HI ROB, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
I’m 33 years old. I’m a father and a husband and I have Multiple Sclerosis. But I describe myself as an ‘MS warrior’ and I’m a poet.
HOW DID YOU START WRITING POETRY?
Through depression – my doctor had advised me to write a thought diary, but it had no context and was very sad and abbreviated – every entry was just ‘I’m sad today’ or ‘I’m depressed’. I thought I wanted to do more, go further, and the country rap artist Jelly Roll inspired me. He writes about pain all the time, it made me think that it was possible. My poetry is all to do with MS or being sad as it’s how I express and process my feelings. Through it I turn negativity into something brilliant, that I’m pleased with.
AND WHAT MADE YOU START SHARING IT ONLINE?
Donna, my wife! (Laughs) She suggested that it might help others. I said no and resisted the idea for a long time – it’s my thought diary and my pain! – then after a while I came round to the idea. I released my book last week to a really good response, and over the past year I’ve had hundreds of people tell me how much my work has helped them. It’s surreal to me, because these words are my pain, but to share them and know I’ve helped other people feel not alone is amazing.
WHAT FIRST BROUGHT YOU INTO THE OLD LIBRARY?
A series of accidents. I was never one for reading or public speaking. I knew Jon at the Bodmin Light and Life Church, I met him at his Skillshare. He introduced me to Greg at Bodmaxx next door, and through him I met Tara at intoBodmin, who suggested I try performing at Open Stage. The night of Sprout Spoken (my second night on stage) – I decided that I could do this, I could organise a event and raise money for the Merlin MS Centre in St Austell.
HOW IS PERFORMING YOUR WORK TO A LIVE AUDIENCE MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO YOU?
When I read to a live audience, it helps my confidence. And I feel if I read to people who don’t know about MS, I could be educating them about it, if to someone struggling with depression, pain, or illness, I might be letting that person know that it’s okay to not be okay and that they are not alone.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST WANT TO COMMUNICATE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE OF LIVING WITH MS?
To help educate people about invisible illness; unless you live with it or have known someone who’s lived with it, it can be hard to understand.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR FUNDRAISER EVENT ON THE 30TH APRIL?
A variety of people, poetry and live music, and a fun and educational event. The show is on the final day of UK MS Awareness Week and that’s why I chose it. It’s all to raise money for the local MS centre, which is a charity, not government funded.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SAY?
Thank you for the opportunity to everyone at Open Stage and intoBodmin, and a massive thank you to you, Tara. People keep telling me this fundraiser is a great idea, and you are the driving force behind it!
Follow Rob’s work at: https://www.facebook.com/Beneaththetracksuit
Buy his book Beneath the Tracksuit: Thoughts of a Warrior from Amazon.co.uk
Find out more about MS and the work of the Merlin MS Centre at https://www.merlinmscentre.org.uk/