My childhood was characterised by car journeys. We moved a lot so I spent much of the time reading out facts from encyclopedias to my mum. ‘Muuuuuuum did you know..?’ On repeat for 3 hours. I also read Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, I read lots as a small child. We lived in Ireland, Sheffield, all across the Midlands and London. In Warwick we used to drive through the castle grounds in the morning trying to spot peacocks, in Ireland I learnt to ride ponies. I went to Catholic schools even though I wasn’t a Catholic. I felt like an imposter but I was very impressed with my tunic, tie and emerald green blazer. You never see an empty church in Poland… I still love the gilt and stained glass windows, incense and rich colours.
I liked growing up in North West London. I found bohemian lifestyles highly appealing. I always knew the way I was being raised was unconventional, it presented challenges but I preferred it to what I already perceived as the mundanity of middle-class suburban living. My family were staunchly anti-racist, politically engaged and active, left wing… I wasn’t the archetypal council estate kid but I didn’t fit in with my Catholic peers from the mansions of Totteridge and Whetstone either. Ska was a big musical influence in my childhood, my cousin’s dad was the drummer in The Specials and we grew up on two-tone, dub, reggae and Motown.
My mum was (and still is) the most amazing cook. Eating quality home-cooked food was a mainstay in my childhood. I’d never seen a supermarket until I came to London, I was obsessed by Tesco’s. What a magical place. I wrote stories about being locked in there for the night, with the mini cheese pick-and-mix, the cold-cut counter and bumper crisp packs all to myself. When asked, in primary school, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said ‘work on the cheese counter in Tesco’s’.
My degree shaped and affirmed my outlook on life hugely. I’d failed my first year of uni doing English and Media (I never showed up) and fearing a future where I actually did work on the cheese counter at Tesco’s I quickly deferred to a humanities course, Critical Traditions in Western Thought with Race and Racism. Everything finally made sense and for the first time I found my perspective validated, all my existential teenage ponderings now sat under the fancy title of Philosophy. Being able to discuss issues in a multidisciplinary dynamic really suited me and I was regarded an ‘exemplary seminarian’. Developmental learning is far preferable to modular and I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon that specific degree as only about 5% of UK courses work in this way. Brighton Uni has fought hard to defend it as degrees based on critical theory are always under fire. I’m definitely not done with education, I love learning and want to do a Masters, a TEFL, and more counselling qualifications.
Motivation can be a struggle, although owning my own business is hugely inspiring. In the last 12 days I worked 17 shifts, 9 in the cafe by myself, 5 gigs (4 of which were sellouts), 3 workshops… bearing in mind this is not including all the admin/PR that I do in ‘my own’ time as well as all the cooking, ordering and back of house! I’ve always loved hospitality. Most people in hospo are very non-judgemental and thick-skinned, we cater to all and put up with you when you’re drunk. Ironically we are judged quite a bit, mostly on our choice of profession.
Looking to the future… Finish decorating! Get some funding, get a new backline, get a car, get a flat, go on a really nice holiday… more projects, outdoor festival, partnerships, a chef (who follows my instructions), a better bar/counter, bottomless Prosecco, cream teas, a dog….
I’ve had to work on myself a lot. I think a desire to heal your own trauma and the ability to see and feel other people’s is a huge gift. We all suffer. We are stronger in vulnerability and honesty. If I could give my younger self advice? ‘Don’t look back, you’re not going that way’.
Words: Roxanne Checkley
Photo: Lisa Wormsley