FOLLOWING MY PASSION
Music has always been a big part of my life and as a child I was introduced to all sorts of genres by my parents. Then after watching my idols Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse on the tv I knew I wanted to dance, sing and act. I could not imagine doing anything else. I have worked within the performing industry for almost 30 years both as a singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, actor and teacher.
My love for the performing arts began at a very early age when I enrolled at a local dance school. I trained in various genres of dance including ballet, tap and musical theatre, which culminated in pursuing a career in the performing arts and music industry. I have taught hundreds of students across the country and have shared my passion and knowledge in schools and professional dance colleges.
Ten years ago, I set up Freedom Dance & Performance with only 10 students and now have over 100 pupils at the school. Many of my students have gone on to train at some of the top performing arts colleges in the country and some of whom are now working professionally within the industry, including my son and daughter.
How Freedom Foundation evolved
Through my work I developed a strong urge to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people, which increased massively with the rise of social media. I decided there needed to be more done in schools to support children around the challenges they were facing which included low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, false perception of body image and the ever increasing amount of time spent on social media. I decided that the best way to engage young people today was through the power of music and dance, so founded Freedom Foundation CIC along with my business partner Laura Grant.
We have developed a series of programs which now being delivered in schools across the County.
Recently we have been the given an amazing opportunity to create a Freedom Foundation hub on a new digital platform, which now means that all of our programs can now be delivered and accessed online. This means we can further extend our reach to more vulnerable young people across the country, who in these unprecedented times are feeling isolated and unmotivated.
I was raised by a very strong woman in a deprived inner-city area. Every spare penny my mum had was spent on dance and drama lessons to fulfil my passion of becoming a professional performer. I was determined I would not let her down.
I would have to say that I am surrounded by strong independent women who have all had an impact on my life. But with regards to where I am currently in my career, I would have to say my business partner and friend Laura Grant. Laura and I have been friends for over thirty years and when I approached her with my vision and ideas for a new business, she jumped at the chance of being involved and instantly saw the beauty in what I wanted to create. Our relationship as friends has never impacted on our business relationship thankfully, wish is rare. This is because we share the same vision, dreams and hopes.
Both Laura and I have overcome so many painful hurdles to build our organization. With end of my 20 year marriage and the loss of her husband last year, we have supported each other through the blood sweat and tears. We have always said “Let’s Dream Big” and we have never lost sight of that. The pain and heartbreak that Laura continues to battle with each day, inspires me and makes me realise how precious life is.
The belief that Laura has in me and her ability to recognise my strengths and weaknesses without judgement, has made me reflect on why I do what I do. The answer is simply because I can.
My Tips for Success
My mantra is, “She can, She did, She will, She has”. I have learnt that for every closed door there is another one waiting to fly open, you just have to know how to bulldoze it down. Running my own business and latterly a CIC the best advice I ever received was don’t take things personally when things don’t go the way you expected them to. Learn from your mistakes and push on.
In terms of tips I would say it’s so important to believe in yourself, your business and what you have to offer. Be prepared to adapt your business in order for it to grow and remember that failures are just lessons that make you stronger and always take the time to sit back and look at your journey and congratulate yourself along the way.
Reflecting on what I would tell my 16 year old self I’d say “Don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things that are heading your way and go for it!! The only thing that will stop you from achieving greatness is fear”
My days are spent mostly continually putting on various hats. Including, single mother of three, dance teacher, mentor, director, writer and cleaner. My day usually begins with some form of exercise with very loud music, as I need this to clear my head to face the day. What follows scares the hell out of me on paper, but when you are passionate about your work you throw everything you have into achieving what you set out to do…
Walk the dog
Reply to hundreds of emails
Attend planned meetings
Schedule new meetings
Write and develop programs
Prepare for evening classes
Switch off laptop
I do all of this because of my passion, dedication and a commitment to achieve. My biggest achievement was giving birth to my three amazing children, so providing financial security for my family is paramount. Improving the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people drives me to do better everyday
Life hasn’t been without its challenges
As a performer you face many knockbacks and as a business owner there will always be setbacks. The main challenges I have faced are around balancing my work and home life as a mother, also continually having to prove your worth and value to potential funders and investors. Sheer hard work and a determination goes a long way!
I have never taken no as an answer! I have always believed that if you want something in life then you have to go out there and get it, because no one will wave a magic wand to bring your dreams to reality. You must sprinkle your own bit of magic everywhere.
We will be launching a new campaign later this year called Safe Selfie, which aims to raise awareness around the posting of selfie and images on social media. It will be used as a platform to promote positive body image and self-worth, and will change the thought process behind selfies, images and filters. Our aim is to get young people to understand that they don’t need to ‘Liked’ to be liked and that the only validation they need is from within themselves
Dealing with Coronavirus
As the world was faced with a pandemic like never before, Laura and I knew that the rise in mental health cases would be significant. As single mothers, we knew how difficult it would be for us to continue to run our businesses whilst home schooling our children. We also knew that there would be women all over the country facing exactly the same problems in varying capacities.
So, we decided to set up a private Facebook group called The Scream Saver and invited women from all walks of life to join. We wanted them to have a safe space to rant, cry, laugh and receive support and advice. This group has grown to over 700 members now and the feedback has been incredible, with many women saying that they are so grateful to have the support they need during these unprecedented times, whilst knowing that their rants are free from judgement. Our Lockdown Ladies have shown their weaknesses and strengths, their compassion and humour to every single member. So much so, we are now planning a reunion event (at the request of many members) when this pandemic is over. This will be an amazing opportunity to finally meet the women that have been there for each other even though they have never even met. https://www.facebook.com/groups/589816238270626/?ref=group_browse