The last few months have been a real whirlwind. A lot of work and some thoroughly unforgettable experiences and I’m already deep into my plans for 2023 as the winds of change keep blowing. In amongst the bluster the time has come to get off the treadmill and take a moment to reflect.
September saw the release of Life Is Not A Rehearsal and it really was a dream come true. About 80 people attended and I performed the album from start to finish. Every part of the day was so special and I savoured every moment as if it was the last crummies in the popcorn bag – the taxi there, Lence‘s brilliant set, the mystery envelopes, the impromptu encore, the post-gig pints and shawarma – it was such a pleasure to be backed vehemently by friends and family, truly one of the best days of my life and I can’t say thank you enough to the people who were there.
I know there were more people who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it so I’m grateful to the living legend big Stu Herring for filming the whole thing, including loads of “hilarious” on-stage banter and a full minute’s worth of me floundering around trying to remember the lyrics to Sacked on Championship Manager whilst the beat rolls on. It will be available to watch on repeat for the rest of time from Friday 23rd December 2022.
After the album launch came another amazing evening, this time at Leeds Central Library as we teamed up Leeds Libraries and Andy’s Man Club to put on Sound It Out, a night where I was joined by fellow Leeds facilitators Liam and Mark, two great guys who talk from the heart and inspire me greatly, for an evening of mental health and music discussion. We demonstrated an AMC meeting with just the three of us and it was surprisingly nerve-wracking doing it in front of a mixed audience of 50, rather than 10-15 men in a closed circle. I also performed a few of my mental health related tracks including the unreleased Trapped In My Mind which will be out on 7th January 2023. The event was part of the Soundmind programme of events promoting positive mental health and wellbeing through music.
Whilst it was my face on the poster the event was really about showcasing Andy’s Man Club and showing everyone that #ItsOkayToTalk. We’ll all keep spreading the word as much as possible to find that one man who needs it and if you have questions or want to get involved whether that’s coming to a group, booking a (free) presentation for your business or doing some fundraising, ask me anytime or email email@example.com.
Finally a bit about the rap workshops I’ve been doing in schools. They’ve been going great and it’s been such an unexpected and beautiful addition to my journey. I’ve now done 26 workshops across 11 venues with 424 children and I’ve got more booked in – the next being my return to Art Camp UK for an afternoon on 20th December at Shire Oak Primary School in Headingley.
I’m also delighted to announce that I am now an Artsmark Partner, meaning I have committed to a creative quality standard for schools and education settings, accredited by Arts Council England. I feel a responsibility when working with young people so this will help me keep the quality as high as it can be whilst delivering sessions that are fun, useful, inspiring, inclusive and accessible for all participants.
I recently had the privilege of a full day working with students at Hall Cliffe Primary in Wakefield, my first SEN school, and I’m still finding that I learn from the kids in every single session. It’s a magical thing the old imagination and it’s great to see what’s conjured up in these as every workshop is unique.
That concludes this wistful trip down Memory Lane, well done if you made it this far! All sorts of cool gubbins is bubbling away at the moment, some of which could be huge (it’s all relative innit) but I’m not counting any chickens until they’re in the henhouse ready to fly and pecking away like there’s no tomorrow, so more on that when it’s here.
For now, as Jerry Springer used to say, take care of yourself…and each other.
Also check out the Friends of Wilko Wilkes playlist I recently made to thank the artists and bands that I’ve connected with along the way!