Challenges >>Watch Video>>
There are so many challenges with working in a creative industry in general, there are so many but there are so many beautiful, magical things as well.
I was in the industry side of music very young and it had a really detrimental effect on my mental health. There was no duty of care around me when I was a minor in the arts on a professional stage.
You’re very much treated like a working adult. That’s one area that I’m really passionate about now – how we look after young people in the arts. Not just minors and teenagers, but also people who might be in youth arts and they’re moving from youth arts, which is a hobby and a catharsis for them personally, into an arts career. There’s a gap between having a youth arts community, which is very much community oriented, to moving into a career, which is an entirely different ballgame. There are not a lot of connecting pieces there in terms of support for young people.
Panic Attacks >>Watch Video>>
My challenge with music was that I loved it so much but before and after performances I was a nightmare – there were lots of panic attacks and not knowing how to navigate what was happening to my brain. It affects everything, it affects relationships, it affects how you feel about the art that you’re creating and I ended up feeling like I was just making art for everyone else. The more I tried to not do that, the more I got knotted up and it was really difficult to exit.
I got to the point one day I remember I tried to sit down at my keyboard and write something – that’s where I went when things got really difficult – but I started hyperventilating. For months I couldn’t sit down at the keyboard which is what I used to do to bring me back to my normal state.
The last gig that I performed my own music at was a support slot in Vicar Street for Matt Corby and I was flying. I was on Cloud 9 for that gig because he was one of my favourite artists, I can’t believe I got to do that. After that, my mental health started to go downhill properly – really, really bad.
I took a break and I tried to re-enter communities that I had been involved with as a child.
Make sure that you have other communities there for you. When I took a step back from music I thought, “Oh, I won’t see my friends now, because all my friends are in music”.
Being part of different communities is really important and it’s not talked about enough. Anytime people saw me, if they knew me from music they’d ask, “Oh, how are you getting on? Are you gigging?” Everytime someone asked me that question, my heart just sank. I’d say, “I’m not, but I’m happy”.
I reignited my love of farming and of the land. I grew up on a farm and when I was younger I totally took it for granted.
My Dad is amazing. You’d be walking through a supermarket and he’d say, “Why is the broccoli coming from Peru? That’s ridiculous, it doesn’t need to come from Peru”. He gave me that education that you should know where your food comes from and it is a privilege to be able to know where your food comes from.
Farming really helped me to connect with myself and I started going for different internships with different farms before I ended up working on a farm in Cork for a while.
Creativity and Change >>Watch video>>
I did a course called Creativity and Change, it’s an amazing network of socially engaged arts practitioners.
Creativity and Change is a cross between art, activism and social justice and that was my dream combination. We were shown how to use creativity as a vehicle for change and you also get facilitation training so I’ve done facilitation for young people around how to use art as a means for change.
Best decision >>Watch video>>
The best decision I ever made was to step back from music for a little bit and get involved in it in a different way – not as a solo artist. I’ve had the most amazing experiences as a backing vocalist or as a featured artist on different people’s music and it’s so freeing getting to try different styles of music. You have a bit more freedom to do that when you’re not the one running the show.
Now I have space and a little more years under my belt – I’m not 18 anymore. I definitely am so excited to get back into music as a solo artist again.
The Reclaim Project >>Watch Video>>
The Reclaim Project is something I had been thinking about for years but I didn’t quite know what it was. I had never met anyone else who had anything similar to my experience of abuse in the arts. It was only in recent years I’d heard people on podcasts in America talking about it like Evan Rachel Wood.
When you experience any sort of exploitation or abuse in the arts it really impacts every single part of your life. I used to just feel like I’m an alien and no one else has experienced this. I didn’t even have the language to try and find other people who’ve experienced it. I didn’t even know if I wanted to find other people who had experienced this.
I don’t want my art to be affected by something someone else has put on me and I wondered how I could reclaim that feeling of your art making you feel like your actual self again. I can feel like a bit of a chameleon sometimes in social groups and my art makes me feel like me. I thought, what would happen if we pull together people who felt similar to that with similar experiences?
I started The Reclaim Project for gender minorities and women. We get together and have conversations. Each Community Conversation begins with a discussion around what part of your identity you want to make sure isn’t going to be misunderstood or ignored here in this space, this is central to our community guidelines.
We might not even discuss any of our experiences of abuse in the arts but we understand that we’ve been through that and we understand that it impacts every aspect of our lives. A lot of the time we’ll talk about our favourite recent album that made us feel class, or we might consider, where’s the best place to put rage?
The Reclaim Project is not a space where we say, “Let’s turn something awful into something great” because that can be really toxic. It’s more like an exploration of, “This is something I’ve experienced. I didn’t choose to experience it but I have experienced it, so now what?”
Most people who’ve experienced abuse in the arts can’t even say the sentence “abuse in the arts” without whispering it. So having a space to say things, or to not say it, is important. There’s so much emphasis on verbal communications and I feel really passionately about, “How do we explore these things without verbal communications”. It is such a tall order to ask someone who’s sitting across from you and explain things, especially really hard things and really personal things, but if you maybe ask a question or give a prompt like, here’s 10 minutes and we’ll draw how we’re feeling. The answers might just be a blob because sometimes I feel like a blob.
Family >>Watch video>>
What has helped me is creating this community of people. We can make art that discusses our reality and the triggers that we have to navigate around and the toolkits we have to create for ourselves, anything goes.
We have the Community Conversations once a month and everytime a new person comes, I’m really nervous because I’m thinking, “Ooh maybe this isn’t what they probably thought it would be” but every time at the end of the hour they’ve become a new member of the family and “family” is not a word I use lightly.
Throughout the summer
The main initiative we’re running throughout the summer is Reclaiming the Narrative which is literally just questions online. In our Community Conversations we asked people, What part of your identity is often ignored that you’d like to make sure is acknowledged and embraced in this group? What are you most proud of yourself for? They often say, “Oh, I’ve never been asked that before”. We introduce people to being asked about their perspective.
The idea is to collect those answers online and at different arts events over the summer to work into a bigger arts project. It might be something that needs a more private space depending on the answers we receive but also I think it’s necessary to push this into the public realm a little bit. People like your average Joe might not know what it is if they walk down a street in Cork and see one of these answers on a billboard but people who have experienced the same kind of abuse will know what it is.
Survivor centric >>View Video>>
A lot of the time when there are discussions around abuse in general, regardless of what kind of abuse it is – financial, sexual, or emotional – the conversation is never survivor centric, yet there’s so much discourse. An annoying recent example is the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp case. A lot of people are jumping in to express their opinion which makes people with direct experience of abuse go even quieter.
Part of what The Reclaim Project is trying to do is to rebel against that immediate urge felt by the survivor to isolate themselves. It’s about really centering the narrative on the lived experience which is the true narrative.
If you’d like to get involved with The Reclaim Project, follow the below links: https://www.thereclaimprojectirl.com/
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish music industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.