14/07/2017 11:31 BST | Updated 14/07/2017 11:31 BST

Why It's Important To Be Free To Discuss What You Want, How You Want, Without Being Silenced

Blog by Tilley Milburn singer, artist and writer with creative arts company Heart n Soul which celebrates its 30th birthday this summer with The Big 30.

BEING CREATIVE COMES SECOND NATURE TO ME. For as long as I can remember I have been incredibly interested in Fashion, Design, History and Art and Music.

That said, it's certainly not been an easy (or conventional) ride for me. The pursuit of fulfilling my creative ambitions has had many setbacks along the way. I spent my childhood not understanding exactly why I seemed to struggle so much with organisational and social skills. I hardly learned anything as I was often told to either stand facing one of the walls outside or by the Headmaster's Office. I remember feeling scared and confused, I thought............WHY ME?!?!

I don't think that anyone was to blame though. Ignorance and misrepresentation of people and their differences and disabilities were rife in the 1980's/90's. Once I started secondary school I noticed a shift in attitudes. There was a lot of emphasis on the individual child's capabilities and needs and there was even a dedicated special educational needs team, who worked with me. I ABSOLUTELY ADORED SCHOOL, but it was never meant to last! When I left, my life became more and more chaotic as I really missed the routine of it all. Then I left Home at 17 and things got progressively worse. Unbeknown to me (and most people who knew me) I was sinking into quite a deep depression and after repeated self harming, threats of suicide and an overdose, I was admitted onto a psychiatric ward aged just 17! I spent the majority of '2003' in psychiatric wards before finally being diagnosed by a psychologist, at almost 20 years old, with 'ASPERGER's SYNDROME'.

Getting the right kind of SUPPORT (on a regular basis) in place, can be something of a MINEFIELD, as you come across as though you are only mildly affected in comparison to other people on the vast 'Autism Spectrum' (or indeed other disabilities). Considerable difficulty in forming healthy relationships with others, coping with sudden changes to your routine and sensory overload are all part and parcel of living with 'Asperger's Syndrome'. Life is generally pretty overwhelming for me, even today.

You must be wondering where this "BIG 30" thing comes in. Hopefully MY LIFE STORY HAS ILLUSTRATED, to some extent, THE IMPORTANCE OF PEOPLE BEING GIVEN FREE REIGN TO DISCUSS WHATEVER THEY WANT, HOWEVER THEY WANT, AND NOT BE SILENCED BY ANYONE! This is something that the leading Creative Arts Organisation who believe in the power and talents of people with 'Learning Disabilities' (and 'Autism'!) has worked tirelessly to do since 1986.

MY LIFE HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME since I was DISCOVERED IN 2010 BY HEART 'n' SOUL whilst Singing on the Open Mic at "THE BEAUTIFUL OCTOPUS CLUB" - the long running multi-media club night celebrating learning disability culture (AKA 'BOC!'). I remember hiding in the Toilets at 'THE ALBANY' in 'DEPTFORD' (such was MY ANXIETY!), before WITNESSING THE MOST MAGICAL SIGHTS OF DISABLED AND NON-DISABLED PEOPLE ALL LOOKING CAREFREE AND CONFIDENT! People were being given a great Platform to play their own Music and feel ACCEPTED JUST AS THEY TRULY ARE.

I am most certainly not alone in this journey. A rather beautiful and characterful SOFT TOY PIGGIE by the name of 'DEL' (or 'Madame Delphine Amore'!) has been A HUGE PART OF MY LIFE SINCE '2004'! A Carer (whose name was actually 'DELPHINE'!) HAD A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO MOST OF THE OTHERS and so it was decided that she should be my Key Worker. She was HONOURED to be asked for her permission to name MY FAVOURITE NEW TOY COMPANION AFTER HER, AND THE CHARACTER OF 'DEL' (THE PIGGIE!) WAS BORN!

'DEL' AND I ARE IMMENSELY PROUD TO WORK AS "FREELANCE ARTISTS" FOR "HEART 'n' SOUL" an organisation which LISTENS, and where people have FREE REIGN to BE WHO THEY WANT TO BE. We are fortunate to have been involved in many aspects of the "BIG 30", from interviewing a selection of the chosen Interviewees, to working on a brand new Song for the "BIG 30 SUMMER TAKEOVER FLAGSHIP EVENT - GOOD TIMES". I feel extremely UPLIFTED and INSPIRED to have been placed in such a PRIVILEGED POSITION, LISTENING TO SOME OF THE MOST INCREDIBLY INSIGHTFUL, CAPTIVATING and HONEST, HUMAN BEINGS THAT WE ARE EVER LIKELY TO MEET.


Find out more about Heart n Soul's Big 30 summer takeover happening throughout July across Deptford at The Big 30 website.