"Not true" said an Olympic Champion to me. Yet the child might never know the rational argument behind my friend's thought through response.
They never know they can't... So they do.
My father John Edward Slater used to say "There's no such word as can't."
Or simply get on, work hard, work smart and surprise everybody.
"I never knew you could" - "Well I couldn't. Till I worked at it!"
The missive that follows gives some snippets from my journey to date and details of a crazy dream I am pursuing... It also refers to our Making Crazy Work at our Lid Off The Box site.
I'm thinking it might be best to format this in a Flip Book and it may find its way there soon. In the meantime, if you would like to imagine looking out of the window of the train as we journey together, that might be fun... I love trains.
The writing is presented in parts - so you can get a coffee or a glass of wine between each shortish section. Enjoy...
If you are in Britain you may have heard of me by the name Nicky Slater. Although my celebrity star has long since waned as time has us forget. It matters not to me. I've had fame twice, both times without the financial recompense you might imagine. Better to be richer and less visible methinks.
If you haven't heard of me then welcome. I hope you find something here that has you smile and encourages you.
I seek to process my foibles and angst and, at the very least, I hope you may be encouraged that you are much more sorted than I am, after you have read this!
I am finally starting to embrace and share my journey in a way that is not completely desperate or lost in the process of who am I? There may still be the odd wayward moments and 'gawky' sharing though so please have some grace in this...
It is processing for me and, when we share something that's developing for us our communication can be developmental... Or so it is for me.
It has been in a lifetime of searching, I am not done yet, but I can now see wood and trees.
I have hope that my journey will be of value out there for someone and inspire them to find the freedom and the courage to be who they feel called to be. That tiny spark of a dream - so gorgeous - so far from where they are as to be unattainable. Or - to find hope in that moment of 'walking away' when that is the easy way, but staying is the path that leads to breakthrough.
Or perhaps you just like a good read... I hope to provide that too with all that is developing here at nickyslater.com and at my business - with its similar goals - at lidoffthebox.com.
And as I edit 05 May 2020 I am aware that this new site was provoked by my mother's death on 14th April. I am aware that I stepped out when my son Jon Freddy was still born in 2012 playing and posting a song the morning after he died.
In my life I resisted certain paths that would have my mother able to say, "I gave you that." I did not want to be controlled.
Today I could say, without that fear of being controlled and honouring her memory that this site and what it contains is inspired by her passing. Crazy that is to write and yet... It is, for me truth. We both, my mother and myself are more at peace now.
REPETITION DEVIATION HESITATION
There is a Radio Programme in England called 'Just a Minute' I used to listen to it weekly.
The panel members are given a subject to speak on for 'Just a minute.' They are not allowed to repeat, deviate or hesitate in speaking on the given subject. A master of this was Clement Freud (yes related to that other Freud). He spoke so.... so.... slowly, purposefully and with a sanguine tone that could take you to sleep but with such verbal wit that that would never happen. Derek Nimo, Peter Jones and others were excellent on that show which aired with a live audience and adjudicator.
On this site you may find the odd repetition. I am editing as I go, all the time. I am processing, constantly and - in that - I may go over old ground as I mine for fresh insights - or loop. I can apologise for that, but... maybe that's what we do sometimes. And as we mine deeper insights come. So if you come across a path that seems familiar... You may like to bear that in mind, or not? You choose. It is my disclaimer but not an apology.
I've always had an issue with whether 'Nicky' Slater is my identity and I've been working on re-inventing myself as an entertainer for quite a while. I thought a new name might help folk accept this more easily.
lidoffthebox.com with its Dreamtryb versus FIAH epic saga has been, and is now a part of the outworking of that therapy!
My unfinished journey here, with its twists, turns, surprises, challenges, learning and insights fuels navel gazing, psychological constructs and self indulgence - with the purpose of finding freedom for me and those around me.
A key coping mechanism for me is to speak and act my life as a comedy of errors.
I have provided much material to date. So here will be a place to share those banana skin moments!
I read once that entertainers are often flawed characters (definition of flawed of
course?) Today I interpret that as how their (my) angst, searching, insecurities, physicality, environment, upbringing and scripts all contribute to how they act and present themselves.
Going for dreams and finding an identity called home is part of this for me. Finding the courage to step to re-invent and overcoming fear in our web society is what my enquiry is. And I am the test subject!
LIES THAT BIND US
Some have a harder time breaking free from lies that have bound them than others. I may be an extreme version of this? We are all amazing but sometimes scripts and learnt behaviours mean we never fly as we could. Fear holds us. Then we die. Why?
HATERS - ABUSERS - AND WELL MEANT ADVICE...
I'm going to have to learn to deal with abuse. How do we do that? I'm going to have to deal with questioning, with praise and silence in this harsh and brilliant internet world. The haters thing is quite a challenge for me - learning to examine and disempower this phenomenon having me hide out is a skill to acquire.
And 'well meant advice.' How subtly damning and paralysing that has been for me over the years. How I have taken it and stepped... Or frozen, turned and walked away. I did not have the learnt skills 'to evaluate' to hear and not step or, to continue.
My strategy became 'hide away' I have been hiding away for almost two decades. I have incubated a heartfelt dream for over four decades. Surely I should just give up now - too old, embarrassing, ridiculous, etc., etc... I know, I know.
CHANGE THE WORLD
It is my hope that this work, this adventure, reaches wide and deep helping others step up to their dreams.
Let's be clear, this is no wishy washy save me escapade. This is a place to dare, to break free and to fly. Love and laughter key weapons to be used. Until I get overwhelmed, knocked down and fearful needing to re-group and start again.
So many days waking with a pain in my stomach and fear of financial end of the road pushing in as I make nothing and press on to this unseen destination in hope. A mad man... A mono maniacal maniac on a mission to somewhere...
Now I've been held back by my fears and scripts throughout my life. I have hidden away trying to nurture a dream I've always carried. That dream, never shared, never tested, never dies.
My life was defined by a past I never choose in a sport/art that was corrupt for me and scarred deep. A Champion, two Olympics, TV fame - for what?
My upbringing was focused on becoming number one in the world and left my social skills undeveloped. The project failed - I only reached fifth.
And I was screwed up. A mix of boy not matured, lacking social ability and real world skills yet with the competitive spirit of a warrior.
LID OFF THE BOX
Take the LID OFF THE BOX of life and keep it off - became a framework. Scary, exciting.
And I know there is power in music and in comedy to reach deep. And I love an audience, it is oxygen to me. So bring these together then?
No chance? Or every chance? What makes the difference?
I seek breakthroughs. Let's dig. Psychology for the rest of us and I've been coached and coached others in getting breakthroughs. I've had many thousands of hours being coached to win.
I'm in constant therapy!
I've been given a gift to communicate, to tell stories that touch people's hearts and have them laugh over dinner. Comedy is truth and pain - my life so far seems to provide rich material for this construct!
I was interviewed once on BBC Radio and a famous comedian said to me 'You're a comedian.' Now that would be fun to embrace. Scary, challenging and a part of my soul. I love to enable laughter and I fall over so many banana skins that it seems I have a natural in built ability so to do...
I was brought up skating to music. I sat on my father's knee as he edited skating music. Today - as I edit music I remember those days. We used to cut the quarter inch tape, now I use a razor blade on the screen to cut the virtual tape. The process and skill is the same, the technical different.
I researched the music for and then created and edited four minute ice dance routines. I realise today that I have had a musical training. Yet is was not a traditional one and I didn't realise I was getting it! I would sit with John Schoefield in his front room studio in Croydon and we would work to the programme being edited. "Just try that again I'd say." "No that won't work," John would say. He would give the musical reason why that wouldn't work. "Let's just give it a go," my gentle pushing along. He did the edit. It worked. One piece of a track blending to another or, a harsher break working as a change of pace. I could hear how it would work. It was just natural to me. It is only as I write today years later that I realise that was a gifting. I can see the music in my mind, I can hear how it will blend. Wow...
I stood towards the end of my skating career in Wembley Music Studios in London. As I recall we were in what seems like an aircraft control tower...
Below us the London Symphony Orchestra were assembled. In the large hall microphones all over the place around them. Cliff Richard's backing band were in one section of the floor below for good measure. I had no idea how EPIC this was. Mike Batt had composed the music. It is called Dragon Dance, we would be skating to it.
The track was run through - it was four minutes twenty seconds or so we heard. "We can't have it that long," I perked up.
"It has to be four minutes plus or minus ten seconds either way," I added. Thinking back now Mike could have blown a gasket, and with some justification. I should/could have told him before. I don't know if I did? Anyway he looked back to his score sheets to address the task in hand.
We could cut that violin part someone suggested. There was murmuring and some quiet oh quiet laughter from the orchestra. It was the lead violinist's part and - well he was the big cheese obviously!
I walked over to the score. We could cut that section from there to there I volunteered... There was a gasp of horror in the control room that I can hear to this day. It didn't bother me, I knew that it would work. How? I had never edited a score, written a score. Somehow I knew...
"What?" I might have said, although, such was my focus on getting the music done it did not phase me at all. Yesterday my twelve year old son said "What?" In a tone that I may have used on that day had I spoke. The ignorance, confidence of youth?
Again - my recollection may be wrong but I remember Mike looked around at me and back at the score, with his pencil he crossed through the section I suggested and told the orchestra. They played it through again and - it was within the time we needed! Of course it was - four minutes eight seconds I think it was. Result. Rock n Roll.
PLEASE DON'T DO IT
About fourteen years ago (at time of writing) I prepared a desperate music demo of songs I had written. It had soaring vocals, as a cat can do when in great pain. It was confident as the tuneless ultra confident balladeer went for his Bocelli and Pavarotti inspired notes sliding gracefully from one to the other akin to a skier out of control on a double black run.. It was truly awful... So awful I dare not find it and listen to it ever again. And yet... The singer had a belief that he could do something here, there was something inside of him - and - through a delusional haze of hope - some of it was beautiful.
I gave copies to my church friends. They never commented. My church Pastor was thereafter traumatised by the thought of me singing. When I did a stage show at the Brighton Theatre he came and was worried I would sing in it. Such was the impact of my demo on him! His prayers were answered, I only played my guitar to Louise skating...
I sent a copy to Mike (Batt). The same guy from above. He kindly wrote back. "I don't normally respond to submissions and you're a lovely guy and a great ice dancer but please - don't do this."
After this loving response and after my 'Save us from this' first internet comment. I hid away...
SO AWFUL IT'S GREAT
I now live in Kelowna, Canada. I went to an open mic sharing session of artists. I paid $5 to get in. I could have shared too but I was watching, not sure of what to share or confident enough yet. A young guy stood up and started the event. The adjudicator knew him and apparently knew he had to get off soon so had him perform first. Busy guy, important guy? How to interpret? The room of regulars seemed expectant.
He came up and plugged his guitar in, confident and with a bravado swagger. Comfortable on the stage discussing with the sound guy what he wanted. He was not a classic tall good looking chap, more the balladeer ragged style. Already he started to play and sing with gusto...
It was dreadful. It was absolutely awful, no melodic through line, not sure if in or out of tune, random lyric lines clashing against his guitar playing. A chorus that had no classic structure to it. I was gobsmacked that he was so bad as he stood and sang out smiling then his face moved to concentration. He was into the music. He had ten minutes, after two it was enough, please stop. But no, he carried on, supremely confident of developmental music that was from a different planet to me and again I tried to hear the song, the lyrics, the meaning and form. I could find none. Please stop... On he went, unconcerned. What is this?
I looked around the room. White fluorescent lighting, square concrete floored meeting area in the library, about a hundred people, a lot of them young. The girls were staring in rapt attention, some of the boys too. What was going on?
After a while he stopped. Thank God. I looked at the room again - my mouth open no doubt in disbelief. I was expectant of a quiet perhaps polite encouraging applause. The type you give when you just hope someone will go away and never come back. Good try and don't give up your day job. I was amazed. They clapped him, they cheered him, some stood up.
Did I tell you, 'he was dreadful.' But... maybe - he was so dreadful as to be great - for them. What is this?
Mike - what did we miss on that demo?
That's what Lid Off The Box is about all these years later... Nickstir is the artist... He's searching for his sound. He is a tenor so that can soar and have the potential to be an enthusiastic car crash. In the risk for the notes and tone and freedom lives excitement.
I love the way the story is developing at Lid Off The Box. It's great fun and part avoidance strategy because if it was all bets on Nickstir he might be too exposed but - that's where he has to step up to compete.
So Mike if you read this - all my love to you and Julianne. And well done on all you've done and that very special gong from the Queen - awesome you are.
MUSIC COMEDY AND FOUR MINUTE STORYTELLING
A free dance is four minutes long. Its has a flow pattern, a rise and fall of emotions. Keep the music the same for more than 59 seconds and the audience gets bored. In many ways its construction is akin to a popular song in my view.
For the past years I have been avidly studying and writing into the format of a song. I've also been working to perform. I've also been learning to produce. I've also been... the list goes on and on and on. 'I survive alone' my childhood script, lived out as I seek to master so many roles - and it takes time and focusing on one would have been enough to pay the bills had I focussed on that alone. I know...
"Hindsight is easy to write into," said a friend of mine. So wise. Yet here we are. The construct that has come about is somewhat quirky as a result methinks.
AN AUDIENCE IS OXYGEN TO ME
I love to perform onstage and an audience is oxygen to me. So now, to do that in a different guise and make a living from that to support my family and to be able to give is quite an aspiration. Possible?
And this is RISK. It has been for such a long while and I start every day asking God for a BREAKTHROUGH. You can see The Breakthrough Diaries gently starting here. I have had many that will go uncatalogued. Water under that proverbial bridge.
I have a crazy five year goal (as of May 2020). To achieve it will be akin to winning Olympic Gold for me. It will be my World No 1 slot that I sought - achieved.
On paper, with my age and my current position it is ridiculous as a goal. So it's better not to share. Show and tell, says my wife Christiane about a precept of theatre. Announce it when you're there. Hmmm. To be considered.
I competed in two Olympics. I was twelfth in the first and reached sixth at the second in what I refer to as Act 1 of my life. So if you see the progression the next Olympic results are clear...
However I stopped shortly after my second Olympics. I was devastated on placing sixth. It was the evening when Chris and Jayne - Torvill and Dean won Olympic Gold. Britain's Parliament had closed early so everyone could go home and watch them on the TV. They were/are awesome.
My story, once they had turned professional was that we had to man up and go for that No 1 position. My parents had been British and World Professional Champions. It was something to be done.
Karen Barber and myself were ranked fifth in the world at that time. Dropping one place to sixth - at the Olympics - was akin to being dead and buried in ice dance terms. No one knew that more than me. I had heard of deals being done throughout my life by the judges. "You mark up my couple, I'll mark up yours." I knew the message I had been sent. I knew we were not progressing as much as we could, I knew our technical was not strong enough and my height held us back.
In ice dancing you had your ranking and, short of earthquakes, floods and falling over multiple times you had earned that spot and would retain it. To drop a place was the black spot - 'give up.' That's where I was the night Britain celebrated Chris and Jayne's win - a culmination of a nation's gold medal haul. John Curry, Robin Cousins, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. It was a media frenzy and had ice rinks as gold mines for their owners across our country.
I was hiding out in my room. I was sought out and dragged by Helen Zetter to the Olympic Party the team was having to celebrate the win. I was starting to cry... "Non of that," Helen's words of admonition and comfort!
SAVED BY A PRINCESS
We arrived in the party room and... I turned around and there was Princess Anne. Now I cannot be sure but I think she sensed the disappointment, the devastation and the sensitive soul she faced. I am making up a story. But I watched a documentary film about her and her brother Charles, perhaps he has been searching too and she recognised a kindred spirit in me. If she did, she was absolutely right.
Whatever it was, she spoke to me (a can of Coca Cola in hand, with her aide alongside), for half and hour. She put me back together. I shall never forget it and I am eternally grateful for that. She is fabulous and behind the scenes (as so many of our Royal Family do), she does an amazing job. As one distraught Olympian, who was a looser on that day of celebration can here testify.
I wrote to her years later. My lovely brother had set himself the goal of getting Mum an MBE. Brilliant he is. So I wrote and asked Princess Anne her advice. "I can't give you direct advice, as I'm on the panel that decides who gets awards, but you might consider services to the community." I heard back. Ha. Brilliant - will do. Joan Slater MBE features on this website.
There was one other time we nearly met again. I was at the Derby Day races. A posh do. I've only been once, ITV invited us. I was stood watching as the horses were paraded past with their owners. There was Princess Anne walking through. She looked at me and paused, "who was that?" she probably thought, "do I know you?" Me, in my less than confident mode did not offer a, "Hi Anne. How you doing babe", response. She walked on.
Probably good that I did not speak so?
THE CRAZY DREAM
OK I'll share it.
The danger, on past form, is that I may forget about it, get distracted by everything else that needs to be done and five years on and it's not happened.
Or maybe I will change my game and see you there. Now that would be great fun and a breakthrough to savour.
The other key factor is that I can 'talk a good game' but not deliver. It's an avoidance strategy. My brother tells me he has a new car, when he picks me up in it, he has new fireplace, when it's in. I need some of that...
Finally I don't fully commit. I have built a construct at Lid Off The Box that frames all to be done. The thing to be done being at its core. By doing this I give myself a huge amount of work that isn't focussed on the core... So my excuse will be I haven't enough time, to practise, develop, hone it down. And then I die...
All this has validity and needs addressing to get breakthroughs here.
In the meantime - as I am a visionary - let's envisage what will be - together.
I envisage a great show. I see it as an arena show. I love arenas, I grew up in them, they are 'the office' for me. I love the atmosphere, I love reflective acoustics and long reverb times. Sorry sound engineers I know it can be an issue. I love the vibe and how the audience can be together. It's a home for me.
The show will be twenty songs plus extras I have written. I will front it with a fabulous band! I know right, a million miles away from being an ice dancer. Although dance there will be.
I've got the music. It is an epic mix. Now there is comedy coming to the fore as well. I can see it will be a blast. A party of dancing, reflecting and more dancing and lots of laughter!
And I don't see it as being Nicky Slater. I see NICKSTIR & CO.
I have been privileged to work in fabulous production teams in big shows. Acountants, PAs, Management, Promoters, Talent, Caterers, Riggers, Electricians, Cameramen and women, Wardrobe, Designers, Truckers, Building Owners, et al... I love every facet of Show Business. And I love being a part of a great team.
I work best with people who are great at their job (trusted advisers) and deadlines. I need the two to be effective.
So heaven to me would be a great team creating and delivering a great show for you that blows the doors off and delivers Epic! To be profitable so we can build the show and tour. That would be the Holy Grail.
Any ACT that you see delivering top quality entertainment on an ongoing basis has that. They are champion performers, playing in a champion winning team. Their championship is a different area to that which I grew up in. An area I now wish to compete in.
Any performer needs an audience. Why would you /they come? Because you/they know what you/they will get. So I need to share the music and build the potential for 10,000 to buy tickets in a venue. It's not rocket science.
I originally envisaged walking, in my mind, down the corridor of a venue I already know to the stage of. That venue is the MEN Arena, Manchester, England.
I envisaged walking onto that stage and having a party with you, along with 10,000 friends. I'll be playing my music with a great band, staging and dancers and the comedy will flow too...
Somehow as I work towards creating a fabulous show and I'm nearly four years into living here in Kelowna, Canada I feel US and Canadian arenas as home again... Now that would be fantastic. A lack of focus can be an issue - so let's say the goal is Arena Anywhere right now!
I need an army to make the vision fly OF COURSE - AND NEED TO BE GREAT AND HAVE GREAT PRODUCTS IN PLACE. I need a tribe. A place to belong. A tribe of dreamers who make things happen. A DREAMTRYB.
And DREAMTRYB is at LID OFF THE BOX! It's coming together...
Thank you for reading. I have rambled on this Tuesday morning and part of the afternoon. It's great to be connected.
Wherever you are in your life cycle I encourage you to believe in that prompt in your soul. Maybe you haven't sung and you'd like to? Maybe you have something to do that is on that bucket list, but you're waiting for a better time. Maybe now is that time?
My brother said to me the other day. And he's younger than me and doesn't often give me direct advice: (1) buy a Harley and (2) enjoy yourself a bit. I am going to buy a Harley... or an old English road bike and ride it here this summer and we will take our first two week holiday as a family. Christiane fancies Cuba.
BREAKTHROUGH - BREAK FREE
I BELIEVE we can break free. We can realise what's on our heart. I also know there are people around me who love me whether I win or not. And that they will love me to win and love me just the same. There are no conditions on that love.
And some of us have what appear to be mountains to climb to reach our goals. Grand aspirations could for me be a stop. How many fans have you already then... Err non yet!
And, when we believe and work relentlessly for that dream... Perhaps we can prove ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE.
Achieving my dream is simple:
get the music done and share it
build a base of folk to support the work
create the A Team
make the show
book the tour
party with you in arena somewhere...
Rock n Roll. Literally :)
So the key is not in Nicky Slater as I see it. It is in NICKSTIR. NICKSTIR is my songwriting and music 'blow the doors off' personality. He's like Sting + Ne-Yo with a bit of Billy Joel thrown in. He needs to find his voice and his sound... Then we'll be cooking.
So God bless you where you are today. Thanks for sharing thus far on this adventure of life.