GLEN Harkin’s childhood was cut short when he lost his father through suicide at the age of 11. He spent his troubled teenage years in care, but a youth project funded by the Big Lottery Fund has given him the confidence to turn his dream of being a successful singer-songwriter into reality.
Here, the 21-year-old tells Geraldine McFadden how events over the past decade have shaped his life today....
“I grew up in the Ballycolman estate in Strabane. It was really tough losing my father but that’s how I started writing music. I wrote a song for my Da and how I was feeling at that time, bought a £30 guitar, strummed out a few chords and came up with my first song, ‘The Devil Has Won’.
“I didn’t cope well without my Da around and I started getting into a lot of fights, hanging about on the streets and acting up.
“I moved into care in Derry when I was 14 and that’s when the songs started coming, I wrote more and more about what was going on around me at that time. I didn’t talk to anyone so writing was my way of just letting it out, then I sang the songs and people would know how I was feeling.
“School wasn’t for me, I either didn’t turn up or, when I did go in, I was asked to leave because of my attitude. I wasn’t comfortable there but I ended up just lying around, being pure lazy.
“I didn’t care about anyone or anything, even myself, but I always had music to turn to. If I was feeling bad I’d put on the radio or pick up my guitar.
“My Da played music all the time and my Granda would’ve been singing away when he looked after us at weekends. I’ve a lot of good memories associated with music.
“Listening to Elvis was really important to me because he was so familiar from my D listening to him. We had a really close relationship and we used to sit in the living room together and just listen to all his old records.
“When I put them on, it felt as if my Da was close to me, like there was a bit of him in the room I guess. Other people my Da listened to – Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan – they all influenced and inspired me too.
“I loved making music, but it was always just a way for me to get things out. I never thought it could go anywhere.
“Then earlier this year, I got involved with Include Youth’s Give and Take Scheme, which is supported by the Big Lottery Fund. Coming here has been so good for me, especially my confidence, being able to chat to people and get on with other young people.
“It’s given me something to do that’s important to me, something to get up for in the mornings, where I’m around other people and I feel comfortable, it’s not something I feel forced to do. I enjoy doing the ICT, Maths and English, it’s not just about the music.
“The opportunities that have been coming over the last year, I never would’ve thought they would’ve happened to me.
“The Give and Take Scheme has given me the confidence and self worth to go out and show off my talents. I’ve had my songs on the radio and met other musicians and they arranged for me to go on a placement to a recording studio.
“When I first came here, I thought it was going to be another one of those courses, where you have to fill in forms and I’d get bored after a couple of days and not come back but it couldn’t be more different.
The future is full of possibilities – I’m getting on great with my family, I live with my girlfriend and our little boy Marc turns three in December, and I’ve great support around me. I’d like to think my Da would be proud of me for what I have done in this short space of time and I’d like to think there’s a lot more to come.
To watch Glen’s video Click Here