Blog: Of Small Towns and Lack of Passion I didn’t think I was a fan of plays. As an art form, I could respect them, but the hobby felt awfully high-end, something an upper-class man and his wife who he met in private school should do, between voting in conservative governments. But I know a lot of drama kids. I know how much it means to them, so I could never bring myself to really hate it. Recently I’ve been reinventing myself, looking for a better me, and the big axis for that is changing how I treat the people I care about. And so, when someone I feel close to, Allison, shared a post on Facebook about how a play she has a part in was opening soon, I took a chance. I care about her an awful lot, so at that moment I decided I was going to go and show that support for her by watching her act. I don’t make decisions that good very often. As the character of Jo in ‘Where Do We Stand?’, directed by Louie Ingham and written by Lee Mattinson and Laurence Wilson, Allison Birt took on the role of a non-binary teenager of unspecified age. We're told they grew up in a small town, where you could fit the population of the village into the theatre we were sat in. We’re told that they felt trapped by that, and something in that resonates with me. I look at where I’ve lived in my life, and how often I see people who recognise me, and that sense of being trapped by your reputation boils inside me like hot chocolate bought in a café run by your neighbour three doors down. I danced as a child. I can’t tell you how old I was when I started or stopped, but I danced. I took regular classes on Saturdays, and my mother took tap classes afterwards. I performed once, too, at Weston-Super-Mare. I couldn’t point to that on a map if you asked me. And recently I’ve started to miss that. Not dance in particular, but the passion I felt to the point where I could stand in front of a hall of people and actually do something. Nowadays, I struggle in front of a class of 12. Seeing Allison perform for the first time in my life, when I watched someone I know go from a girl who made herself heard in my RS lessons last year to this confident figure strutting in a hazy room with harsh lights and 100 pairs of eyes watching her, who then breaks out into song? It made me wish I could do something like that. And I think, and I know why I tell myself I can’t. I’m not going to name where I live, but anyone I know reading this would recognise it from description alone. It’s a bigger town than I used to live in, but its still maybe 2000 people, and when you point to two people in the streets there’s a pretty high chance they’re cousins. It has overcast summers and miserable winters, and our only transport links are a single bus service and a two-track train station. There’s a school, but instead of breathing life into my hopes and dreams all it ever accomplished was to spit on them and kick footballs at their heads. If you do anything in this town, there’s a foreboding sense that everyone knows of it. I didn’t keep dancing when I moved here. I live in the outskirts of the town, far enough that I feel like I can separate myself from the population there. It’s good for me; it’s pushed me to go further to keep up that barrier. I travel an hour and a half for college, and I was on a bus for twenty minutes for high school. College was a breath of fresh air for me, in more ways than one. I only knew two people there from previous chapters of my life, and I’ve been living there as myself, not the ‘boy’ I was before this year. It was the chance to reinvent myself I so desperately needed, and the size of it gives it you a comforting insignificance a village never could. There’s over half the population of my ‘hometown’ in attendance there, and the city it’s in is exponentially larger. I don’t recognise faces in the street, save for assistants in shops I frequent. I don’t know everyone, and no one knows me. I don’t get that comfort where I live. I came out as a girl this school year, and with each passing month it’s like I find a new glaring flaw in who I was before now. Honestly, I think it would be a lie to put all of that on the town I live in, but I’m sure I can put that horrific, jaded part of me who hated anyone with a real talent and cringed at the thought of showing affection to rest with the rest of my memories here. I look at who I am now, and how much easier it is for me to tell my friends I love them, to go out of my way to do things I want, and it’s such a departure from who the town made me. That sour, friendless boy I used to be would hate me with a passion. I think that’s the real power that cities have, and I haven’t seen anything drive that fact home like ‘Where Do We Stand?’ did. In the space of about 48 hours, Jo has become a bastion of hope for me. Allison’s incredible portrayal of them reminds me that even when you’re from an inbred town an hour from anywhere notable, your potential isn’t gone, you just have to keep your passion burning till you can find somewhere where it can be realised and appreciated by a group of people who think the same way. I think maybe it’s time for me to find a beginner’s dance class in the city.