James Parkinson is 20 years old and studies at the Royal College of Music. He specialises on Trombone, and also plays Tuba and Guitar. James is one of four siblings and he’s a young adult carer to his brother and his youngest sister.
When he’s at home he supports his brother, George (18), who is autistic and has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and epilepsy. James listens out for his brother during the night, in case he might be having a seizure, aids him in his drumming and bass guitar lessons (since being home over lockdown) and keeps him safe when they go outdoors for walks.
James also supports his youngest sister, Stella (17), who has Diamond-Blackfan anaemia, by helping her with her music making and anything else she physically or musically struggles with. Stella has other physical disabilities that inhibit her from being able to so some things. But despite having joint issues and minus a finger on each hand, she is very adept at piano.
Over lockdown, James was at home, and spent more time helping his parents provide care to George and Stella. The family had to shield in order to protect Stella, so they couldn’t go out, which Stella felt bad about. But having James at home helped keep her spirits up. Before lockdown, George was used to going out for walks every day, so James helped set up activities so he could keep occupied with his art, worksheets, and his drumming and bass guitar lessons online.
Respite opportunities reduced drastically during the pandemic, with so many outdoor things closed. James’ local Carers Trust Network Partner suggested to James that he might like to consider respite he could do at home, safely, to comply with all the restrictions. James applied for a small grant for a microphone which meant he could record music, which then enabled him to collaborate with others.
James said: “Over the lockdown, having this grant for the mic motivated me to keep making music. It’s been really helpful and therapeutic to have over lockdown. It’s allowed me to record high quality music, to collaborate with others online and be creative. Being able to make my own music has given me quality time for myself”.
“When I was younger, my other able sister Daisy and I would come straight home from school and help care for George and Stella. Not because we weren’t allowed to go out after school, but we would be concerned about being away from George and Stella for the long period we were at school for. But the time we spent at home all together was always so lovely. Being a carer from a young age has given me an ability to understand and respond appropriately to certain situations, especially living with someone with autism, OCD and epilepsy”.
“We all enjoy music as a family, and my parents have always given me all their support and encouragement. From buying me my instruments, taking me to my youth orchestra rehearsals, and paying for lessons. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t have that, and they never let me being a young carer hinder my musical journey.”