I sensed the audience's anticipation and suddenly realised the responsibility I had in their expectations, but it was not always like this.
It was a dull day and as we drove towards the area where my house once stood, memories began to fill my mind. This was where it all began back in 1968, the year I was born. One memory that haunts me still is lying in a cot surrounded by darkness. As a child I was totally oblivious to what was about to happen to me. Blood started to drip from my ears and after being rushed to the hospital, an abscess, which had caused temporary deafness, was found. Many months were spent away from my family. Much of this time was spent undergoing speech therapy and receiving medication to counteract hyperactivity.
The first few years of family life were difficult. The entire family slept in one room above a taxi office. Later we were given a council house. My father was an entertainer-cum-compare in clubs and my mother was a country and western singer. I have two sisters and one brother.
My earliest memories of adverse effects on my life were around the age of eight years old, at which time I found myself being physically and sexually abused by both men and women. The guilt and inability to share this with my family and friends progressively exasperated the situation, which went on for several years.
Following an incident with the police I became not only angry towards anybody in authority but also rebellious in this situation, culminating in my joining a gang. I was so angry towards the police that the gang and I would often make life difficult for them. On one occasion we even overturned a police car! By the age of ten, I began to experiment with drugs, mainly solvents, during this time. But as the years went on I emerged even more rebellious and began taking other drugs - Marijuana, and amphetamines. Thus began many years of a life in crime, drugs and prison.
The problem with accepting any authority manifested itself at school when anger was projected onto teachers, causing much friction, verbal abuse, and physical violence. As a teenager there was so much involvement with the peer group it resulted in my being deprived of education. The courts of justice issued many different punishments from probation and fines to community service until finally the only remedy left was the detention centre. At the same time gambling became an addiction, necessitating stealing from my parents. Alcohol became the means of escaping the reality of this.
Being sent to a detention centre twice did not deter me. Each time I emerged in a worsened state, becoming more involved with, and witnessing, a lot of terrible things, including fights with knives or baseball bats and various other acts of violence. Gang warfare was very prominent at this time.
Obviously, as with everyone, there was a deep need for love. There were many questions about life and so began the search for truth and answers, which lead me along a circumnavigated route. It was during this period that I became involved with the occult. It was a gradual process beginning with an obsession of painting pictures of graveyards, which eventually led to leading seances and using tarot cards to predict the future. While I was searching for answers in life, I also began to call upon spirits my attitude became much more aggressive and unpredictable towards people, resulting in them distancing themselves from me. It is only now, as a Christian, that I realise, looking back, that most of the problems were the result of being involved in the occult. When we look at society, we notice that there are many people, including teenagers, who have this concept that being involved with such things as ouigi boards, tarot cards, and seances are all fun. However, the truth is that it is a very subtle path down the road to deception, confusion, loneliness, lack of confidence fear, and a poor self-image.
Then came the defining moment at the age of eighteen when a friend from school said he would like to talk to me. We walked through a church graveyard next to a shopping centre. This turned out to be quite symbolic as we both sat down under the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was here, twelve years ago, that I became a Christian. I started to attend a Pentecostal church and my life began to straighten out.
Withdrawal symptoms were the first obstacles the family, doctor, and I had to deal with. I now was not oblivious to the effects the drugs had on me physically and realised the need to get into shape. The consequences of misusing drugs had caused weight loss and other health problems. A process of re-learning began at a local college to gain what I had missed through wasted years.
At the age of twenty-one I became a voluntary youth worker and worked alongside other young people. Were as in the past there was anger toward people in authority, I now was liasing with them. Opportunities arose to represent young people in the area and I found myself corresponding with local MPs. Family life became much more stable and gradually the headaches, palpitations and other problems slowly diminished. I began to think more seriously about a career in acting and when I could afford it, took private lessons. Eventually I left behind the streets of my hometown and headed for London.
A short while ago I completed evening classes at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Coupled with this there have been opportunities with Premier Radio and UCB to talk about my life. I recently completed an acting course with Richmond Drama School, for which I was awarded a diploma. As well as having opportunities in television and theatre, over the last few years I have performed in at least eleven plays including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Uncle Vanya, and The Odyssey. I recently worked with a Shakespeare company where I took part in an open-air performance of A Mid-summer Night's Dream.
Reflecting back on my childhood I learned that my experiences were able to help other people. I thank God for the fact that through all these traumas and difficulties I have always had the support of a loving family and many special friends. Now, having emerged from the furnace, I am now moving towards the many and various opportunities, which lie ahead of me.