Warren @ Fleshgod Apocalypse
On Monday we met with a great young man, Warren, and his support worker, having received an application to see something heavy. Very heavy! Death metal, black metal, any metal - so long as it's heavy...
Warren lives in supported housing where he gets the support he needs. He was in care from nine years old and had three years in hospital diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He's doing great and it's a pleasure to work something out for him.
Since we needed more time to find out what Warren really wanted to see and Andy at The Fleece in Bristol is a good friend of Given To Live, we thought we could reconvene at The Fleece where the suitably heavy Fleshgod Apocalypse were playing last night.
And sometimes the rock gods smile down on you, which was what happened last night. Our intention was to get to know Warren better and find out which show he wanted. What happened was a fortuitous meeting with Fleshgod's tour manager that turned into the chance for Warren to meet the band.
The guys from FA were so good to Warren. Signatures and guitar picks, plenty of time chatting with him and he got a fist bump as they walked on stage. Warren is a soft, kind young man and to see him so excited, so happy brought great joy to us and his two support workers who accompanied him last night.
Thank you so much to the wonderfully generous Fleshgod Apocalypse and also Andy from The Fleece for turning an evening that was for finding out more about Warren into a night he will never forget.
Warren @ Bloodstock
Given To Live took Warren to Bloodstock on August 14th to see Dragonforce, especially the guitar playing of Herman Li. Bloodstock is where 15,000 people go to listen to the heavier metal. Warren was in heaven as he's from the harder the better school of metal.
Warren lives in supported housing and was accompanied on the day by Alexi, a member of the support staff and also luckily a fan of heavy metal himself.
We met for coffee before setting off and Warren was able to express his anxieties. He has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has OCD, bipolar and anxiety and as much as Bloodstock was a dream it also presented an abundance of challenges for Warren. Having talked through a few things and allayed a few fears, Warren was presented with his poster that Rosie Tasker had created for him and was also told he would meet Dragonforce. This was both exciting for Warren and anxiety provoking.
We set off on the journey to Catton Park and during the journey Warren expressed his fear about meeting Dragonforce. Fear is the other side of the coin to excitement, they are natural and meeting your hero is going to trigger both. We explained this to Warren and he decided that going with the excitement made good sense.
We were met at Bloodstock by Alan who gave us our guest passes and took us backstage where we met his wife Vicky. Alan and Vicky run Bloodstock and their care and consideration to Warren was fantastic throughout our day. There were plenty of wonderful moments with Warren and throughout the day including his wonder at being backstage, time and again asking how we were there. Magic was the answer, magic created by Alan and Vicky.
Next to watch Dragonforce from the stage where Warren was awestruck and couldn't take his eyes off Herman's playing. After a blistering set there was a wait backstage until Warren had his meet with Dragonforce and as a guitar player himself he lapped up his time with Herman Li asking all the questions he could ask about playing, practising and the dedication needed. During a stop on the way up Warren turned to us and said he feels like he can get well again and GTL are talking with Warren's support workers about ways GTL can further support Warren with his playing. Tuition, supporting him to find people to jam with. Music is his outlet and playing so precious to him that we feel to support Warren in this is absolutely necessary.
After the meet we took a beaming Warren to look at the site proper. For a metal head like Warren it was heaven and he took the opportunity to go shopping, purchasing cammo trousers, Cradle of Filth tee shirt and studded collar. After each purchase came back asking if he fits in.
Fitting in is a tremendous issue for all of us. To be accepted, valued no matter what. When mental health issues are also involved this becomes more acute. Labelled and often stigmatised that a sense of self is lost amongst a diagnosis. Warren is Warren. That's who he is and when he turned to us and told us he felt normal again we knew this was both poignant and a first step, a huge first step.
Metal fans are so accepting of difference and no one looked twice at Warren all day. Dragonforce treated him with great respect and looking in from the outside you'd have thought Herman Li and Warren went way back. Being backstage amongst the stars of the day underlined he is normal.
Better yet, Warren is Warren.
Given To Live couldn't have created Warren's day without the help of...
Alan and Vicky at Bloodstock. Thank you both for being the most generous hosts.
Adam and Nina from The Noise Cartel for arranging Warren's meet with Dragonfoce. You sure made a young man smile!
Rosie Tasker for the beautiful print created for Warren.
And Alexi for being a great human as well as support worker.