Kelvin goes to Download
'Download here we come!' Were the words gleefully uttered as hopping into the car after a pitstop for coffee and donuts heralded the last leg of a four month journey that started with receiving an application for a young man named Kelvin to see his favourite band Slipknot. And ended late on Friday night in a thoroughly exhausted but fantastically happy sleep having seen Slipknot and met Corey Taylor, the mighty 'Knot's lead singer.
We've been lucky enough to get to know Kelvin over the last couple of months since we presented him with his tickets for Download in March with phone calls and skypeing. He's funny, smart, has a great sense of humour and loves Slipknot. He lives in supported housing, as he has xxxxx a complex learning difficulty, where there is 24 hour support for him.
He also finds loud noises and crowds of people difficult. Where else would we take him but Download. To see Slipknot.
It's been a wonderful journey that has enhanced the lives of so many connected with GTL. Supporters sending gifts to him, skypeing with him, pulling for it all to happen. This has been a wonderful expression of community and we're moved and so grateful to everyone who has supported Kelvin. Thank you all, from the tweeters to the Texas Smoker who fed Kelvin a wonderful meal at Download and all points between. Most of all thank you Kelvin who has been the catalyst for all this.
So, in the car we hop for the final leg to Castle Donnington with a very excited Kelvin. We can't praise Download's disability field enough. Easy to get into, fantastic, helpful staff and right next to the main area which was especially helpful for Kelvin who knew he had a safe and easy to get to space away from it all only a couple of minutes away.
Up went the tents, wristbands on and into the arena we go. The sun is blazing and it's set up for a great day. There's a stage just a minute away and it seems like a band is about to come on so we go and check it out. Kelvin is getting his bearings and whilst anxious because of all the people, some dressed in a way you're not going to find on your average high street, he's also excited and awestruck. Then the first live music of the day starts and starts with a crash. A very loud crash. A crash that startles long time gig goers from GTL and Kelvin who needs to get out. It's too much in one hit. It's ok, the tent and car is just there and back we go. Kerry-Ann, Kelvin's support worker is fantastic and we make rendezvous plans as GTL goes on reconnaissance of the site...where's the merch stand, the backstage area for later, the Texas Smoker for BBQ while Kelvin gets his breath back.
That's how the day went until it was time to meet Corey. Kelvin stepping in and exploring and when he'd had enough back to the safety and quiet of the tent and car. The car which had a supply of donuts that somehow GTL had been persuaded to purchase at the service station. A word of advice...don't let Kelvin by the Krispy Kreme stand and expect your wallet or purse not to open as if by magic. He's a helluva salesman.
Kelvin finds it tricky when there isn't a plan so hiking across the site to the BBQ of Texas Smoker was fine. A meal, a focus and although at times overwhelming because of the volume of people he made it and the lovely Gary and Jo treated him to whatever he wanted. Kelvin can find communicating and expressing himself difficult but if you watch closely there are different twinkles in his eyes that say how much the enjoyment is. His his eyes twinkled bright when asked if he enjoyed it.
And so it went on. Popping out for a bit, checking out a band, headbanging, air guitar, devil horns, back to the safety of the car/tent/donuts/beer. It was perfect because Kelvin could dip his toe into his dream knowing he could dip out anytime he wanted. Early in the proceedings he knew he wanted to go back home the next day. No problem.
Corey had a plan for us to meet up backstage at 6.30 where we would be met by his manager when it was time to meet Kelvin. Now we knew this meant Corey would get to us as soon as he could. He was having one of those work days that's so familiar to us all...wake up in Switzerland having played festival the night before, fly to England, arrive at festival, do press commitments, sign just released book for 100s. Remember Kelvin finds waiting around tricky? There's not a whole lot of ways to distract someone who keeps asking what are we doing here, why are we waiting, what are we waiting for when you've got to wait in a particular spot and you're trying to keep the reason secret.
We were kept well informed and looked after by Giles from Download's press and also Michelle from Corey's team. Thank you both so much, you made the wait so much easier. Then the rain came and we ended up being probably the only ones grateful as it meant we had license to get to one of the tents having worked a plan out with Giles. And this tent had music. And a canopy that dripped torrents of water. And music at Download means rock music...and air guitar and headbanging. Torrents of dripping water means you can catch them in your mouth. Kelvin enjoyed the rain.
The call came and Kelvin was on.
In we go to meet Corey. A wee wait as space was cleared, a towel found for a dripping Kelvin then in comes the singer of by miles Kelvin's favourite band.
Squeals and shrieks of pure delight erupted as Kelvin met Corey. When Corey asked him which was his favourite song the answer obviously was...the one on the farm. (Slipknot fans will know the answer to that one.) Corey told him about making the video and the possibilities of burning down a farm in the process. Darren Bardo had created some artwork for Kelvin to have signed by Corey and also a piece as a gift for Corey.
Corey was wonderful with Kelvin and Kelvin was in raptures of pure, undiluted joy. Photos of Corey and Kelvin with maybe a devils horn or two finish off Kelvin's time with Corey.
We can't thank Corey enough for how kind he was to Kelvin. How gracious he was in setting this up and making one young man's dream come true in such a beautiful way. Corey Taylor, we salute you, a true star.
A delighted Kelvin heads back to the car somewhat exhausted from all the excitement. Excitement that's far from over because there's the small matter of a Slipknot show still to come.
We head to the main stage for Slipknot. Jeez there's a lot of people. And rain which no longer gives us a wonderful way to distract Kelvin, it's just wet. But it's the people that concern Kelvin. We have to wait. In a big crowd. Imagine going to your first ever concert to see your favourite band, the one that gets you through the tough days, the one you put on the celebrate the good days. Then imagine you want to leave because there's people and lots of people make you feel unsafe. That was Kelvin's world waiting for Slipknot. A conundrum, a wildly fraught, senses twisting conundrum and it's too much. So a few minutes before they came on he says he wants to go back to the tent. To safety. Leave the first concert he's ever been to. To see his band. Because it's too scary to be around people.
The rule is Kelvin is in charge. He goes when he wants. Stays at the festival as long as he wants. But we brake that rule. Collectively, we gently put our foot down that he wasn't going until Slipknot had come on. Kerry-Ann was wonderful, he trusts her. We assured him he would be looked after, that he could go and if he could try to hang in he would see Slipknot.
He hung in.
And a few minutes later Slipknot came on. And Kelvin jumped and punched his fist in the air. He sang along to Sarcastrophe and threw devil's horns. He rocked the hell out.
K-Dog was at Slipknot.
He needed to get out of the crowd after Psychosocial so we moved back and there was space for a circle pit. For one. K-Dog rocked his own circle pit for a while and then watched for a little while longer and then the whole day, the whole glorious, mesmerising, crazy, music filled, hero meeting day crashed fully inside the wonderfully courageous Kelvin and it was time to go. Back to the safety of his space. And it didn't take long for an exhausted young man to find his way into his sleeping bag.
And he slept long and deep.
I'm told he slept all the way on the three hour drive back home. And I'm told he went straight to bed once he got home.
Which makes sense because having dreams come true is very tiring.