Jim's blog: It Takes 2 - ‘All That Jazz’ - Avenues Group
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Jim’s blog: It Takes 2 – ‘All That Jazz’

Tuesday 1st of August 2017

As part of my list of ‘things to do’ in 2017 I rashly decided to sign up for a weekly Jazz School at Bromley Youth Music Trust. I filled in the application form, wrote out a cheque (old fashioned I know) and sent it off. Soon I got an email welcoming me onto the course. That’s when the trouble started.



What had I done!

As the date of the course got closer many thoughts started entering my head – Who would be there? – New people I didn’t know. What if I looked stupid? Would all the other players be better than me? Would the tutor sneer at my lack of ability and knowledge especially as I am of more ‘mature’ years!

As the date got even closer I started to worry even more? I started to imagine the scenario of me looking stupid and sweating with panic in the classroom. I started to think about how I could pull out of it? I could pretend I was ill? I could make out I had other commitments. I decided I couldn’t tell my wife I was thinking of not going. Perhaps I could load up my car with my bass guitar, but go to the pub and return home at an appropriate time.

I was quite prepared to waste the £50 fee I had paid by not turning up – I just had to come up with an excuse for the music centre and a story for my wife – I obviously couldn’t face telling them the painful truth – I was scared of ‘not fitting in’. I only thought of negative scenarios, including me making mistakes and being embarrassed. There were no positive pictures of me having a good time.

On the day of the first date of the course I was in panic mode. I eventually managed to settle myself down to think that I should at least go and give it a try. I managed to convince myself to give it one go and if I didn’t like it I would not go back. I don’t think I really decided that I was definitely going until I actually arrived at the music centre.

Once I got there I tentatively walked in and there was the tutor busy setting up the room. He gave me a warm welcome and chatted with me. I set up my bass guitar and other people started arriving. They were mainly young people, but not so scary and of all different musical abilities. Once we were all there the tutor introduced himself and I finally started to relax. We did some gentle exercises to get us all into playing some basic jazz. No one laughed at me – they were probably too concerned about what they were playing. At the end of the session I packed up, the tutor said goodbye and I went home looking forward to the next session. What had I been worried about?

This experience got me thinking about what we are asking people to do on ‘It Takes 2’ – meet new people do new things – it’ll be great, there’s nothing to worry about we tell them – this is true, however that does not change the enormity of what we are asking of them and the anxiety and fears that most people (including me) have when starting new things and meeting new people.

I consider myself to be a reasonably confident sociable person but the impact of the simple act of going to a new activity that I have not done before sent me into a complete panic. All I could think about were the negatives. I imagined all sort of scenarios that didn’t happen and I very nearly didn’t go at all. Of course with hindsight the experience has been great and I am continuing to enjoy going to the jazz school, meeting new people and learning new things.

So we need to be mindful of all these potential thoughts and emotions which will very probably (and very naturally) surface in the people getting involved with ‘It Takes 2’. We need reassure them and explain in as much detail as possible what they are likely to encounter and then very carefully support them through their feelings and the process of taking on new activities and connections.

In addition to the people actually taking part in ‘It Takes 2’ what about their support workers? They may experience exactly the same feelings and it can be equally scary and daunting for them, particularly if they are being expected to support someone in an activity that they know nothing about and/or are not interested in. Taking the example above the world of ‘jazz’ can be quite intimidating for someone who doesn’t know anything about it. At least for me I knew ‘something’ about it and I ‘wanted’ to get involved.

Matching support workers who have similar interests to the people they are supporting would be the ideal situation, but where that is not possible I think it is important to remember in all cases to support each other and give everyone as much information as possible and if possible give support workers a specific role connected with the activity.

Trying new things is scary for everyone but the rewards are great, so fear of ‘failure’ should not stop us trying new things and it is ok if things don’t work perfectly the first time. Learn and try again. One thing we have certainly learnt on ‘It Takes 2’ is that communities are generally very welcoming.

‘… nice’

1st August 2017