When I first came to a Loophole Music session as a patient at Bethlem Royal Hospital, the thought of performing in front of people terrified me. I’ve played piano for many years but I didn’t think I’d ever have the confidence to play in front of anyone. However, after two sessions and lots of encouragement, Kieran and Bison persuaded me to sit at the piano and play for them. They recorded me playing a Chopin piece, and while they were clearly impressed, I hated listening back to it. I couldn’t help but punish myself for all the stupid mistakes I made.
As I’ve had training in piano, I feel exposed playing it in front of people and am hyper-critical of my abilities. Kieran and Bison recognised this, so they encouraged me to keep coming to the sessions and helped me learn to play ukulele instead. As I was learning ukulele from scratch, I was less hard on myself and I felt free to experiment and make mistakes in front of them. Soon, I was playing covers of my favourite songs by David Bowie and The Smiths. The difference was that this time I wasn’t judging my ability, even though I was out of my comfort zone.
That was a real turning point for me. Learning to play ukulele helped me gain the confidence to put myself out there. After vowing to never sing publicly, I volunteered to take part in the Bethlem Christmas Carol Concert and even sang a solo in front of the live audience. I’ve also bought myself a ukulele and set myself the challenge to start writing original compositions. Engaging with music again through Loophole empowered and motivated me, and more than that, it was a whole lot of fun.