Reece experienced bullying at school, depression and social anxiety, which stopped him singing. The Outburst project for LGBT young people in Nottingham helped him to express his personality, make new friends, and begin to consider a career in music.
At 17, Reece hadn’t performed in front of people for three years. But a few weeks after he’d started coming to Outburst, he decided to take a chance.
I very shyly asked if I could do a song. I was nervous but decided to give it my best shot. I felt good after. I never had people applauding me for anything until then.
Music as expression
The Outburst project was a weekly night for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT). Around 50 LGBT young people from Nottingham attended each week.
Run by Nottinghamshire YMCA, Outburst aimed to provide a safe place where young people dealing with similar issues and challenges – such as homophobia, coming out, self-harm, bullying and lack of confidence – could socialise and take part in activities including music-making.
Darren, Youth Programmes Manager at the YMCA, says: “It’s a long process, but music-making and forming relationships with staff and peers at the night helps people like Reece to develop socially and emotionally.”
And that’s true for Reece, now 19, who has found that performing and writing music has helped him to better manage and express his feelings.
Singing helps me tell people about the challenges I face.
Reece, who has autism, came out as gay on Facebook when he was 16. His friends responded positively but his dad overreacted to the news at first, which was difficult, and he experienced bullying at school.
“Someone spread horrible rumours about me at school and the bullying got so bad I was allowed to leave 20 minutes before everyone else,” says Reece.
“Coming to the YMCA night helped me lose my social anxiety and gave me a sense that I needed friends for the first time ever. I needed a place where I could meet other LGBT people and get advice about my sexuality. Outburst helped me to grow more comfortable with my sexuality.”
Although Outburst has now finished, Reece still attends the YMCA to take part in other activities, including some funded by Youth Music. The support he got from the YMCA helped Reece go back to college when he left for a time because of confidence issues.
Reece is now studying for a BTEC in Music Performance. He’s performed at two local venues, is learning to play the guitar and plans to continue singing. And, inspired by a workshop at the YMCA, he’s thinking about becoming a journalist or manager in the music industry.
“I’m hopeful of a career in music,” says Reece. “I’m more sociable, outgoing and self-confident now. If I hadn’t gone to Outburst, I would probably still be wallowing in self-pity and feeling like I don’t have any friends.”
Case study researched and written by Trina Wallace: trinawallace.com