Gareth Malone
Bullying Survivor
Male | London, England   United Kingdom
Bullied for singing
Bullying Type: Emotional
Posted By: WingedWatcher
12/16/13 10:54 PM
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Gareth Malone OBE is an English choirmaster and broadcaster, self-described as an "animateur, presenter and populariser of choral singing". He is best known for his television appearances in programmes such as The Choir which focus on singing and introducing choral music to new participants. Malone was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours, for services to music.

At his grammar school in Bournemouth he was bullied relentlessly by his peers.

His TV show is all about how choirs bring people together, but Malone’s own experience tells the other side of that story. In the first few weeks of his first term he stood up in class to sing a solo, kick-starting a campaign of abuse that went on for years.

‘I was everything that was wrong for a boys’ school. I was small, I was ginger and I wore glasses.

'I sang in the choir, I was a bit sensitive, I didn’t fight and I loved drama.

'I was known as Gay Boy. I was 11 when it started and I remember actually thinking: “Is this what being gay is?” – which is ridiculous considering the fact I’d been interested in girls since the age of about five.

‘The bullying was particularly well executed. In a grammar school you have groups of very clever boys who understand exactly how to bully you constantly and under the radar so the teachers don’t even notice.

'Apart from general name-calling, there was this sound, this hum a certain group of boys used to do all the time in class. It was just a sound but it was aimed at me. They knew it, I knew it, but no teacher would get what was going on.

‘I was an only child; my parents were worried about me. There was one morning I thought about not going to school, but I knew if I went that way it would upset my parents more.

‘The thing that happens when you get bullied at school is that any friends you had then become rats deserting a ship.

'I went from having constant play dates to no one coming round. You end up sitting next to the other unpopular boy.

'As a kid it makes you weary. What helped me was music, being in the choir. It meant missing the first 20 minutes of form time, which was basically completely without any structure and was a war zone for me.’

‘But it makes you think about yourself. Every so often I would have to sing in assembly. It was always a choice.

'By doing it I would please the choirmaster, but I’d also lay myself open to a public shaming, a public humiliation of singing in front of the boys.

'I always chose to please the choirmaster because that was ultimately more important to me.’

You can see the effects of bullying on him now. Ironically again, they are positive effects.

His sureness, his self-possession, comes from that consciousness of making his choices.

He nods his head: ‘As you get older you become not afraid to be who you are.’

He smiles: ‘I’d spend lunchtimes in the music room. I picked up all the instruments and learned how to play them, and by the time I was 15 I was good enough to play in bands.’

His new talent led to a growing interest from the girls’ school.

‘Girls like guys who can play guitar,’ he says. ‘Suddenly I’d gone from being the unpopular one to the one who knew all the girls and a lot of the boys who had really bullied me didn’t even know how to talk to girls.

'That’s when school really changed for me. I was at the centre of things because of my music.’

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Story Details

Name: Gareth Malone
Age: 47
Country: United Kingdom
Location: London, England
Gender: Male
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