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From darkness to light
4BR talks to Eliot Darwin

Conductor Eliot Darwin made the most important decision of all when circumstances beyond his control took a horrific turn in the wrong direction. Now though he is looking forward to the start of an exciting new chapter in his musical life.


At the helm: Eliot Darwin doing what he loves

Few people in the brass banding movement will look forward to 2024 as much as Eliot Darwin.

In 2022, after almost seven years of ongoing bowel surgery and severe mental health troubles brought on by pernicious homophobic abuse and an unfounded malicious allegation, he felt he had reached the point of no return.

World away 

He was a world away from the exciting conducting talent that burst onto the banding scene in the mid 2000’s leading Dodworth Colliery MW Band to the Fourth Section National Championship of Great Britain title and playing principal cornet under his mentor Phillip McCann at Sellers International Band.

At that point the future seemed full of promise and success – the accolades confirming the opinions of critics and rivals alike that here was a musician destined to claim success at the very highest level.   


The rising star 

Abyss

It all changed in the Summer of 2020.

Some of the friends which he thought he knew and would stick by him disappeared. His link to the band that he had led with pride and distinction for 16 years ended abruptly. His successful music business collapsed.  He was left staring into an abyss from which he felt no escape.

Some of the friends which he thought he knew and would stick by him disappeared. His link to the band that he had led with pride and distinction for 16 years ended abruptly. His successful music business collapsed.  He was left staring into an abyss from which he felt no escape.

And then Covid hit. 

Looking back though there is no rancour – testament to the heartfelt, lifesaving support he received from his family, his “true friends”  and the professional intervention he sought at a time when his future looked at its bleakest.

“It started in 2015 with health problems,”  he says. “There was an abnormality in my bowel that was to require consecutive years of collorectal surgery – the last just a couple of months or so ago. 

It meant that my business specialising in music tuition took a huge hit just when it was really taking off in 2020.  Nothing could be done except wait for a resolution and a return to ‘normality’ as soon as I got back on my feet.”

Covid lockdown

The Covid lockdown was a huge challenge. 

“I know I wasn’t alone in the musical world in suffering from the financial effects, but alongside my health it seemed to knock me down a few steps.

I needed a break away when things relaxed, so even though I was starting to do a bit of playing and conducting I took what I felt was a much needed ‘road trip’ to recharge the emotional as well as physical batteries.”


Everything changed in 2020

Pernicious and false

What happened next though, took Eliot to the edge of the darkest place.

“I was in South Devon in the Summer of 2020 with my parents and my dogs when I was informed the Police wished to speak to me urgently. I simply thought someone I knew was in difficulty or that there had been a break in at home.”

I was in South Devon in the Summer of 2020 with my parents and my dogs when I was informed the Police wished to speak to me urgently. I simply thought someone I knew was in difficulty or that there had been a break in at home

Instead, Eliot was arrested on what was later proven to be a completely pernicious and false allegation. The initial shock soon turned into a living hell as despite fully cooperating with the investigation, a lack of police staff meant what should have taken a short period of time, turned into weeks and then months.

“I couldn’t do anything,” he recalled. “Day after day passed and my legal representatives couldn’t find out anything as staffing shortages and Covid issues delayed things.  I was in a state of limbo – unable to work and not able to conduct a band.”

Innocent

Rumours had surfaced and his connection to Dodworth Band came to an end. 

“I knew I was innocent, but I was so ashamed that people were talking about me, especially in what I subsequently found out was a such a vile, vitriolic way. I agreed to resign from the band.   I simply couldn’t cope anymore. I was torn to pieces – my morals, ethos and reputation were being shredded by those who really didn’t know me, and some who said they did.” 

The final straw came when his father was taken ill. As his life hung precariously in the balance, and unable to visit due to ongoing Covid restrictions, Eliot’s mental health suffered a chronic relapse.

Only option

The final straw came when his father was taken ill. As his life hung precariously in the balance, and unable to visit due to ongoing Covid restrictions, Eliot’s mental health suffered a chronic relapse.

“I felt there was no hope, just trauma, shame and pain,” he said. “I felt I was losing those closest and most loved to me. Things had become very dark. The only option I felt was suicide.”

I felt I was losing those closest and most loved to me. Things had become very dark. The only option I felt was suicide.

With his father holding on against the odds, Eliot finally sought help through the services of Mental Health Sheffield.  It was to be the best decision he has ever made.


New determination

Back from the brink

“I met with a lady named Catherine who helped me back from the brink,” he said.

“At our second meeting she asked about my musical interests which she had researched, and from then she used that as the foundation of rebuilding my confidence and self-belief, talking about making music and returning to playing after 16 years or so.” 

He adds: “Even today I meet once a month with her colleague working through my recovery. Her words and empathy mean so much – each day a day of progress in the right direction, from being able to step out of the house to performing and conducting once more – music both the voice and motivation.”

“At our second meeting she asked about my musical interests which she had researched, and from then she used that as the foundation of rebuilding my confidence and self-belief, talking about making music and returning to playing after 16 years or so.” 

Not all in the banding world offered the same support though, although Eliot can understand perhaps why.  

“The case against me wasn’t yet resolved, and in the meantime with help from others I had addressed my sexuality.  You can understand ignorance, but the spitefulness was much harder to accept.  I was amazed that people who I had known in banding for many years could be like that.  I can forgive the doubters, but not the bigots.”

Good news

Finally, in October 2022 came the news that he had almost given up on.

Eliot now carries with him the letter headed ‘A true statement of fact’ from the Police that states the truth for all to see.

“The Police simply called me for a meeting, and alongside a representative from LADO (Sheffield Safeguarding Team) returned my personal items and informed me that the allegation against me was completely unfounded.

They were malicious and totally untrue – figments of what they described as ‘jealousy and envy’. The case was closed.” 

Eliot now carries with him the letter headed ‘A true statement of fact’ from the Police that states the truth for all to see.


More smiles to come...

Positive turning point

It also became the positive turning point for his life to make the progress he dreamed of making.

“I was invited first by an old school friend Lauren Newton to perform with Silver Spectrum Wind Band, and then Lee Dunkerley invited me to his ‘Christmas Blast’ last year to play cornet with his ‘All Star’ brass players.  

It also became the positive turning point for his life to make the progress he dreamed of making.

These were small, yet huge steps for me, and despite a few more trips to hospital in the intervening months of 2023 it was an enormous boost to my confidence.”


Enjoying playing once more...

Back to playing and conducting

In addition to some cornet paying gigs he started conducting once more, and whilst there have been a few steps backwards with moments of self-doubt and belief, he now believes he has got the balance right.

He is keen to mention the support. “I’ve either played, conducted, or even both with Skelmanthorpe, Masson Mills, Dronfield Daytime, Houghton Colliery, Thurcroft, Hatfield & Askern, Thoresby, Lindley, Ireland Colliery and Shepherd’s Group. 

He is also thrilled to have been able to accept the role as the new MD at Thurcroft Welfare.

He is also thrilled to have been able to accept the role as the new MD at Thurcroft Welfare.

He has also relaunched his business at http://www.directmusictuition.com  for in person and online tuition, as well as instrument hire, public announcing and being a DJ.


The only darkness now is his sunglasses...

Life looks different

“Life looks very different now,” he says, identifying his drive to now inspire others to push past challenges. “I’ve learnt so much in such a horrid manner, but it has helped in making me become a bigger, stronger, bolder, better, more knowledgeable person.

I found out just what was important to me but had to go through a horrific time to do it. I now know exactly the value of family, true friendship and support and I’m determined to make the most of my life as a person and a musician

You cannot hold grudges and bitterness, and time has allowed me to understand why people perhaps acted in the way they did to me. Ignorance can be overcome through education and better awareness, but sheer spitefulness takes so much longer.

I found out just what was important to me but had to go through a horrific time to do it. I now know exactly the value of family, true friendship and support and I’m determined to make the most of my life as a person and a musician. 

I can’t thank those who stood by me enough – and they and I know exactly how they are. 

Roll on 2024.”

Iwan Fox 


Help:

If you feel you require help in anyway please contact:

http://www.samaritans.org

https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/mental-health-services/where-to-get-urgent-help-for-mental-health/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/helplines-listening-services/

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