Returning to familiar territory, we spoke to performer Aaron Hayes about what inspired his love of entertainment and what provoked a very sudden change of career direction…
It can be gut-wrenching when you have to decide whether you chose the right university course. Especially when you have had your heart set in an ambition for so long. We find out what provoked performer Aaron Hayes to switch from wanting to become an actor to pursue training as an opera singer.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN BASED IN BOURNEMOUTH OR POOLE?
I was actually born in London, in Chelsea Westminster Hospital, and we lived in Kingston until I was around a year old. But I grew up in Poole.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOUR LOVE OF PERFORMING?
When I was younger and I used to watch films and see shows, I just remember the effect they had on me. The feelings they provoked. Feeling excited or feeling moved, laughing etcetera. I remember wanting to do that myself and wanting to make people feel things through watching my performance.
YOU ORIGINALLY STUDIED AT ITALIA CONTI ACADEMY IN LONDON. WHAT PROVOKED THE SWITCH OF INTEREST FROM DRAMA TO OPERA AND CLASSICAL SINGING?
My ambition at the time was to be an actor, and I wanted to go to drama school, learn more about that craft. But it just happened, at the time when I was at Italia Conti, I wasn’t entirely happy there. That may not necessarily have been so much down to the course as where I was in myself. I just felt that I needed to change course; being at Italia Conti, I didn’t feel as though I was achieving what I wanted to in terms of becoming a better actor. Some of the enjoyment of acting was getting sucked out; I felt I was becoming a little too aware of how I was doing it, getting a little too wrapped up in that and losing my natural instinct for it.
But I had always done singing; I studied with a classical singing teacher when I was younger, and I was in a church choir. So I had some experience there. My singing teacher had mentioned about applying to music college when I was younger, but I never gave it much thought. Until I was in the situation of wanting to change course. I looked into it, and the course I found at music college seemed to be a good way of combining the acting skills I had with those in singing.
Also, opera seemed, in my opinion, to be a stronger form of acting. Because you’re not just speaking and moving but you’re also singing. It’s a more emotional way of acting.
WHAT WAS YOUR THEORETICAL UNDERSTANDING OF OPERA BEFORE YOU STARTED STUDYING IT?
I didn’t have much knowledge of opera, but I did know my way around classical music a bit. And also musical theatre and opera-style musical theatre like Les Misérables, things like that. So I had to do my research, watch a few operas. And I really got into it. My favourite is La bohème by Puccini.
WHO WOULD YOU CALL YOUR INSPIRATIONAL FIGURE?
It’s hard to name one in particular. In terms of an inspiring person who has tried to good and has done good through their art, I would say John Lennon. He was very truthful in what he used to say and used what he did as a singer to try to change the world for the better.
ARE YOU STILL ACTING OUTSIDE OF YOUR TRAINING AS A SINGER?
Yes – I’m currently doing some supporting artist work here and there. Most recently done some filming for The Crown for Netflix – unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail there. That came about via an agency; the jobs come through and they ask if you’re available. And one came through for The Crown. We were shooting in Wales for some scenes dealing with the Aberfan Disaster in 1966. Olivia Colman was there – it was great.
DO YOU INTEND TO TACKLE ANY OTHER SIDES OF SHOWBUSINESS? SUCH AS WRITING OR DIRECTING, FOR EXAMPLE?
I would love to direct actors – I feel I can understand where they’re coming from in terms of their process. Maybe produce as well? Have a vision and see it through. In terms of writing, I have tried a bit in the past. I collaborated with a friend on a sitcom script. That is something I find more challenging – I can create ideas, but I find the actual writing of scenes and dialogue quite difficult. But I would love to be able to do that.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM ROLE – FILM, TELEVISION, OR THEATRE?
As a singer, I am a baritone. But if I were a tenor, I would love to play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.
WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU AS A PERFORMER?
I would love to do a bit of everything, really. Work in the West End, in films and TV. Also, I wouldn’t mind doing some recording – I sing swing and some pop. So perhaps I’ll do a bit of that in future. A few gigs. To have a varied career would be the end goal.
Charlotte Willis, Charity Worker
Meet Charlotte Willis. Bournemouth local. English student. And also worker with the charity Street Support. We found out about her deep-rooted connection to the charity…
Local girl Charlotte Willis was directed to Humans of Bournemouth through a friend. She came to us, wanting to tell us about Street Support. That’s a homelessness charity we, ashamedly, had never heard of before. In our conversation, we found out how Charlotte came to be involved with the charity and why it has become quite close to her heart…
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH STREET SUPPORT?
My mum was homeless in Bournemouth, about five years ago. She was homeless for quite a while – I’m not entirely sure how long precisely – and she didn’t get the help she needed. And she took her own life, on the streets. I talk about it quite openly; I’ve written a piece about it on the Street Support website.
I volunteered for The Big Issue – it seemed quite appropriate and I thought I would know a bit about it. But I was struggling with money over the summer, and Claire from Street Support emailed me. She knew I was involved with The Big Issue and she asked if I wanted to get on board with Street Support. She offered to pay me through the summer, so I thought, “Yeah, that’s great!” It’s just one of those things that just fall into place and I feel quite serendipitous about it. In light of what happened to my mum and everything.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT STREET SUPPORT…
It started in Manchester; there were people in Bournemouth – Ian Jones and Alastair Doxat-Purser from Faithworks Wessex – who found there wasn’t enough help for homeless people. So they wanted to bring something down to Bournemouth and found Street Support. It’s an online database that has all the services that help the homeless on it. So, either a homeless person can access it or someone who wants to help the homeless. Volunteering opportunities, donations, things like that.
WHAT SORT OF EVENTS, FUNDRAISERS OR CAMPAIGNS DOES THE CHARITY RUN?
We had a big launch in October. So local MPs, local businesses; in all, there was over 70 people there. It was basically brilliant – getting all these communities together to tell them more about Street Support and how they can get involved.
My uni friends have been really supportive of what I do, so they put together a 24-hour Dungeons & Dragons fundraiser. So we spent 24 hours live-streaming Dungeons & Dragons, and raised £255. That amount of money will have helped someone move into accommodation and got them everything they need. We’ll be doing another one at the end of the month.
DOES THE CHARITY INVOLVE LOCAL CREATIVE TALENT AT ALL?
Not directly. We are always looking to expand into any projects that might help a homeless person. Whether that’s someone who is currently homeless or moving on from homelessness. Things like art therapy. Anything that might get someone back into the community.
I emailed some of my partners, who have said that, within their organisations, they are doing some exciting creative projects. Michael House, for example, are running weekly art workshops and sewing classes. They’ve also been getting a creative writing group together with their residents. They’ve had some really great results from that and they’re looking to release a book this summer.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF STAYING INVOLVED WITH STREET SUPPORT OR A LIKE-MINDED CHARITY IN FUTURE?
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s something I definitely want to do in my heart. They have been so supportive and given me so much leeway. With the Project Support Worker job title, I can come up with new ideas all the time. We are opening a Bournemouth Homelessness Collaborative CIO. Once that gets established, I am hoping to move from Street Support into that. And then Street Support would be one of the CIO’s projects.
We’re looking to do all sorts under the Collaborative title. The main goal would be to get a big drop-in centre for homeless people, so they can access different types of support in one location. Otherwise, they tend to get passed around, which is quite distressing for them.
WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU?
I don’t actually have one – I tend to just take opportunities as they come. Which is how I’m involved in Street Support – it wasn’t planned, it just came along. I would like to carry on the charity work, but also keep combining my English degree with that work.
Harry Shufflebotham, Musician
Open mic nights in town introduce us to all sorts of new musical talent. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Harry Shufflebotham is one of them. With this in mind, we arranged to meet him…
Off the back of a recent feature we did on local live music acts, we arranged an interview with Harry Shufflebotham. This young gentleman may be familiar to you if you’re regulars at the open mics at Chaplin’s or Buffalo. What is the story that brought the musician to the Bournemouth live music scene?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BASED IN BOURNEMOUTH? WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY?
I moved to Bournemouth around 18 months ago, when I started uni down here – studying English. Before that, I lived in Stoke. Lived there my whole life – a little village called Tean. A middle-of-nowhere sort of place. The sea and the beach attracted me to Bournemouth, but I also wanted to move away somewhere far from home. Just to get a taste of something else.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT BEING A MUSICIAN WAS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO?
I’ve had a guitar teacher – John – for twelve years (obviously not now that I’m in Bournemouth). But music is only something I’ve really doubled down on since coming to uni. I used to just play the guitar in my room by myself and not really sing. But coming down here and sharing it has really been an opening experience – it’s nice to do that with people.
WHO INSPIRES YOUR LOVE OF MUSIC?
Apart from my guitar teacher who I mentioned, I’d say people like Ben Howard and Thom Yorke. They’re people who I pick up techniques from and so on. Ben Howard especially – you can ask my mates, they’ll tell you I go on about him all the time. Love the guy.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST PERFORMANCE. WHERE WAS IT AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE?
In April of last year, I went to Paris for around ten days and started busking. I found it easier to sing in front of strangers, because they go out of your life again straight away. And then, when I got back, I did a sort of mini spoof festival called Dimmingstock that my friend hosts back in Stoke. After that, I didn’t really do anything else until coming to do the open mic nights at Chaplin’s and Buffalo around October time. Had a break over Christmas and I’ve just got back into it.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS TO PLAY?
I try to steer away from covers for two reasons. First, if you mess up a cover, people are going to pick up on it; if you mess up your own song, they’re not going to know any better. But also I think you can rely too heavily on covers. If I go out with just my stuff, it forces me to get creative and make more new songs, rather than just reusing the same ones. There is one that I always play called “Space and Time“. I’ve played it hundreds of times; my friends are probably sick of it. But it’s my favourite one to play and probably my best song.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS AS A SONGWRITER? WHAT THEMES OR EVENTS OR PEOPLE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM?
It all just comes from sitting in my room, usually learning chords for another song. But then I’ll take those, change them slightly and something starts to blossom from that. In terms of a theme, I try and turn what hurts into something that comfort can be found in. Take all the bad out of something and turn it into something good. You feel a lot calmer and can move on afterwards. Therapy-through-music kind of thing.
YOUR GUITAR IS SOMETHING OF A PERSONAL STATEMENT; TELL US ABOUT IT…
I got this one when I was sixteen, but it was only last year that I started to draw on it. I started by writing lyrics and quotes and things that people have said to me across my life that have stuck with me. One side is in black, the other side’s in blue. Bits have started to fade the more I’ve played and the more my fingers have hit certain words. That illustrates a song I wrote called “Everything’s Temporary“, though I had already written that by then. It was inspired by something a friend said to me that stuck with me.
Then I started putting stickers over the top of it. The stickers represent certain people or certain things. Some of them just look cool; others people have given to me, so it’s a way of holding onto them. And then, finally, everyone’s signed their names in white round the side. And even they have started to fade, but people do fade in and out of your life – they’re still there even if the name has rubbed off, which I can take comfort in.
AS A MUSICIAN, WHAT SORT OF VENUES DO YOU PREFER PLAYING IN?
I’m still cutting my teeth, I think. At this stage, with every performance I have learned something new that I can take onto the next one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small audience; it’s just knowing that you’re playing and someone’s listening. I did an open mic at a place called Social Grill in Boscombe, recently. Only a small venue, but I was invited there by an open mic regular who I’ve just met. Was just playing along, it didn’t seem like many people were listening, but then a kid started dancing to it. And then the grandmother started dancing with the kid. That’s why I do it – the small moments like that make it worth it.
WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU – EITHER PERSONALLY OR AS A MUSICIAN?
The route I’m going down is definitely to have a career as a musician. I’m still very new and learning, but within the year I would like to record an EP and get that out there. For now, I’d like to just create as much music as possible and keep that going. Carry on with the open mics, and then an EP as the next step.
Tom Crocker, Sport Journalist
Not all successful careers begin with a university degree. In fact, they can start pretty well on their own without one, as our latest story, featuring sports journalist Tom Crocker proves…
It is scary how true the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…” is. But if it sets you on your chosen career path, so much the better. Sport journalist and Poole local Tom Crocker forewent a university degree in favour of a practical short course in Bournemouth, which gave him all the contacts and experience he needed to establish a full-time writing career. We found out the ins and outs of his journey.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER?
It probably goes back to when I was at school. I was quite good at English, not so much at maths, and enjoyed creative writing. Right from the early days, I always enjoyed it. I think that’s where a lot of what you do in later life comes from – what you enjoyed doing at school. And I usually had half-decent marks for it.
WHY SPECIFICALLY DID YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT SPORT?
My main passion is football. Obviously, most kids tend to play football and I realised pretty quickly that I wasn’t good enough to pursue that as a career. So then you try to find another way to get into it. When you look at what I do now – sports writing – it’s probably the next-best thing. Getting paid to write about football and travel the country, it becomes a 24/7 thing.
YOU DECIDED TO TRAIN IN JOURNALISM PRIVATELY. WHAT SPARKED THAT DECISION AND HOW DID YOU COME BY THE TRAINING?
Someone came into my school, saying they ran these eight-month short courses at the Bournemouth Echo offices. There were three or four people running it – I think they were university lecturers – who all came together to run these courses.
I was hooked on doing it as soon as I went to that talk. There were a couple of reasons why I wanted to do it. First of all I didn’t particularly want to get into a student debt unless I needed to. But the main reason was I wanted to get working quicker, rather than training for three years. Maybe you get different opportunities at university, but I was already doing sport-oriented work experience before I started that course anyway.
The only thing I needed to get was a qualification to back it up. So, I thought, rather than wait three years, I could get it in eight months and go straight into work from there. Of course, I did have to pay a lot of money up front – it was about £4,000 – but I felt it was a short-term problem to get me playing a long-term game, as it were.
DID YOU EVER WANT TO WRITE ABOUT OTHER SUBJECTS, OUTSIDE OF SPORT?
Well, like I said, going right back to school, they make you do creative writing. That was always something I enjoyed. And even when I first started out as a journalist, I was writing about the food and catering business – a website called The Staff Canteen – that was my first paid job. When I first started that, it was only me and one other person. Since then, I think they have a whole team of people writing there.
People generally say you can’t get into sport journalism straight away. So many people want to do it, so you have to do other things first. I was still doing freelance bits in sport journalism here and there at the time, and The Staff Canteen was the part-time job paying the bills. I was doing work experience at AFC Bournemouth on match days alongside all that, too.
Now I’m in sport, I’m quite keen to try and stay there!
FROM MSN SPORT TO THE WOKINGHAM PAPER – WHO IS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE PERSON YOU HAVE MET OR INTERVIEWED?
With The Wokingham Paper, it’s mostly local people you come to know. But there are a couple of names that spring to mind. One would be Jaap Stam, when he was manager at Reading. I was lucky enough to be in his company every week, because he would hold a weekly news conference. He’s someone who has gone to the very top of football, won everything there is to win. And then you’re in a room with him and maybe three others every week for a good half an hour. He’s a very impressive person to be around and spend time with. Just listening to his stories; obviously the longer he was there – ended up being for well over a year – the more he opened up.
And when I first started at AFC Bournemouth, Eddie Howe was coming through then. You could tell straight away that he was going to do well – he was still pretty young then. He’s always been a really impressive person to interview. This is when I was working match days – again, me and one other person; obviously the club has grown massively since then.
WOULD YOU EVER LIKE TO TACKLE SPORT IN OTHER MEDIA, SUCH AS RADIO OR TV?
Branching out is always something you have to think about. Even since I started at The Wokingham Paper back in 2015, the job changes so much year-on-year. After about a year-and-a-bit, I started doing podcasts, the odd video bit too. When I first started working there, doing radio or video wasn’t even on my radar. Now, everyone wants multimedia – they want to watch little videos or listen on the go. All the jobs require multimedia skills these days.
The podcasts are closer to radio; with TV you need a different skillset, I think. I wouldn’t rule anything out in the long term, but I think I would prefer radio and commentary to TV. Personally, I think my skillset is better suited to print and writing than being in front of a camera. That’s why I try to stick to writing, but like I say, in five years’ time the job could be completely different!
WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU AS A JOURNALIST?
This is something that changes quite regularly. I’m an Arsenal supporter, so when I first started, the dream was just to report on or work with Arsenal in some way. But as time goes on, priorities change. They say the work is up in London, but equally I very much enjoy living in the Poole and Bournemouth area. If I can carry on freelancing and make a decent living down here, I will. I met someone recently who used to live here who told me, “You shouldn’t leave Bournemouth unless you have to.” That’s something that’s stuck with me. And it’s doing all right for me so far – I’m working full-time. Commuting a couple of times a week, but most of it’s from home.
The longer-term goal? To carry on working as a sport journalist, and in football, hopefully. Maybe make it back to AFC Bournemouth one day. The Bournemouth Echo are still a pretty strong paper; I certainly wouldn’t turn down any opportunities from there if they come up. It’s going okay so far, and long may it continue!