Arts Emergency

Simon Cole

Tour Guide/Writer/Personal Trainer

In my home town at the age of 16 they told you that if you were lucky you might get to work in a bank. If you were lucky. That didn’t excite me but I didn’t like school either; I wanted to leave and work in the local car factory. I’d have gone out of my head with boredom and who knows what I’d have done to fill the hole that exists when you’re not fulfilling your potential. Probably the most common drug – alcohol.
Luckily I was pushed. That – and the prospect of leaving home for the exciting nightlife of the ‘Madchester’ scene (in 1989/90 Manchester was the centre of British music and the Hacienda was the world famous pioneering nightclub where everyone wanted to go) – meant I ended up at Manchester Polytechnic studying Humanities.
It changed my life. I met new people, tried new things (Can’t write? The free poly mag will publish you anyway!) and became properly independent. I grew in so many ways; that is a special period in anyone’s life. We should all get the opportunity to bloom like that.
I served my time in the 9-5 but now I have the freedom to only do jobs that suit me and more importantly that I love. I show people the world and watch them discover new places, cultures, ideas – and even ways of existing.

And that freedom is because of education. It gave me tools and a passport. The tools help me look at everything in life with a greater interest and a greater understanding. And they taught me how to question and evaluate what I’m being told rather than just accept everything I hear.
The passport is the ability to speak the language of achievement and education to those that want to hear it. It opens doors and helps me make connections. I used to have a small chip about being from a provincial northern city, but education has given me the ability to more than fight my own corner in any debate. It’s given me the confidence to be who I am.
A baby who doesn’t know the word for ‘hot’ can’t ask for its parent to take its coat off for it and has to stay uncomfortable. We are all children who’ve grown a bit older; if you can’t articulate, you can’t ask for what you want or argue your point. And if you can’t speak the language of the establishment and the system, it won’t let you in. If you’ve haven’t got the match fitness, you can’t play the game.
Lastly, the Arts gave me the capacity to enjoy things on a much deeper level and then to replicate those things myself. How much untapped talent must there be in this country? How many people might excel at something if only they were able to try them and a little coaching?
The Arts have made me who I am. If you’d told me at 16 that work could be something that makes you jump out of bed with excitement at the start of the day I’d have laughed in your face. People can achieve great things, but we all need a little help now and then. If you don’t know these destinations exist, how can you take the right steps to get there? That’s why I want to mentor.