“Embrace your creativity - the age of twelve, thirteen, fourteen is where you start realising where your passions start lying and if it’s in writing, don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be in music.”
That was the message from Mullingar’s Bressie in an inspiring speech in Tullamore at the launch of The Custodian, Ireland’s first novel written by a group of students.
The singer, song-writer, musician, performer, and mentor spoke movingly of his own primary school years, where he felt his creativity, mostly, wasn’t nurtured.
He told the captivated audience that he wished he’d had more teachers who fostered creativity when he was a student in Mullingar’s St Mary’s CBS more than 20 years ago.
“That’s what I wish I had in primary school, and I actually had to repress my creativity because the particular school I was in didn’t celebrate it and it was something I almost felt embarrassed about, which was wrong,” he said.
“So it’s amazing now that we’re opening our eyes to the importance of creativity – these guys wrote a book, how many of us can say we’ve done that?”
He singled out one inspiring teacher, Br Frank Crummey and his “top class choir” as responsible for grounding his musical career.
“I had an amazing Christian Brother who introduced me not just to singing and music but to contemporary music like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
“I owe a lot to Br Crummey,” he said.
“I think it’s amazing that schools today are celebrating creativity and not just academics,” he said, adding that “creativity is at the root of everything”.
Bressie said that’s what made it important for him to launch The Custodian, and he spoke at length backstage to the eight sixth class students who are published under the name DA O’Connor.
It tells the story of Matt O’Connor, who goes on the adventure of a lifetime meeting real and cyber criminals, coming to terms with bullying, moving to a new school, and life without his dad who was killed at the family’s historic home.
Publisher Educate.ie expects it to sell around a hundred thousand copies in three years, with the funds raised going to a new gym block for the tiny rural school.
But Bressie said creativity is about more than making money and academics.
“For too long we put too much pressure on the academic, the academic will actually prosper. I’ve found if you nurture things that kids are passionate about, like writing, like music, like sport, they actually go hand in hand,” he said.
“I remember back in my old school Niall Horan being told that he shouldn’t bother being a musician, because it’s a waste of time,” he said.
Niall’s success means “no mother or father can turn around to their kid now and say you’re wasting your time going into music”.