• Ben Westwood

My life in photos - part 5

#homelessness #london #surrey #holborn #storms #birmingham #livemusic #cannock #staffordshire #musicalperformance #dudleyport #backpackers #hostel #busking #newstreet #birminghamnewstreet #campaigning #whistleblowing #musicbar #acousticmusic #musicjam #festival #fringefestival

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Remember those storms in late October 2013 that had ripped up some of the south coast? Well, things were a little rocky for me back then as my relationship with my girlfriend ended and I needed to get back on my feet. Perhaps something in the air.

I'd been working as a kitchen assistant in the pub they'd filmed the What's Up Show in until my hours were cut.

By this point all the compo I'd received had ran dry. It's surprising how many people want to be in your life when you've got a bit of money, but then turn their backs on you when your no use to them. No sympathy needed though, it happens to everyone. Saying that, I'd managed to get myself to plenty of festivals and places with it, so it wasn't all bad. I did indeed live it up for a while, just wish I'd had more guidance with it. Live and learn!

Either way, I didn't really know anyone in the quiet part of Surrey, so I went back to London where I at least had some history . Even if I had to stay in a hostel for a few months, it was somewhere.

So I headed back to some of the services I knew, explaining I was homeless and had nowhere and at the time no-one. My friends in Brighton had all moved on and traveled. Even my daughter and her mum.

Not even the homeless services could help me. It was pretty dire the stuff I had to do to even be counted as homeless. Still I hung around all night in a place we'd arranged but after two nights of doing that and no-one coming to see me then I knew it wasn't going to happen.

Street life was me as a kid, but as an adult, unless you're already in the thick of it, that's the last thing you want to do.

I was lucky to still have my laptop and a guitar though, and was just about getting money for food by busking and doing the odd creative editing jobs on Fiverr.

It was the absolute bare minimum though and I mostly wasn't getting enough to get somewhere to sleep for the night. However capitalistic it sounds, thank goodness for coffee shops and 24hr maccies in Holborn!

Even though I hadn't slept for days, being befriended by some of the intoxicated students at the end of their nights out was a bit of a laugh to be fair, and helped lift the edge of it all a bit.

So back to that late night of October 2013, stuck in Holborn Maccies and wondering how do I get out of this mess. The storms were due to hit the country this coming weekend, I had to get somewhere, anywhere. No way was I being out there in that. I knew from my childhood on the streets about cold-weather shelters for the homeless and of course I would have used it as an emergency solution, but it was probably way too early for that.

I had £60 to my name, and despite having a bank account now, I still had no photo ID. I'd tried to email backpackers hostels explaining the situation, but it just wasn't happening.

After browsing through the hotel websites, eventually I found a cheap room in the midlands for £20 a night and a really cheap train ticket to Birmingham. I didn't even have enough to get the train from Brum to where I needed, but I prayed that pulling my guitar out whilst there the next day would help me get the train fare to the Bed and Breakfast in Dudley Port. I busked at 7am and made enough to make it there plus a little extra which I really needed!

Everyone expected all hell to break loose that weekend and although the storms caused considerable damage to parts of the south coast, all I saw were a few carrier bags and bits of litter flying up the street. Thank goodness I'd made it up here though, London would have been horrible.

I then started busking in Birmingham for a bit to help keep me going. I made enough to rent a bed at a backpackers hostel for a while. Busking in Birmingham was great, I had so many beautiful moments with people and although sometimes it was tiring, things certainly could have been a lot worse.

Here's a bit of a dodgy clip with me having a laugh with the stewards outside of the station. Scatty I know, but hey. The yellow trousers kept me warm that winter!

It really helped keep me going. Some nights I did quite well but just never really managed to make enough to put me ahead for more than a few nights. I was definitely stuck in the loop. Saying that, to some degree I was enjoying it.

Busking made me a few extra friends and also the odd potential gig opportunity.

Big thanks to the folk putting on the 'Heard Not Scene' night at the Sun On The Hill pub in Birmingham city center.

I was at a tough point, hadn't slept all night and hadn't the money to pay the backpackers. I expected from myself a tired and poor performance but ended up smashing it with everyone getting up clapping for one more. The ultimate musicians dream.

Look at this photo man, it's mad. The sound engineer looks blessed!


I knew that busking wasn't something I could do forever though, it wasn't pulling in enough anyway, and sure enough eventually things dried up and I was struggling to even make a fiver a day sometimes. I really needed help.

After having to pipe up and vent my frustrations at homeless services, eventually they helped me get somewhere to stay, a room in a house in Sparkbrook in Birmingham.

Now bear in mind, I grew up living around crack and heroin addicts in London and living in hostels. I haven't even mentioned every single place on this blog, but let me tell you from experience, the homeless housing situation in Birmingham is something else indeed. It's screwed. Bigtime.

I did have another experience once in Birmingham that I haven't mentioned. To write or read it all would take forever, but it's not far off of this.

Now there's walking into a house that smells of heroin, and then there's walking into a house where the carpets, walls, doors and ceilings are all caked with the stench of the stuff along with added bonus splatter marks on the walls to keep you on the ball with your cleaning upon arrival. That sort of place.

One lad I'd often find sitting on the stairs waiting for his girlfriend to come out after selling herself for drug money.

It was a sad sad place, I didn't feel like me or my things were safe there, and I completely gave it up in the hope I could maybe squat a place again, which didn't happen.

Back to the backpackers it was, not for long though, busking just wasn't happening and money just kept drying up. It led to a breakdown, a really embarrassing public one too.

Somehow after being refused help from psychiatric and told "You're an articulate looking lad, you'll be alright", I managed to reground and make enough money to buy a tent and stayed in a field 20-odd miles out for a few days, still in the middle of my breakdown thinking that these were going to be the last moments of my life. No one that should have been it felt was around. Completely alone, nowhere to turn.

I did end up getting help with somewhere to stay though. I wish I could go into all of the details but I have to keep it vague because during all this I came to learn of a force that I'd been previously unaware of.

To cut a long story short, I ended up somewhere at a place that I really respected because of the great work that they were doing, but became bitterly disappointed with some stuff that I saw as really serious. Although others will tell you otherwise.

I seriously rocked the boat by making some allegations of what I'd considered highly inappropriate behavior towards young people along with other red flags I'd picked up.

I was however, in the middle of all this, supported to get back on with the Neuroliberation campaign and did a great internet show video with brust3d up in liverpool. You can view the video below.

So after rocking the boat, I was homeless again before bouncing around house-shares.

I won't go into all of the details because it's simply too dark, but it is my genuine belief that I have witnessed a force that I never knew existed. It is no wonder sometimes why many haven't spoken out. I cannot believe some of the many 'coincidences' that happened to me but long story short, a lot of shady stuff happened and I wholeheartedly have enough information to go on logic to believe that I payed the price for speaking out. Like if you knew every detail, I'm sure most of you would have felt the same.

It involves some pretty mental stuff. Those involved would say it's in my head, but it's my truth. Luckily I was skittish when I needed to be. Unfortunately the things I've gone through because of this simply sound too mad, and I know telling the story on my own like this could not only damage my reputation somewhat, but lead to more conflict and boat rocking.

Before all this I thought I was invincible, but it was going through the consequences of speaking out of 'my truth' that knocked me down a peg and made me realise that sadly some forces and group-entity's really can be dangerously powerful and can do pretty well at trying to take you down when they need to. I genuinely believe I survived something strange once more. Even writing this post could bring me negative attention, I do believe there will be certain people watching to see if I will be covering all of this, and I've logical reason to believe even person/s within positions of authority, and not for healthy reasons. It's a full on anxiety and one that I'm not even over yet.

It has affected and changed my life and mental health to the fullest. Talking about this sort of stuff without seeking advice from whistleblowing charities and organisations can be a dangerous game. Always seek advice. I learned the hard way.

I shall say no more on all that for now, I have too much anxiety about sounding mad. But still, I managed to get some nice stuff going on in the midlands whilst there.

It wasn't all bad ay.

It's very highly possible that I've lost a few of you reading this blog by this point. I'm not moaning about it, but just highlighting that there seems to be something about when people go into this subject so many people shy away, it's pretty heavy.

Writing all this has taken major consideration. I could indeed make myself out to look successful and play the game. But that's not where it's at.

Whether you believe me or think that I'm misunderstood or confused, I really don't mind. Whatever you choose to think about anything I've said in this post, if you've made it this far then I'm surprised, because so many at the upon hearing of some of the topics that I've mentioned wouldn't have been able to hack it.

Who knows what was real in it all anymore. Too deep man.

Peace out.

Part six coming soon. Watch this space.

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