Once a month, we will be interviewing people with learning difficulties and/or autism within bemix so you can hear their stories.  This month, we hear from Poppy Collie.  A member of our Music project and founding member of our new music industry project, Amplified.

Hi Poppy!  So, when did you join bemix?

I met Louise [Jones] and Jo [Kidd] when I was 16. They were just starting up Skillnet Group.

I started in Dover with Louise, Steven, Gemma, Andrew and Clive in 2010 as a member of the Music and Arts Group. Then I transferred to Canterbury to do the same course with Emily, Chris, Gez, Paul, Marilyn and Carmen. So I’ve been at bemix (formerly Skillnet Group) for 9 years now.

What do you do with bemix now?

I am still part of the Music and Arts Group in Canterbury.  I am studying music now and working on a Level 2 course with Sophie and Steve who support the group. We meet at West Track Studios which is a rehearsal space for live bands to play. There is a recording studio where you can learn to play instruments and make music using Cubase.

I am learning to play the drums and I sing. I have a band called Maidstone and the Lakes. I use the recording studio to record my album - Pluckley Autumn Fair - as part of my coursework.

What are your dreams and goals?

My dream is to be a professional singer with my band Maidstone and the Lakes.  I'd like to perform my material from my brand new, up-coming album.
One of my goals is to be a singer-songwriter who writes their own songs.  I want to make an excellent album in the recording studio. I would like to sing as a solo artist in Maidstone with Jools Holland or on stage, performing live in front of a large crowd.

How are you working towards those goals?

I am working towards my goals by practicing lots and having lessons at West Track Studios with Sophie Peacock.
I am writing my album and I’ve been finding out which venues are best locally to play at.

You have lots of big ideas and plans for parties, festivals, gigs - what are you most proud of?

I am proud of planning parties because it’s a great way for people to attend and socialise together.
I am proud to be working with West Track Studios and want help make it the most popular venue in Canterbury.  In the new group, Amplified, I can work with the studio manager. It’s a comfortable venue already, but I want to help create more open space to work in. I am passionate about studio management - it's a great place to work and make bookings for bands.
I am so pleased that I can explore passion for music with bemix. The Music course gives me the opportunity to record my album in the recording studio. I am looking forward to Amplified starting in the autumn so I can get work experience in running the studio.  I am proud of writing my album Maidstone and the Lakes - Pluckley Autumn Fair and recording it on Cubase in the recording studio.  I  would like to plan my own show so I can perform my singing live. I will need support to help me achieve this.

Could you tell me about some of the music you are writing at the moment?  

Yes. I am writing a song at the moment called 'Political Song' and it’s a duet with Oliver Seager aka M.C. Kotchin.
I have written one of my own songs for my new material. I am creating in the recording studio. One of the songs that I’ve written 'First Touch Honey' is about my first love.
My favourite song from my new album is 'I Will Sing You A Song'.  Basically, it's a song that I’ve written about where I live.

Who are your musical influences?

When I’m writing my Maidstone and the Lakes album, Pluckley Autumn Fair, I’m inspired by Gregory Porter.  When I listen to his music, I feel chilled out, relaxed, peaceful and quiet to write my own material.
I’m inspired by Gregory Porter's song 'Take Me to the Alley'. It’s a jazz song and it inspires me to come up with my own words and thoughts for my album.
I’ve seen a Peter Andre live performance with his band in London and I admire him as a singer-songwriter who writes his own songs of his album. The songs remind me of his ex wife's son, Harvey. I want to be like Peter Andre because he’s amazing to watch performing live. It makes me feel I would like to be on the stage with my band as a singer like him.

What does bemix mean to you?

bemix is here for people with a learning difficulty/different needs to make sure they are part of the real world. 
I like the strapline which says "Be Seen, Be Heard, Belong".  To me, it means:
 - Be seen is to stay in the community and be safe in good environment. Keeping each other safe and sound.
 - Be heard is to go out and take up space in the real world and have open space to work in. You can make music and perform together as a group. You can have an open mic event to perform at. It’s a good opportunity for you to enjoy your music and your live performances.
 - Belong is to share things.  Being part of a group is amazing.  When you join the Music project it’s a good way to meet new people and get to know them.
If you have a learning difficulty like Down’s Syndrome or Prada-Willi Syndrome, or you have Autism or Tourettes, bemix says you can achieve and make your dreams come true.
I want people to know bemix and know the logo. Come to the Music group and find out what bemix means.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?

I paint at aArtvark and I paint on various types of topics. I paint with watercolours and acrylics. At the moment, I am doing a 3D acrylic and mixed media Stephen Hawking project. Also I sell my artwork.  [Poppy's artwork is currently on display and available to buy at Lily's Bistro on Palace Street, Canterbury]