The Generosity of Strangers and the Power of Music.

So if we’re friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I’ve been planning a gig with my friend for the Playing for Change Foundation. We ran the gig on Monday night and it was AMAZING. We gave ourselves (stupidly) only two weeks to plan it. This meant sourcing artists, a venue, negotiating terms with said venue and getting a large enough crowd to make sure that our artists weren’t singing in front of an empty room! Luckily we pulled it off. We found some incredible artists some with powerful voices to get the crowd up on their feet and some with smooth, calming tones perfect for relaxing to. I also ended up singing, partly because we needed more people and also because I love music.

It’s safe to say that I was astounded that these incredible artists were so happy to give up their Monday night (yep, Monday night gig) to perform for us. Some people I’d only met once or twice and some I’d known for a few months. Only Jade, my fellow organiser, had I known for any real length of time. But I knew two out of three of the other performers, not particularly well, but I knew them and I knew they were good people. One is a powerful activist with the voice of an angel, the other is working towards being a counsellor, with so much soul in her voice! The third and fourth, one who I’d only met a couple times and one never before (and Jade) work on a social action programme are powerhouses in work and music. All the people we had involved with the performing side of the gig were involved, in one way or another, in making the world a better place to live in, in creating a more peaceful, healthy, fair and happy society for us and our future generations and I’m so proud and so honoured to have been able to perform alongside these beautiful people.

The crowd were also pretty special. We had way more people come along than we expected. 50+ people, casual acquaintances, friends, friends of friends, complete strangers from upstairs even some of the staff from the pub (more on that later). The people who came primarily were also people working to make the world a better place. Many work in charities, some are nurses, volunteers, campaigners, activists, artists, fellow musicians and everywhere in between. Even if they weren’t working in one of the “social” sectors, the fact that they came along and supported the charity and the gig and us, means they came along to help us change the world.


Our wonderful Gen, absolutely killing it on stage!

Finally, a huge thank you to the venue. I can’t express to you just how generous these strangers were. We booked the venue on short notice on a night where there are few events. They provided a stage, amps, microphones, stands, stools, extra lamps, tons of extra chairs, a member of staff at our own little bar and a whole host of smiles. A few stick in my mind in particular.

Emmanuel, the bouncer for the night popped in periodically, bringing audience members and listening in. He complimented us all multiple times and I learned that he’s a saxophonist and has been playing for over 17 years.

Rosie, who was working the main bar upstairs, came down before we started and helped us set up the room. This doesn’t sound like much but we asked for the room to be changed multiple times. Sofas moved, stage put out, extra chairs put away then brought back out. She did this all with a huge beautiful smile and she even stayed for a little chat. She’s a good egg despite our indecisiveness and our very particular plans.

Maria, who was our amazing bartender for the night, wasn’t feeling great. But she still worked with another beautiful smile, paid us a heap of compliments and made sure we were all sorted and ready to have a cracking night. I left one of my cables at the venue after Monday and when I went to pick it up, she greeted me with that same infectious smile and told me how glad she was that she worked downstairs for the night. It’s a small gesture on her part but it means the world to me.

On top of their amazing team, they gave us the venue for free. So if you’re ever in the Shoreditch area and are looking for some of the best staff in town and the nicest beer garden ever, go on down to the Water Poet. You won’t regret it.

We couldn’t have achieved any of what we did without the help of amazing artists, volunteers, audience members, venue, staff and supporters from afar so to everyone who came along, thank you for your generosity!

You can still donate to PFC here.

Music is a powerful tool for change and a valuable learning tool for young people and adults alike. Help us spread the message of peace through music.

To hear more music check out my YouTube channel here where I’ll be uploading some videos from the night and follow some of our other singers below. (More to be added in due course).

Kath: @kaffwyatt (tweet her to get her singing more!)


Adventure is out there!

On days like today when I’m feeling down and out, exhausted and annoyed at everything things just seem to go wrong. All the trains from my station getting me to work have been cancelled or severely delayed and there is a very angry, loud woman opposite me on the alternative train. I just want to hit the hay, back to bed and sleep it off. That won’t happen though as I’m working until around midnight schmoozing with directors and important people etc.
All I try to remind myself though is that I’m not limited by my job, my choice in transport or even the people I have to schmooze. I have some super exciting things coming up this week and in the near future. I’m heading to see Paolo again on Thursday, providing he’s better, I’m heading to my friends birthday on Saturday after work, hi Rob! I’m looking at moving up to Newcastle and I’m constantly meeting new people. Life is exciting. There are tons more things too but because I’m on a packed train I don’t want to ramble.
Life is as exciting as you make it. Is your job getting you down? Why not take a risk and change career or job? Social life lacking slightly? Go join a club or share a hobby with someone, reconnect with old friends or make some new ones. Adventure and excitement very rarely seek you out so it’s up to you to find it and make the most of it.
When you’ve got depression this can be one of the hardest things to do. I used to feel like that all the time, my life was unfulfilled, I felt like I had no friends and I hated my job. I was lucky and found volunteering which was an adventure in itself and one I’m still on now! This led to a change in career through meeting new people and improving my social life. Now I share music with most people I meet. I sing with people all the time. I still force myself to do these things every day and although I hate myself for making me do it, I always appreciate it in the end.
Adventure is out there. But it’s not going to come to you. Overcome your self set limitations and go grab the bull by the horns. Not literally. Please.

Note: As I posted this late, I didn’t get to see Paolo. I did however, take an opportunity which led me on an adventure onto the Thames today which included me performing and recording my own music in front of people AND on camera. More to follow soon! 🙂

Early Morning Weekend Working

Every time I hear that I need to work a Saturday the same thought goes through my head. “Ugh working on a Saturday, I just want to sleep”. What I seem to forget every time though, is that the weekends I work are usually the most fun. They’re usually the days where I get to do the people facing stuff, where I get to talk to people and support them with their projects.
Not everyone is in the same job as me, but I can guarantee that everyone has the early morning weekend work feeling every once in a while. Let’s have a little look at the symptoms of EMWWF.
1. The uncontrollable urge to snooze your alarm at least 17 times.
Don’t lie, we’ve all done it. I do it every time I have to work a Saturday. I think to myself “Alex, people are counting on the fact that you’re going to get out of bed today”. My logical, organisational and work brain is very easily over powered by my “shut up its Saturday morning” brain. If you’ve done this too, you may well have EMWWF.
2. Refusing to get out of bed before your alarm goes off (for the 18th time) even if you’re already awake.
Let’s face it, those extra two minutes and sixteen seconds of not-quite-sleep are going to be absolutely essential to your functioning for the rest of the day. I hear legends and myths that there once was a man who got up before his alarm. Perhaps it was once true, perhaps not, we’ll never know.
3. You will put your clothes on back to front, inside out and maybe even upside down three times before realising you had it right the first time.
“I don’t remember my jeans being this cotton-y. Oh right, that’s a t-shirt”.  To be fair, this is a daily struggle for me but it’s frequency and intensity are much worse at weekends…
4. You will be super grumpy leaving your house, on the train and walking to work.
Headphones in, music loud enough so that you don’t need to hear anything, head down and elbows out in the tube so that people know that’s your space. Anyone that speaks to you, smiles at you or acknowledges your existence will get nought but a grunt and a nod. Clearly a case of the EMWWF if ever I saw one.
These are some of the symptoms, but what about the cures? Remember, there’s something good that happens every day. For me I love the Saturday work days when I get there. For others an extra day of work might just be a chore, but think about the pay or the TOIL you’ll incur! Expect for something excellent to happen and it almost always will. Positivity attracts more Positivity. Look out for the cool person who’s super polite and appreciative of what you do. Check out that girl or guy you’ve totally got a crush on. Sing yourself a song or even start a dance party!
At the very least just think about the fact that you’re seriously earning that beer/meal out/take away/chocolate bar/entire tub of ice cream. But do yourself a favour, try to have a good day. If you’re lucky, you might even end up enjoying yourself! 🙂

Selflessness is…

Balance is key to a good, healthy, fun and happy life. The work-life balance is always one which is tough to get a hang of. The friends-family balance is just as tricky (at least I think it is anyway). Everything in life is a delicate balance, the see-saw effect means that too much of any one thing makes life a bit crap!

A lot of people I know have a pretty unhealthy work-life balance. I used to as well. One of my jobs from a few years ago would keep me busy from around 8/9 in the morning well into the 8/9 in the evening realm. I loved my job, but I ended up neglecting my social life and barely looked after myself. Needless to say I got pretty ill and ended up having to miss a few days of work. In my attempt to be selfless I ended up not being able to help anyone.

It’s taken me a few years to force myself to be able to fully adequately balance my work-life. I try as best I can not to work out of hours and to make sure I take back all my extra hours. It’s not always easy when there’s a lot to juggle and when you’re finding it hard to focus. My depression often makes it hard to focus, especially if I’m going through a particularly rough patch. What’s important to do here is to ask for help and to look after yourself.

Remember this: you can’t help anyone if you’re dead.

If you want to continue to be selfless and to help others, to look out for those that you care about, to stand up for those who aren’t able to, you’ve gotta look after yourself first. Go see a show, visit some nice sites, listen to some music, just do something to look out for yourself.

This might sound like a selfish notion, but I don’t see any problem in being selfish every once in a while if it allows me to go out there at my best and help people.

Selflessness, like every other part of life is a balancing act. Too selfish and you’re a bell end. Too selfless and you won’t be in any fit state to help anyone.

I hope for you workaholics, super socialites, recluses and never-indoors-ers this blog will be able to give you a nudge to make sure your life is balanced. I promise you it’ll be much more fun.