Tom is the youngest of 4 boys and always struggled to find a role for himself within the family dynamic.
Tom was naturally artistic, something that was encouraged by his mother and led to him becoming a vocal harmony facilitator. He had chosen this career path, in part due to a belief that this would finally see him be part of a group and feel included – standing in the middle of the circle with everyone looking at him. But it was during this time he realised that he could not engineer being in a group, this would naturally happen and only by being his authentic self.
Tom identifies as a rebel, a term he associates as a person who is trying to move away from the mediocracy of life. It was only when he went to Leeds college that he met a cohort he could fully associate with and had his creativity encouraged. He has suffered 3 nervous breakdowns, 10 years apart and it was after hitting the bottom and being able to come back he realised that it was harmony and the groove in music that saved him. They became his main purpose with everything else background noise. One of Tom’s concerns for artists now is with the closures of science and art projects due to Brexit and COVID, they will lose local facilities and potential support networks and the chance to create their own ‘gangs’.
He started life wanting everyone to love him, but realised this is a fool’s game, which is unwinnable. Advertising will suggest that buying a product or into a brand makes this dream possible and can be exhausting to try. We often get stuck in a deadlock feeling that we have to include everyone, but we need to recognise that not everyone can be included, and as long as you are fair, giving people equal opportunities there is not much else you can do. It is completely fair for a brand to cater to a certain type of person and state that it is not suitable for others, similarly an artist will not appeal to everyone, which is where authenticity plays a role. Western culture is based on deliberate exclusion so that we feel the need to buy products, divide and rule. Being a rebel, in Tom’s view is to try and move away from the manipulation, to say no and create your own group. Although he does believe that every rebel can become commercialised eventually.
COVID changed the way that Tom ran his music sessions as without being able to physically be together it was impossible to get everyone harmonised and in tune. This meant that he started playing music, drums to people and allowing them to connect with the music, play along and dance, creating a safe space where everyone can be out of time together. He finds this very exciting to facilitate and it is a model that can be transmitted universally. Tom notices there is quite a bit of anxiety around the easing of lockdown as we emerge into a world where everything is different but also the same. He is working on exercises people can do when back in the office, concentrating on reintegration back into the workplace. He questions how long will we feel cautious for; we have got used to having personal space around us when out, how long will it take for us to shake this off? Tom’s tip for when we return to work is to create a circle, which emulates zoom meetings where there is no hierarchy and share authentically how you are feeling, creates support and trust for the group. We should use this an opportunity for change. Need to continue to value what everyone brings to the table, valuing different attributes and skills and allowing people to be their authentic selves, without worrying about gender biases.
Tom says we should not rush back into old habits when we have built such a great community during lockdown. He has found during his sessions they have become inclusive events, with the whole family getting involved and people letting go of their inhibitions as they are in the safety of their home.
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