific people I haven’t mentioned above who I am thankful for because of their support to me in various different ways and I just wanted to give them all a mention. Owen Jones, Kat Henderson, Tanya Marie, Kay Robins, Steven Wood, Kelly Gardiner, James “Hiccup” Hutcheson, James Cadwell, Amanda Cadwell, Ros Bristow, Sheryl Andrews, Joanna Wallington, Cathie McNamee, Cara Bendon, Elisa Mott, Sue Page.

Sorry if I missed anyone – it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate you – what it does mean is that I have so many amazing people in my life that I have to be thankful for, and my brain can’t remember them all in one go!

We shouldn’t need a specific day to thank those around us who support and inspire us, but let’s take today as an opportunity to do just that.

Politics and Small Businesses

Since I turned 18 in 2008, I have tried my best to be knowledgeable on the different political groups, and make sure I vote when I can. I often struggle, as I can’t understand why the country just can’t be run on simple human rights beliefs – let’s not be mean to each other, let’s help out those less fortunate and not kill the earth.

Since setting up OmniArts in April 2013, I have had to learn a lot of things – I taught myself how to run a business, how to “read” and talk to people, I have had to make difficult decisions and have always done my best to help out those who want to join the group, but struggle in one way or another. Looking at all I have done over the last year and a half, I honestly believe that a politician should be required to set up and run a small group on their own for at least 2 years before being allowed into the House of Commons.

Any group would work – drama, art, archery, reading club – even a debate group. However, part of the requirement should be that they have to find as many opportunities for the people in the group to enter competitions, perform or get published depending on the sector, as well as get involved with the local community to get the group a good reputation in the area. They should be required to budget, plan and run the group on their own – with help in places of course, but they would be required to find volunteers. They would need to think about how to promote the group (and where the money for this will come from), manage social media, keep accounts up to date, find time for networking (both physical and online) and keeping the group interested in what they are doing!

My reasoning for this is because it would not only would this give them a fantastic insight into how hard it is to run a small business, it would also help with diplomacy and dealing with people, as the amount of ‘politics’ you can end up with in a small group is astounding!

Since setting up OmniArts, I have had to learn a lot of things “the hard way”. Many of these things a politician would already know, but some things they wouldn’t, and I personally feel that it would give them a much more rounded view on people.

I’d love to hear what you think – comment below or fill out my poll!

Making the arts accessible

I recently read this article on the BBC about the fact that the arts is becoming elitist, and that something needs to be done about it. I totally agree with this, however at the same time, I see another point of view.

I run a theatre school in Portsmouth (OmniArts Performing School). I set this up with my own money that I made by teaching singing while working an almost full time job. I am lucky enough to have been able to leave that job, and now work full time self employed, doing what I love, but my private teaching and another industry I work in still help support OmniArts sometimes – especially in the lead up to a show with licencing costs!

What we do

We have 2 trained professionals teaching at all our classes (singing and acting) and a third who comes in to teach dance at some sessions. We charge a very reasonable £9.50 for 3 hours (or £5 for our 1.5 hour class) every week, however we are struggling to get more members in to allow us to be able to offer more opportunities to our members, and do bigger shows.

We have offered private tuition ‘for free’ to members in the lead up to a show (as part of their weekly fee – we welcome donations for our time, but understand if someone can’t, and would rather they had the extra time with us and were confident on stage, than not come for a private lesson because they feel they can’t pay for it). We also offer family discounts, and look at each persons situation, to see if we can help them with payment in anyway possible.

We even set up our Professional Development Bursary Award, to try to help members out with extra tuition – either via a private course, or help with finding the funding for less well off members to go to Uni/drama school, as well as running one off specific workshops for not just our members, but others as well. The members that we have appreciate what we offer, and because of this we are currently also setting up a skills only group to run alongside the main groups, where people will just learn acting techniques to help them better perform, rather than working on shows.

The Problem

Although I have managed to get OmniArts to a point that it can be sustained – to be able to keep offering everything mentioned above, we need more members! This brings me to my main problem: the cost of advertising to get people in. We get flyers printed, which costs, and then we have to take them out everywhere to be put up – which costs time, which is something most of us don’t have due to working so hard to make sure we have enough money to live.

As for advertising in a magazine or newspaper – let alone a performance paper like the stage – it is costly, and to get an article in the news these days it seems you have to write it yourself and chase someone for days or weeks to get in published in the smallest, furthest back part of the paper – again, spending a lot of time and energy which most small theatre companies don’t have (the time that is – not the energy!)

It’s not just me!

Since I have been running OmniArts, I have seen a number of similar groups forced to close due to low member numbers. There was also an amateur theatre within Portsmouth which had a fly system (one of only 8 amateur theatre’s in the UK with one) which has closed because the church it was attached to chose to move, and blocked all attempts to get a trust to take over the building.

We want to help teach the next generation of actors, and give them skills to help them go forward in performance – be that on stage, in film, for private functions, and even the ‘backstage’ things like makeup and crew work, however it is often a struggle for the small, accessible groups to be able to get the word out to the people that would be interested in joining them!

I am sure that it isn’t just my group that faces these issues, and there are so so many groups up and down the country like mine, which are accessible in their costs and what they offer, but because of this, don’t have the money to advertise to people who might be interested.

Thank you for reading this – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter too, so please comment below. 🙂

Keep challenging yourself

Recently I have found myself slipping in my singing practice. This is mainly due to the fact that a lot of the songs I get asked to do at weddings and events, are the same, and so I’ve already done all the practice for them! I also find myself re-using these songs when I perform at charity events and such – where I actually have freedom to sing what I want to!

Today I started working on a set list for a wedding I will be singing at in a few weeks, which has a totally new set of songs for me – I’ve not done any of them before, although I have wanted to learn a couple of them for quite a while.

One of these songs is particularly complex, due to the backing track not giving you any clue as to where to come in, or even what the notes are! (In fact, at various points in the song it is playing a “clashing” note to the one I have to sing) I’ve been working on this song for the past hour, and have almost cracked it – but it’s made me stop and think, why have I not learnt this song before? It’s a beautiful, emotional song from a musical, and I remember that I used to mime along to the CD when I was younger, pretending I could hit the high notes.

I think, when we do something we love as a job, we sometimes start to loose sight of why we love it so much. So as from today, I will set myself the challenge of learning one new, complex song that I really want to learn a month. (I would say once a week, but I think the other key to challenging yourself, is to know your limits!)

It’s odd how the smallest thing can wake you up to something you hadn’t really realised before. Have you ever had this sort of realisation? Have you become complacent in your work?