The Good Job…(we all do the best we can as parents)

Sometimes you have to stop and reflect. Sometimes you need to take a step back and give yourself a little time to ponder. Yesterday was one of those moments.

As we drove away from dropping our eldest off at University we couldn’t help but think that the boy done good.

Let’s give this some context. Our eldest didn’t get in where he wanted to go last year and I completely blame Sir David Puttnam for that. He was lucky enough to speak with Sir David at Sunderland University a few years ago just as he was coming to the end of his GCSE’s and thinking about the next phase of his learning. He has always been passionate about acting and performing. This conversation was possibly the best/worst thing that could have happened. He took away two bits from that conversation and then has rigorously stuck to them ever since.

The first piece of advice was if you want to get on in the industry he has chosen to work in don’t have a plan B, inevitably if you have a plan B you settle for that. That set my son on his path.

The second piece of advice was to be a triple-threat (Apparently it’s what we Brits do well). This guided his work, energy and focus.

This led to my son doing a BTec in Musical Theatre. The conversation that he would be doing a BTec rather than A-levels was really hard for him, mainly out of worry about what I would say I think. He explained and I said ‘OK,’ no drama. I then watched our son, blossom and develop. It was great to see that passion for learning come flying back after watching it be extinguished in his final couple of GCSE years.

Then he started applying for his next step. He didn’t get in to his one of his chosen colleges last year but that was partly because he aimed high. Getting into a good performing arts college is massively competitive but his rationale was if I want to get on this is what I need to do, so his decision last year and this was to only apply to the top colleges.  That he after receiving numerous rejections last year stuck at it is testament to his determination to push on through. That he got call-backs everywhere in his second year of trying was also testament that he may just be OK at this.

Let me at this point, point out how challenging it is financially to do this as well. All places are through an audition process, the auditions are charged for, then you have to get there, they were for my son quite a significant way away from where we are (There aren’t many top performing arts colleges in the North East) and often required train travel, (not cheap) and often a hotel stop-over as well. At this point I’ll point out that we’re not loaded, we helped but he also self-funded a lot of this through also holding down a job as a lifeguard at a local swimming pool. (we costed it…it came to thousands to go through this process)

He pushed through the rejection, he worked hard, he took critique well and he developed. The fact is he ruthlessly followed his dreams, and made sacrifices to make them happen. Having a settled supportive family definitely helped but what happens next who can tell but the future is his.

I can’t help but look at this in the context of families I work with. I see children possibly more talented than my son who will not get the breaks/the chances/ the opportunities that he has had. I see children who will not have the staying power or the financial support to pursue their dreams and will settle for plan B, or C, or D or worse. This doesn’t make their parents worse parents; this doesn’t make their families worse families. Fact is this, like it or not the opportunities are not open to all. Not every child will get the chance to follow their dreams. 

What this has bought home to me is the privilege of opportunity that for some young people just isn’t there. Some children don’t get to make the choice and create their own future.

The big question is how do we create a system where every child gets to follow their dream, where every child gets to define their future, a system where all children are supported to get there wherever there is.

Addendum… Ewan is now near the end of his third year. I couldn’t be a prouder father. His training has been outstanding even throughout the most difficult times.

Showreel films (my son is at 15:27…I don’t like it but I do think he’s very good)

The world is now his.

Second addendum…

Ewan has now completed his degree with a first, he has signed with an agent, he is giving this his best shot. What his future holds I don’t know, it’s in his hands. Is he good at this, yes I think he is. Has he learnt a lot, undoubtedly.

I don’t know his path but feel lucky to have been able to support him on that road.

What’s known is that the arts are under-threat by this government, that for many it is a route blocked financially. The arts are becoming exclusionary by government policy on university funding for students. You’re not on the list you’re not coming in. The options open to young people to follow their dreams, to have a voice are ever-diminishing…we see news of more creative courses being closed on a weekly basis. Let’s not pretend this is about the young people, this about pulling up the ladder and shutting the door. Those contrary voices with different viewpoints and perspectives are not welcome.

My hope for my son is that whatever he does, that he does it with a fierce creativity, a wilfulness of voice and that he gives others the chance to follow their dreams.