By Dennis O’Brien, Cultural Spring Community Champion and Participant

A very old former frustrated rock star. Well…maybe not a rock star yet.

My reason for getting involved with The Cultural Spring probably started when I was five or six. Listening to the wireless, as it was called then, consisted of lots of boring stuff along with rock and roll music. My inspiration probably came from Tommy Steele, Bill Haley and Elvis types of rock stars.

As a result I wanted a guitar so I could be like them, I wrote a letter to Santa and asked for a guitar. For two years on the trot I got a plastic guitar and not the real one I hoped for. The first one I was still excited about but little did I know you had to tune the damn things to get a good sound.

That’s when my frustrations started until some 40 years later.I managed to snap the strings and crack the neck on the first one. Much anger and crying occurred despite my request for a real guitar a second plastic one arrived the following Christmas. This time I just snapped the neck completely when trying to tune it up. Cue more crying.

My parents just didn’t understand about real wooden guitars and that was the end of my love affair with the guitar for a long time as I found football and girlfriends. I did attempt to learn to play on several occasions but frustration and a lack of patience prevented me from mastering my favourite instrument.

Over forty since almost giving up fast forward to around five or six years ago. I was sitting in my lovely office overlooking the Tyne River daydreaming about the past and how much I had wanted to be involved in something artistic and creative. I started making a list of what I could do, projects, theatre and people I had met in the artistic world. I had also started working with The Stroke Association as a job coach helping people get back into work after recovering. They had music groups which I started attending but it was not part of my job and had to stop after a member of staff complained I was having too good a time. That was when I decided I must find a way to fulfil my creative ambitions.

Fate took over as a leaflet from The Cultural Spring arrived. Workshops galore to attend, they asked for ideas for community involvement and that was it for me. A dream come true. One project stood out, there were many but that’s for another blog if this is not the last one I do. Putting the Band Back Together, by Unfolding Theatre with Annie Rigby Ross Millard, Alex Elliott and the late Mark Lloyd. More workshops, intense chatter, an abundance of ideas from me, my brother and many more lovely people. This was my dream I had found something really special all our ideas were noted and handed to creative genius Chloe Dakin and probably other special arty people.

Putting the Band Back Together was a special time in my life. I even had a song called Dennis’ song written about me along with other interesting aspects of my life being mentioned. I have to point out along with other very interesting stories, not just mine, it was a big production. This show toured the country including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was lucky to be in the show and even get introduced to the audience for my song.

Cultural Spring opened up a whole new creative world for me and many others a lot more talented than me, in the last five years. I have joined and left band’s, been interviewed by national and local radio, won awards at the Journal Cultural Awards at Hexham Abbey, written songs, had theatre productions based on my life performed and of course had a dream come true as I performed on stage at the one and only Customs House in South Shields.

I now continue to fulfil my dreams of forty years and would love to try something different If anyone is game or up for a challenge.

Thank you Cultural Spring for fulfilling my dreams.