Steve’s StoryPosted on 9th November 2017 by Seb Feast
Brighton band ’40 Shillings On The Drum’ is supporting the Connect 4 Loneliness Campaign. Winners of Churchill Square’s Busk Stop competition last summer, the five-piece folk-rock band ooze positivity with their songs of life, love and friendship. While passionately believing in the benefits of being socially connected, they’re hoping to also raise awareness of the issue of loneliness which affects many and help raise money for Impetus.
Guitarist Steve, AKA ‘Zeus’ to his fellow band members, is doting father to his little boy and soon to be husband to his partner of 13 years. Things are going well for the gregarious 33-year-old from Peacehaven but his story was very different just a few years ago.
As a child, Steve was academically focused at school but sociable with a small and close-knit group of friends. He had always suffered with eczema but around the age of 13 it got much worse. Over a period of two years his health significantly deteriorated, with severe and painful eczema and regular throat and viral infections.
Because of increasing number of sick days, Steve started to miss out on school and spending time with his friends. At 15, after many medical tests, he was taken out of school entirely and also given the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome.
“My life changed instantly,” says Steve. “I was home schooled, which unfortunately wasn’t a positive experience, and lost all contact with my friends overnight.”
For the next six years Steve’s world revolved around doctors, specialist units and home. Some of the professionals he encountered were supportive. Others gave him the message that he should ‘just pull himself together’ which was confusing and compounded his feelings of low self-esteem.
He entered a long and lonely round of medical trials for his eczema which meant traveling as a teenager up to London. Spending a week or two alone every few months in NHS accommodation and hospital had a devastating impact on Steve.
“Those were the darkest of days. I felt like I was in a tunnel. I was depressed and did have thoughts of not going on.”
Living with his Dad and brother, and seeing his Mum weekly, Steve is grateful for family support.
“Many people I know are not so lucky. Even so, I often felt that I had to hide how I really felt from them, to protect them.
“I pulled away from the world. Looking back, although I talked about my depression and feelings of loneliness to my GP there was no signposting to other services. I felt very alone and know now that I would’ve benefited from social support and a sympathetic ear. And those were the days of very slow dial-up internet, so no chat forums or easy to access online help.”
Steve’s road to recovery started in his early 20s when a new treatment got his eczema under control. But his saviour was always music and the connection that bought him.
“I would come home from hospital in London and go straight to my guitar, I was obsessed. Self-taught, painstakingly copying riffs from Manic Street Preachers songs, I wrote my first song at 17. It was terrible but I was proud.
“My brother then got interested and took up the bass guitar so we could jam. It was a way for us to connect and do something positive together. It gave me confidence and eventually we both found a band on MySpace and joined.”
Fast forward ten years and Steve met Scully, now frontman of 40 Shillings On The Drum. Originally playing together in covers bands, they formed 40 Shillings three years ago.
“There is an emotional connection when playing music together and that was what I was missing during those dark days. The band is like a second family to me, we are genuinely great friends.
“Life for me has changed so much for the better – I’m making music, I have friends and social connections, my partner and my son; who is such a happy and empathic little boy.
“These days I don’t take things for granted because anyone, for all sorts of reasons, can have the rug pulled from under them. The 40 Shillings single ‘English Coast’ is about trying to see beauty in everything. There is always something to make you smile and people want to help.
“I was aware of Brighton & Hove Impetus, and the services they provide, before the Connect 4 Loneliness Campaign. There is a poignant fit with my experiences. Me and the band want to give something back and raise awareness of the issue of loneliness and social isolation. There is no reason why anyone should feel alone and suffer as a result.”
The English Coast video, shot on the East Sussex coast, can be viewed on YouTube (click here).
The band is available to play the single via radio/TV and for interview for print/radio/TV/online on why they’ve aligned with Brighton & Hove Impetus.
On 17 November the band will play a gig at the Prince Albert where they will record a live album. Representatives from Impetus will be there to raise money and will make a brief address to the audience on the Campaign. More details on the Facebook Event page here. The album physical release will feature links and acknowledgement to Brighton & Hove Impetus. Digital release of the album will carry links to the charity and its associated social media.
40 Shillings On The Drum will also play at the Brighton & Hove Impetus Winter Festival party at The Brunswick, 2nd December. Tickets available for a suggested £4 donation. More details on the Facebook Event page here.