Tonic wing walker Alan Dennis writes about his Barry’s Flying Circus experience.
Barry’s Flying Circus, Cirencester, October 7th 2020
Photo credit: Jules Annan Concert Photography
My reasons for taking part and how it made me feel
by Alan (touching cloth) Dennis
Let us begin.
First and foremost, I have to thank Mr Barry Ashworth – not for inviting me to take part in this year’s Flying Circus, but for putting Tonic Music for Mental Health on my radar. If it wasn’t for me being a fan of the Dub Pistols, I don’t think I’d have been aware of this charity and all the great things they do. Mr Ashworth and other band members have always championed their cause, and rightly so.
I have donated to Tonic over the past couple of years whenever Barry or Seanie Tee have played live DJ sets online. Not only do they both have great taste in music, but they have a knack of getting people involved – from 30 push-ups for 30 days (cheers Seanie) to flying through the air with nothing more than a hope and a prayer!!!
I chose to support Tonic Music for Mental Health because the charity struck a chord with me on many different levels, which I will try to explain without sending you all off to sleep.
First of all, I have suffered in the past with depression, as a lot of people have (especially now). Whether it be the loss of a loved one, a marriage or relationship breakdown, or a job loss, depression has a big part to play in many of our lives.
My personal experience with depression made me feel alone in a dark hole with no way out. Looking back now, that seems a ridiculous thing to have thought. I have a loving family and a good network of friends, but that didn’t matter at the time – normal thought goes out the window when you’re going through depression.
The doctor prescribed antidepressants, but they didn’t work for me and actually made it a whole lot worse. Psychotherapy and counselling really did help me though. It helped me understand why I was “feeling low”. Through psychotherapy, I reconnected with my first true love – music. This was mainly Ska, which is sunshine to the ears. I believe that music is the best therapy.
I have a friend who I dedicated my wing walk to, who has for years suffered with bipolar disorder. She has become more of a sister to me than a friend. Even with her own daily struggles, she manages to pull through each day and battle on – she is a true warrior. As with me, the one thing that levels her anxiety and bad days is music. She has recorded her own music and her vocals even featured on Lee Scratch Perry’s last album. Music wins again.
In dedication to my friend’s story above, along with a little peer pressure, I chose to take up the challenge of wing walking for Tonic.
First and foremost, I am petrified of flying. I don’t know why, as I’ve never had any bad experiences, but it’s like a switch is flipped and panic commences. Now I find myself strapped to the top of a biplane wondering how the hell did I get here? Too late mate, we’re off and up!!!!!
For the first minute or so I couldn’t breathe. I was having a proper panic attack and even tried to make the signal that makes the pilot land (this is all on the video they kindly made for me).
After a while, I managed to get my breathing under control and started taking notice of where I was and my beautiful surroundings. I am so glad the pilot didn’t see my attempt at signalling him – I don’t think I could have taken the embarrassment!!!
The experience of the day, and the people I met, will stay with me for a very long time, and I will certainly take up this challenge for Tonic Music for Mental Health again.
Alan (clean pants) Dennis
P.S. I’m still scared of flying, just not as much, so thank you to all involved for making this event happen and getting me off the ground.