Renaissance women Al Start has been many things during her time in Brighton, but always creative – Eric Page grabs a moment to chat about her exciting new project and how it came about.
Why Brighton Al? “I came to Brighton 30 years ago to study an art degree. I was metal sculptor back then! I love Stanmer woods, I love the seafront, but down my ‘Portslade innit!’ end of town, it’s the docks!”
When did you come out? “I was never really ‘in’! I was naturally attracted to girls and only when bullied and made to feel like a freak did I back-track a bit. I stayed under the radar for a few years (but not under the gaydar!) I embraced my sexuality in Brighton at 19 and met like-minded people, realised I wouldn’t ‘burn in hell’, and could live a full life. I wrote a letter to my parents and told them – they were horrified, repulsed and ashamed. So after many years of trying to get through to them I gave up and disowned them. Had to be done! I do have two amazing sisters who I love and see all the time, one’s also gay – divine retribution to homophobic parents! Ha! I’d regretted being scared to put myself “out there” and take a risk. Now I realise time is short and you’ve got to just go for it.”
When and how do you write? “I sing to myself, if something sounds any good I’ll get a quick recording, then I listen when I have time in my studio. I put the songs together on my guitar or ukulele. I study a subject in the way a child would learn at school, put songs together on the key facts and find a funny angle.”
What’s makes you laugh? “Kids! They are so ridiculously funny!
What prompted Go Kid Music? “I’ve been a singer songwriter all my life, worked with children and I finally put the two together when St Lukes School head teacher pestered me to sing with the children in assembly. It really wasn’t my bag, so I took my knowledge of what kids love and wrote a spooky song called ‘Creepy Castle’. I taught it to them, they loved it – and weirdly so did. I went on to write more, had enough for an album, but had no idea they’d be successful. I now have seven children’s albums to my name, three musical shows and countless more projects, songbooks, online clubs…! So ‘Go Kid Music’ was born! There is demand for good quality children’s music. We’re filling that gap!”
A highlight of last year? “I finally got a publishing deal for two songbooks illustrated by talented artist Chloe Batchelor and am now a published author! Whoo-hoo!”
What makes you angry? “School funding cuts. I am furious! The government has cut school budgets & the creative arts are being squeezed out – no music, drama, dance, art – our children are really suffering, it’s so short-sighted.”
Tell us something about your Grandmother? “My grandmother was a superstar. I lived with her when my mum died, I was 7 and she was my main carer until my dad remarried. I was very close to her, she was an amazing artist. She was clever, a brilliant speed knitter who insisted on knitting most of my clothes (even in secondary school, which was not so good!) she made jam, pies, delicious dinners and mended everything!”
What makes you proud to be LGBT? “Everything. I’m super-proud to be visible and out in my work with kids and to be a positive role-model and show them that they are going to be ok! There are so many LGBT children but no-one dares address that, but I’m planning some songs! Brighton makes me proud – I LOVE my home! How lucky we are here!”
Musician, songwriter, singer, curator, creator, sculptor, metalsmith, researcher, entrepreneur, puppeteer, translator, author, is there anything you can’t do? “Ha ha ha! Wow, that sounds awesome! I’m not good at paperwork. It’s a struggle to run a business when book-keeping and being organised is key. The hardest job of all is being a mum! O…M….G….!”
What advice would you give to a 16-year-old LGBT+ just starting out on their life? “I’d say – you’re so lucky!!! You are born into a time when you can be yourself, school is still gonna have been hard, kids are still mean, so try not to worry what other people think of you, just be who you want and live your life the way you want to!”
Tell us about That Quiff? “What MY quiff? Well, I grew up watching Happy Days and Grease…so my hair role models were the Fonz and Danny Zuko! I say to kids when they ask if I’m a boy or a girl “I’m a girl….with short hair!” I don’t think they believe me!”
You have a favourite joke? “Knock-knock (who’s there?) Interrupting cow (interrupting cow wh——) MOOOOO!!!!”
What’s your next project? “I’m determined to get into writing for Children’s TV. I have the songs for a new album to release before Christmas, hopefully and I’m plugging my brilliant online music club for families and schools alike – find it here: https://club.gokidmusic.com”
Any up and coming events?“A monthly daytime gig at The Brunswick Pub, Hove called Mamas & Papas is for families/kids – If you’re interested in coming/playing please find me on Facebook @gokidmusic.”