Finding the right supportive relationships that you feel comfortable with can boost your self-esteem and give you the confidence and skills to open new doors for yourself. As part of our Relationships Week 2021 blog series, Dan Kelsey who has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Ian who runs Freedom Road Creative Arts (FRCA) reflect on what that has meant for them. FRCA was launched in July 2008 to offer young people in the Hull area workshops in Drama, Dance, Song-writing and Singing.
‘They made me feel like I have potential’
Dan Kelsey’s eyes light up when he talks about sound. He has been reading up on broadcast mixes done by sound engineers for live TV shows and perfecting studio sound so that he can help friends record music tracks. In fact, he has immersed himself in the world of sound since he was in his early teens, he is now 17.
Dan has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. He is adopted and his birth mother drank and used drugs throughout her pregnancy. He has minor learning difficulties as a result, he has struggled with reading and writing all his life. He became frustrated and disruptive at school as a result. He was being restrained several times a week and ended up in a special school unit because his behaviour was unmanageable.
With help from his mum and his school, he got a place at charity Freedom Road Creative Arts (FRCA) when he was just eight-years-old and he says something clicked inside him. He explains: “I just loved it. I really loved performing and I felt at home there. It gave me something to look forward to every week.”
He is now completing a course in the performing arts at Hull College, but what really makes him spark is the idea of being a sound engineer, it is a dream that has grown from a FRCA excursion when he was 14.
Every year Freedom Road Creative Arts (FRCA) takes a gaggle of teenagers to Tribfest, which takes place just outside Hull - it is the world’s biggest tribute band festival. FRCA normally help run a stage and some of the group performs.
Dan was given the chance to help with balancing the sound at Tribfest.
He says: “Ian Bolton from Freedom Road showed me what to do, but then he let me get on with it and I ended up doing the sound basically. It worked and I loved it and from there I started learning more about it.”
Today, alongside his studies, Dan is working for a sound engineering company that he loves.
He says: “When I look back. I feel like a different person. I was very disruptive. I don’t really like to think about it. I never fitted in with school. It was easier to bear being chucked out of the class than the shame of having to say, ‘God, I can't do it". Getting restrained was a way for me to cool down and get rid of it all, to burn it off. I didn’t know how to express myself. Now I’m working for a company and I feel like I have responsibilities and that I get on with the people I work with.”
He adds: “I don’t know what it is about sound, but I feel in control when I am working. I feel like I know what I am doing and it’s a good feeling because I don’t feel like that about other things.”
Dan has been integral to the launch of the FRCA podcast and he has also helped singers from the charity to record songs that showcase their talents.
He says: “It's been so great to record for people I've known for years, to help really good friends. They have believed in me and that's been really nice because I have got skills. And it’s really good because I have had all these difficulties, but they don’t see them, they see what I can do. I've still got so much to improve on with myself but I've kind of massively seen a difference in my life.”
How much of Dan’s balanced attitude is down to his involvement with FRCA is clear to Dan. He says: “Freedom Road put up with me when other people didn’t want to. They worked with me. They helped me learn when to say things I felt and when to keep quiet. They helped me realise that Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is a part of me, that I’m not going to change it, but I can work with it. I wouldn’t be doing the things I’m doing without Freedom Road. They made me feel like I have potential. I think they changed me and so did my mum.”
Ian Bolton who runs Freedom Road Creative Arts here reflects on Dan Kelsey’s journey
Dan has many interests at FRCA, particularly the music groups where he plays the Cajon, which is a Peruvian percussion instrument, and he has also taken part in singing groups.
He is a good drummer and has been part of various bands, one of which has released a single called Jumpstart, which has been played on the radio. FRCA facilitates a range of music stages across the region and Dan began helping with the tech side of the events like setting up the stage, lighting, and sound.
This interest developed and Dan's enthusiasm to learn the trade was evident in his eagerness to help out, ask questions and watch more experienced staff. You could see he was taking everything in.
As FRCA leaders, we are placed in a position of trust with young people, a part of the work which we cherish. It enables us to try and recognise what makes them who they are and we get to help them as their lives unfold.
I recognise the strides Dan has made to challenge the barriers he has faced in his life. His determination and will to succeed speak volumes about Dan.
Like his mum Debbie, and his brother Adam, Dan is remarkable and we look forward to watching him progress in the years to come.