Further Evidence On Why You Should Start A Revolution.
The 28th August 2015 holds quite a significance for me. It was exactly two years to the day that I left my job to start a dad revolution.
At the time, I had no real idea or plan of what that was going to involve. Had I had waited until I had a plan, I’d still be there.
No, I wouldn’t be I’d have ended up going under. The stress was making me physically ill and would have done me some real long-term damage. I contracted Chickenpox, and it was during that time that I couldn’t leave the house, so I played with my son, more than I had done in months. He didn’t ever seem to mind that I looked like the Elephant Man.
I can see now how unhappy I was. The pressure I was putting myself under trying to fit in a corporate world that I was never meant to be part of.
I buried myself in work rather than deal with the grief of losing my Dad. This was pushing me further away from what I needed. What I needed was time to breathe, be with my family and find out what I was actually going to do with my life.
When I was growing up, my Dad was a single parent with four kids to bring up and a thriving business to build. He worked incredibly hard to provide for us. This meant that the little things often had to be, understandably. side-tracked.
I can vividly remember making different houses out of Lego for him and placing them on top of the telly. That way he would see them when he returned home, I’d be waiting for him to sit beside me and play. But that didn’t happen too often because, with four kids and a business to run, time wasn’t exactly on his side.
But this was the 70’s, and that’s what blokes did. The concept of being a SAHD (Stay At Home Dad) or asking for help that was as foreign as not buying your round in the pub. It simply didn’t happen. Any bloke that was a SAHD wasn’t doing his duty providing for his family. By not grafting his nuts off he was somehow less of a man. But this isn’t the 70’s; I want to contribute, but just differently.
At the age of 41, I’d spent years doing jobs I wasn’t happy about, but paid well, because that what you are meant to do, isn’t it? But you are a long time dead as the saying goes, and sometimes you need to stop thinking and just start doing, so I did.
You can always give yourself 1,000 reasons not to do something different. I’m too old, too young, the kids, the house etc. etc. etc. But what is important is that you make sure you don’t always listen to them. If you do, you miss out on so many amazing opportunities and the chance to meet people that might just change your life.
‘If you dream it, you can do it.’
In the last two years, I have done more than I have done in years. I’ve pushed myself into situations that before I would have shied away from and some amazing things have happened. But the question of ‘What now?’ still, lingers in the air.
When I left my last job, given that my professional background is 20 years in PR & Digital, it made perfect sense to stick with what I knew. So, I did exactly that, but I twisted it. Rather than going for any old business I stuck with my belief that a revolution was the only way to be followed.
Armed only with a laptop, a spare room and a mobile I started Don’t Believe The Hype | The World’s First Agency Of Dads.
It’s a magazine and digital PR agency with a mission to help revolutionise the view of the modern-day Dad in the eyes of the media.
I was sick of the way that every time I took my son out, I was met with the same old comments of ‘Babysitting are you?’ or ‘Aren’t you good, giving mum a day off?’. Or not being able to change my baby in a café, because all the facilities are in the ladies loos.
No, I am a full-time parent that wants to take an active interest in my child’s welfare. Not just the bloke than pays the bills, hogs the remote control and dishes out the punishment, like some outdated 70’s sitcom character.
Did you know that there are over 6 million dads with dependent children in the UK? Yet, the majority of brands and broadcasters still treat us like we are buffoons. They make lame jokes, saying we can’t dance or change a nappy. My aim is simple; I want to change this.
Using my blog, I wrote the stories about Fatherhood, Funk, Film, and life in general, that I want to and that I believed in.
I took up the mission with vigour and starting pitching. In my first three weeks, I’d hooked my first small client. They were called Atom, a fledgeling music promotion agency that was bringing big names acts like Ocean Colour Scene and The Fun Lovin’ Criminals, to Worthing. And now I was getting paid to write about them.
Within three months I’d pitched and landed Paladone, Europe’s largest Gadget supplier as my first major client. I build an integrated experiential PR campaign based around the concept Dad’s Playdate.
I invited noted Dad journalists/bloggers to Worthing, with their kids, for a day out with a difference. It involved a behind the scenes visit to the Connaught Cinema, the chance for the kids to interview the projectionist and a trip to the Lido for some fun on the penny arcades.
The day ended with the kids being able to run wild and play with their Dads. Over the next three hours, they unboxed and tested over 400 of the latest gadgets. The finale was an ‘Apprentice’ style competition, where the Dads and kids broke into teams to brainstorm and pitch ideas for ‘the next big thing’. The results were the best piece of work I had ever done (to date) For more information, please view the case study here.
One of the other things that happened through the writing and sharing of my stories was that I got contacted by other Dads, from as far away as Yorkshire and Nottingham. They had read my stories, liked the cut of my jib and wanted to help champion the Dadifesto that I had created.
The common bonds of toddler-taming, bad comedy, good music and hatred of the media’s perception of dads as bumbling buffoons set the wheels in motion.
We teamed up and built a tribe that made up of Dads that were 70’s & 80’s kids. We’re a generation raised by Dad 1.0. Our role models were hard-grafting providers who did little of the actual day to day hands-on childcare. They splashed on the Brut, dished out the discipline and ruled over the remote control of a three-channel world with a rod of iron.
Now in 2017, as Dad 2.0, we’re not only expected to but are proud to do more than our fair share of bum and tear-wiping because being a dad is quite possibly the best job in the world. We’re the Grange Hill generation that came of age while raving and Britpoppin’ in the 90s. Imagine the date when ‘New Lad’became ‘New Dad’, and you will be halfway there. Now as responsible child-rearing grown-ups with careers and mortgages, we expect more out of family life, and we want to look good and have fun while we are doing it.
We are a Dad 2.0 generation that believed in revolution. They wanted to contribute, share their stories and skill and take a stand with me. A flurry of late night group Skype calls became a fertile breeding ground for story-boarding of ideas.With this extended reach, it meant we could create more stories and interest. We won work from brands such as Dr Martens, Next, Pretty Green and Braun amongst others.
These campaigns all had something in common. The brands wanted to target Dads, and we had the authenticity, the expertise and the creativity to help them do it in a highly credible and engaging way. The fact we lived in different parts of the country didn’t matter. We collaborated at weekends and long into the night after we’d put the kids to bed, to create campaigns like this>
Getting The Message Out There:
My passion for promoting the Dads agenda means that our story got published in titles including the Huffington Post, Sussex Business Times, Fathers Quarterly, Yell.com and The Happy Startup School. I was also invited to have regular monthly Dadifesto related columns in two print titles, Here & Now and Families Coast magazine.
This is, of course, fantastic, especially as I have dyslexia and dyspraxia and had always harboured dreams of writing for a living. But I still had an itch to do more. I was still searching for the ‘thing’ that would make me content. The sensible thing is to stick to what you know, the thing you can make money from, the thing that will give you a quiet life. Well, I’ve never really been that sensible.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a huge imagination. I’d dream up crazy ideas, but then I’d get bored when they didn’t happen immediately, or I didn’t see them through as my enthusiasm outweighed my abilities. Now I understand what I am good at, I focus on that and working with great people to do the stuff I am rubbish at.
Let’s Go Funk It All Up.
During this time, I had an itch to put on an event that would allow me to listen to the music I love, hang out with friends and give children a safe space to go nuts in.
The more I looked around me, the more it made sense. The more I saw young families like mine that had moved to the area and were much in need of the types of credible, fresh and Funky entertainment they could only get an at expensive summer music festivals.
That itch wouldn’t go away. So, in June 2016, I assembled a crack team of very talented friends, brought together ten local businesses, I blagged favours off of strangers and launched a new brand called TotRockinBeats, a three-hour, family – friendly rave. The mission was simple ‘To Families On the Dancefloor And Babysitters Out Of Business’.
For two months, straight I made and shared videos and blogs the internet. I hit the streets, parks, and playgrounds daily and talked to anybody I saw with a pushchair or toddler-in-tow and thrust a flyer in their hands with the promise of funkiest, funniest afternoon they’d seen outside of James Brown underpants.
The hard work paid off. On Father’s Day 2016 I had over 400 people queuing around the block at the St Paul’s Art Centre in Worthing. It provided the venue with their most financially successful daytime event in years and gathered amazing feedback from those that attended.
Financially, for me, it was a loss. I’d overspent on the activities, but this didn’t matter. I knew I had one chance to make it remarkable. If I skimped on the small details, people would know and would not return. I wanted to give the people the sort of event that would be long talked about after the doors closed.
Although I was out of pocket, it gave me a taste of what could happen if I learned from the mistake I made. Most importantly the buzz from having an idea and then pulling it off was and is still incredibly addictive. It is a big lovely monster that needs to be kept fed!
During this time, I’d had a realisation that I needed help. I’d been working on my own, stuck away in the spare room toiling away, and I needed to start getting out and about more.
A post I had written had found its way into the hands of the team of The Happy Start-Up School, a worldwide community of purpose-driven entrepreneurs. They invited me to attend a summer camp with 150 other people from around the world, and it was exactly what I needed. I was introduced to a school of thought that profit shouldn’t come before purpose and how you can galvanise a community to make a real difference to the world around you.
This concept had a huge effect on me. I saw something good I could build into the TotRockinBeats tribe DNA and help the those around me. It is quite simple. Say I have 400 people pay to come to an average event. Now, if we ask each of them to bring a tin of beans with them, we can help feed a lot of families.
So now over the last thirteen months, I have been experimenting with the format and the types of activities. I have put on ten other events in venues including the Assembly Hall, the Southern Pavilion, Lewes Town Hall and Worthing town centre. We’ve had more than 3,500 people join us on the dance floor. We’ve supported Worthing Foodbank, a toy drive for creche for low-income families, a charity for children with life-limiting illnesses, the Save Our Schools campaign and a fundraiser for those affected by the Grenfell fire.
TotRockinBeats isn’t just an idea for me to have a good time anymore, it is a socially-driven event production agency that brings young families and the wider community together.
We create high-quality, large-scale, afternoon events that mash-up: raving, arts, crafts, play and music with the opportunity to mobilise support for local charities and good causes.
It brings together 1,000’s of people, regardless of age to have fun, dance. It sparks conversations that connects having a good time with giving something back. It supports and helps families to engage with their children and build strong, lasting, inter-generational relationships with the people around them.
Of course, this hasn’t all been plain sailing. Using up my life savings, while trying to juggle multiple events at the same time, living and dying by ticket sales reports, having acts cancel on you at last minute. Or having Brighton FC deciding to have their victory parade on the same day I’d have booked a show, thus cutting the event in half was a horror that will stay will me forever. – But through the lows, there have been some incredible highs.
The highlight so far has to include the sell-out N.Y.E party for 1,000 people, aged from two through to ninety-seven-years-old celebrating midnight, at 6 pm together, on the dancefloor and being able to play the same venues that Hendrix, The Who, and David Bowie graced does wonders for my mid-life crisis.
At first, I created this for families like mine that couldn’t get a babysitter and spent NYE on the sofa, tapping away on Facebook and watching crap telly.
This was all sparked by a random conversation I had with a 97-year-old lady in a café. She had such spirit; I asked her did she fancy coming raving? And she said yes, so I thought why not open it up to more people?.
The elderly, like us with young children, means staying up to midnight a far-off fantasy, so counterbalance that, we asked everyone to put their watches forward six hours and celebrated it at 6 pm so that everyone could join in. This made Worthing the very first place in the UK to see in the new year.
The story was picked up by the media and was featured several times on the BBC radio and TV news and was nominated for ‘Best Event’ at the Sunny Worthing business awards. (We came in the second place to the fantastic Tide Of Light festival, which coincidental has now asked us to be part of the 2017 celebration by putting on an event for 1,000 people on the 5th November this year).
The night had people from as far afield as London and Kent travel to Worthing and most importantly it gave an incredible 97-year old lady her first chance of DJ’ing on the main stage at a rave. She played the wartime classic ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and had the entire crowd sing it back to her. Now that is something I will never forget.
It makes sense to keep doing more what I was doing, doesn’t it? People seem to love it, I loved it, but all the evenings and weekend work I had to put it, didn’t love it. But when you are working for yourself, and you have a passion for what you do that is part of the roller coaster.
On the plus side yet, it means I can do the school runs, work from home, so I have got rid of the three-hour, daily commute than I had in my previous life. I can now hang out with my five-year-old son on a daily a basis and be around as a hands-on parent to help share and shape his future.
The Future Of Dads Entertainment.
My son is very much part of my business. The brand and logo are based on him, and he features in a lot of my stories.
He DJs on stage with me and happily points out people we should give a flyer to when we are in the park. Our relationship has flourished and has really shaped what my next development is going to be.
I am very fortunate to have the life I have. But for many working Dads with young kids, the weekends are the only real time they get to spend together.
For the lucky ones, they may be able to make it home in time from work to put them to bed. With many other Dads, they are apart from their kids especially if they are divorced or separated, the role they play is side-lined.
Back in my old world, I, like many of us working Dads I didn’t see my child during the week. If I was lucky, I’d get 30 minutes of the ‘not going to bed’ time routine. I’d be out the door at 7 am and if I am lucky I am home 7.00 pm – so on average I was out of the house 240 hours a month. In the life of a busy three-year-old, that’s pretty much most of his time awake.
I’d get to hear second-hand about the games he got up to, the things he learned, the laughter he made. I was a secondary spectator until the weekend when I’d try to cram everything in, without having the time to stop and think was this the best thing to be doing? I now know from personal experience that the more time you have with your children, the better it is for everyone involved. You get to invest in them; you learn what the world looks like through new eyes.
Trying to make friends as a Dad can also be really hard. You are not around during the week, and at weekends you are either a chauffeur to your kid’s endless parties invitations – where you stand around making small talk, or stuck at the park or smelly soft -play centres, surrounded by people staring at their mobiles.
If, by, a chance you are lucky to have flexible working you get to go ‘Mum & Baby’ groups you are looked at like you are a weirdo. You get met with comments and stares that read ‘Why hasn’t he got a proper job to go to?’, ‘I bet he is a Paedophile’ or ‘He is only here to chat up someone up’. I have lost track of the amount of other Dads that have told me similar stories.
This is the dragon I want to slay, so I am creating TotRockinBeats DadsPlayDates.
The aim is to build a regular network of these DadsPlayDates for Dads and their kids to get to hang out, learn, laugh and play together. I successfully piloted the idea in Brighton on the 9th Sept with 15 Dads and 20 kids, who came together to play, learn how to DJ and Beatbox and have fun.
“I think one of the key elements was being able to spend quality time with my daughter. As a very sporty person, it’s really hard finding things to do that we can do together in a social way. Your event got us doing all sorts of things together. We both came away really buzzing, and it was nice to have what I call some dedicated time together as a pair. Added to that it was nice meeting other Dads, and generally having a social at the same time“.Richard – DadPlayDate Attendee.
I want to create a safe space for the Dads to start teaching and learning new skills alongside their kids. So, for example, outside of the cool music and soft play that I supply as part of the bigger TotRockinbeats events, I want:
- If you are an Engineer Dad, come in and teach a Lego class.
- If you are filmmaker Dad come to show the class how to storyboard and edit
- If you are handy D.I.Y Dad come in and show us how to mend rather than throw away
- If you are a Chef Dad, come in and show us how to make cooking and eating healthy food fun.
I want to organise ‘awaydays’ where the Dads and kids jump on a coach and visit cool places, together in the school holidays. And if you are feeling like cr”p and just want to let off some steam to some mates that understand hard it can be trying to juggle everything and still be a good Dad; then you have a safe space to do so. Had this existed when I was a kid, I can only imagine how much good this would have done my Dad in his own silent struggles?
The aim of DadsPlayDate is quite straightforward – I want to support and help Dads to engage with their children and build strong, lasting relationships through joint skill sharing, learning, intergenerational, gender neutral and age-appropriate play.
I want to provide recreational activities for Dads and their children who may be socially isolated or excluded; either by work commitments, divorce or separation. I want to help advance the arts, technology, life and social skills to encourage self-expression, self-esteem in both Dads and their children.
Through the development of the magazine and social media channels I have already set up I am building a tribe. I’ve built a publishing platform to help Dads share their skills and stories to thrive, offer support, build relationships and have a positive impact on the world around them.
It is the purpose that really matters. For me, business isn’t about winning more clients and making money. It is about doing work that I am proud of and that I believe in. I want to bring people together, break down social barriers, encourage others to share stories and build a tribe and community that gets things done.
So, What’s It All About?
For those of you that may not have been to TotRockinBeats event of our still unsure about what we do, here’s what it is.
If you imagine an old school warehouse party for young families, fuelled by wicked DJs playing tunes that grown-ups want to hear. You mixed this with soft play, a craft area, and games that actively encourages lonely old folks to join in, so the whole community can come together and raise money for good causes, you would be halfway there.
Then you add in an online magazine, a podcast/video channel with a fashion brand and a creative content/PR agency that shows brands how to support rather than ridicule the modern day Dad.
You top that all off with a national network of DadPlayDates clubs that provide recreational activities for Dads and their children who may be socially isolated or excluded; either by work commitments, divorce or separation.
There you have it, that what TotRockinBeats is. Quite straightforward isn’t it.
Can I CIC It?
Then you take the whole thing in the air and decide that sod it, it was never about the money it was about starting a revolution. The purpose must come before the profit. So rather than creating a startup to make tonnes of dosh to buy lots of stuff, I don’t actually need, I want to make it a Social Enterprise, a Community Interest Company (CIC) that makes shed loads of dosh then invest it back into doing good stuff well and for the right reasons.
So, this is exactly what I am doing. I am taking my 20 years’ experience, my passion for my community, my belief in social cohesion and putting it to good use by building a tribe of people that thrive on doing things differently.
I know I can’t-do it all myself, and I need a higher level of expertise. I’ve brought in enviable talents of Jim Jenson and Sally Flanagan to our board of Directors.
Alongside being a Dad to 4 young boys, Jim and his business partner Jack Hubbard built a highly successful and multi-awarding winning digital agency Propellernet from scratch on the ethos of breaking the rules. Jim’s role is to help look after the finances and structure the business. I am now well aware, that without the clear business principles and having the numbers add up, there can be no revolution.
My long-suffering and amazing wife Sally has been there from day one. From pushing me to quit my job to patiently putting up with my late nights and endless rants when things aren’t going smoothly. She has been pitching in from all angles from manning the doors and acting as an unpaid roadie to chief balloon blower-upper’ at every event.
But it is as a Senior Social Worker & Play Therapist with a decade-long experience working on the front line with kids in care, that her abilities have really come into the light. Sally has an incredible innate sense of how children think and feel. This will be invaluable as we make play a more integral part of our work.
In the next twelve to eighteen months we plan to have over thirty TotRockinBeats related events under our belt. These include the launch of regular monthly DadsPlayDate clubs in Worthing, Brighton, and Shoreham. I am now also working with teams within Worthing Council, consulting on several other large events. My dream is to create ‘TotRockinBeach’ and give Worthing its own music festival on the beach.
The more I speak to people, especially other Dads, I know how important this subject is. We have the chance to really build something that really can have a significant social impact.
Understanding more about how Dads fit in is a conversation that needs to be had more often. To make sure this is not side-lined we will be launching an associated podcast and Youtube channel, creating content for Dad 2.0 generation and paid for by brands that want to help champion the cause.
Finally, we are going to launch a sustainable and socially responsible fashion brand, to help fund the revolution that I set out to do, back on the 28th August 2015.
When people ask me now what I do for a living, I still find it very difficult to answer.
My last job was a senior digital promotions analyst for an international media agency. I created huge content and PR campaigns to encourage people to get more credit cards, Not exactly the most righteous of callings.
So here I am two years later. I am the editor of my own online magazine, a columnist, a PR with an agenda, an event promoter, and part-time revolutionary. Now I am still on all of those, but I can add Social Entrepreneur in the mix. Not bad for a dyslexic kid that left school at 15 with no qualifications.
Now I am ready for the next chapter. Can I CIC it?, yes I can.
Thank you for reading these 4791 words that make up my story and if you are interested in getting involved in the revolution, please do drop me a line in the comments below or email me on – firstname.lastname@example.org.