OUR STORY 2008 - 2023

Daniel Kelsey

Favourite moment: “The first ever Rock Challenge I did. I got to be backstage. I had the experience of working with people. I was very young at the time and actually being able to do that with all the difficulties I had then was absolutely a great experience for me.”

Greatest lesson learned : If I put the effort in, I can come out on the bright side of things. I can actually live a normal life. I can work, I can have kids, I can have a family, whereas before I never thought I would be able to.

Freedoms Gained: That I can have a normal life.

Dan Kelsey has been going to Freedom Road Creative Arts sessions for over half his life. Here he talks about the life-changing experience. 

Dan Kelsey’s eyes light up when he talks about sound. He has been reading up on broadcast mixes done by sound engineers for live TV shows and perfecting studio sound so that he can help friends record music tracks.

In fact, he has immersed himself in the world of sound since he was in his early teens. He is now 17.

Dan has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. He is adopted and his birth mother drank and used drugs throughout her pregnancy. He has minor learning difficulties as a result; he has struggled with reading and writing all his life. He became frustrated and disruptive at school as a result. He was being restrained several times a week and ended up in a special school unit because his behaviour was unmanageable.

With help from his mum and his school, he got a place at the charity Freedom Road Creative Arts (FRCA) when he was just eight years old and he says something clicked inside him. He explains: “I just loved it. I really loved performing and I felt at home there. It gave me something to look forward to every week.” He is now completing a course in the performing arts at Hull College, but what really makes him spark is the idea of being a sound engineer. It is a dream that has grown from a FRCA excursion when he was 14.

Every year Freedom Road Creative Arts (FRCA) takes a gaggle of teenagers to Tribfest, which takes place just outside Hull. It is the world’s biggest tribute band festival. FRCA run the Youth Stage and some of the group performs. Dan was given the chance to help with mixing the live sound at Tribfest. He says: “Iain Thompson from Freedom Road showed me what to do, but then he let me get on with it and I ended up doing the sound basically. It worked and I loved it, and from there I started learning more about it.”

Today, alongside his studies, Dan is working for a sound engineering company that he loves. 
He says: “When I look back. I feel like a different person. I was very disruptive. I don’t really like to think about it. I never fitted in with school, it was easier to bear being chucked out of the class than the shame of having to say, ‘God, I can't do it.’ Getting restrained was a way for me to cool down and get rid of it all, to burn it off. I didn’t know how to express myself. Now I’m working for a company, and I feel like I have responsibilities and that I get on with the people I work with.” He adds: “I don’t know what it is about sound, but I feel in control when I am working. I feel like I know what I am doing and it’s a good feeling because I don’t feel like that about other things.”

Dan has stuck with Freedom Road for nearly a decade. He says his mum tried everything with him before she found FRCA. He jokes that he was chucked out of every club going, from martial arts to swimming, until he was given the chance to go to Freedom Road. He explains that even though he was only eight years old and younger than a lot of people at the sessions, he instantly felt as though he fitted in. “I loved it,” he explains. “I loved performing at home and so it was just right for me. It just felt okay and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. Over time I have learned to express myself in a way that I couldn’t with help from Freedom Road and my mum.” Like other members of FRCA he says that he was put at ease by the feeling that everyone in the group was troubled and that meant no one stood out.

In more recent times he has been integral to the launch of the FRCA podcast and he has also helped singers from the charity to record songs that showcase their talents. He says: “It's been so great to record for people I've known for years, to help really good friends. They have believed in me and that's been really nice because I have got skills. And it’s really good because I have had all these difficulties, but they don’t see them, they see what I can do. I've still got so much to improve on with myself but I've kind of massively seen a difference in my life.”

Dan says one of the main things he needs to improve on is how stressed he becomes about college work, which is fuelled by his learning difficulties. He feels bad for the stress he puts his mum through, but he appreciates her dedication. He is happy that he was adopted and he understands his birth mum had problems. He explains: “I'm not angry with my birth mum, or anything like that, I know she was going through a lot and I think stuff happens in life, doesn't it? I’m happy. I feel lucky.”

How much of Dan’s balanced attitude is down to his involvement with FRCA is clear to Dan. He says: “Freedom Road put up with me when other people didn’t want to. They worked with me. They helped me learn when to say things I felt and when to keep quiet. They helped me realise that Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is a part of me, that I’m not going to change it, but I can work with it. I wouldn’t be doing the things I’m doing without Freedom Road. They made me feel like I have potential. I think they changed me and so did my mum.”


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