A Belated Anniversary Celebration and a few mistakes.

Given To Live was 8 in April. Two years ago our 6th anniversary was falling in the week of what was meant to be Reece’s Oakland show, a couple of weeks after we’d become a 501c3 and in Oakland at Pearl Jam which has huge significance in the history of GTL. A pandemic hit and that week of celebrating Reece and Given To Live disappeared into a lockdown.

Two and a bit years on and I chose to pretty much ignore this year’s anniversary. Why bother because all we’ve really done for two years is fight to survive. Surviving isn’t what GTL is meant to do, it’s taking people to shows, changing lives with their show, with live music. It meant little.

It meant little until today when a few things sank in primarily due to two things. First a post yesterday from someone we took to a show and then waking up in Oakland which in so many ways is the birthplace of Given To Live.

The comment was to GTL and A7X, the band we took him to -

‘You guys saved my life in in Cardiff I won't be here today if it won't for you guys so sincerely from the bottom of my heart thank you.’

This reminded me why I chose to start GTL and why, when every sensible thought as lockdowns went from weeks to months to a year to longer, told me to close GTL I didn’t. I’m stubborn yes, I had made a commitment to Reece and couldn’t let him down, I kidded myself it wasn’t as bleak as it actually was - all these played a part in staying with it.

Staying with it as all our reserves went into covering overheads and feeling permanently ashamed that we weren’t taking people to shows. Yes, I know we couldn’t but that doesn’t stop me from punishing myself for not being good enough, for GTL not being good enough. Oh yes! My mental health is indeed a complicated and irrational beast.

The comment landed deeply as did waking in Oakland and I lay in bed with tears as my heart opened to the fact Given To Live is still here, that we have changed, saved, enhanced lives and will again tomorrow. Back where it all began seeing the band that is the inspiration with a teenager who is inspiring himself. This a blessing.

Mistakes? Oh boy have I made so many! A rational person would say well, you started GTL to follow a dream to help, honour, support and love people with the gift of live music. To do it in a way no other organisation does without knowing anyone in the music industry, that GTL is a one man band and almost 70 shows later it’s done a lot of good and changed lives. But…

But it’s the mistakes that get magnified, that mean I don’t sleep, can’t say well done to myself. Never receiving a grant but there was a government loan a few months into the pandemic so, thinking it would be over soon I decided a way of thanking artists who’d donated would be to purchase posters rather than ask for donations as we couldn’t do shows for a while. Working on trust accepted an application from someone who took all our hospitality and then organised a meet as she already had connections with a band that had said they couldn’t with us this time and ended up damaging GTL’s relationships. Many, many small mistakes as I learn how to do GTL better on my own without guidance from someone with experience…a wing and a prayer.

And I sit here thinking of all the people who have helped, donated posters, arranged a meet, donated funds, created posters, written messages on Facebook posts for our guests wishing them well. The list is endless. One day GTL hopefully will receive grants, have more connections, have staff so I don’t have to do everything as I certainly fall short in some areas and then we grow.

Given To Live’s story started with hearing Alive on a bus in Sweden in the summer of ‘13 and from there one seed was planted, then another and another and they were watered in Oakland and not long after these seeds germinated.

Given To Live…we’re still Alive.

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