Poet, writer, musician and BBC radio presenter are just a few of the roles on David Scott’s CV. He also runs a production company making short films and is head of creative arts at the soon to be opened (COVID-19 willing) Hide Out Youth Zone, a charity helping kids to access the arts.
A true renaissance man, Scott has been steadily carving out a creative career for the past five years but is possibly more familiar to poetry and music fans as Argh Kid. His commissions include poems for the likes of Manchester United and BBC World Service. Musically, his band can credit Chris Evans and DJ Janice Long as fans.
So, how does a working class lad from Manchester’s Longsight get into poetry?
“I’d been writing for years but I didn’t know any fellow artists, so I was always coy about my poetry and lyrics,” says Scott. “I eventually decided it was time to gamble on myself. I got a confidence boost when a comedian liked my words and told me I should set myself up at an open mic night. I’d never been on stage before but felt I had nothing to lose, so I booked my own fringe show in Manchester. None of my friends and family knew I was into poetry so it sold out because all my mates wanted to see if I’d mess up. It went well and they were really supportive and asking why had it taken me so long to do it. You have to keep putting yourself and your work out there.”
He adds: “Things just started to spiral. The Manchester Evening News picked up one of my poems, then BT Sport were looking for a Manchester poet and asked if I wanted to write something for Manchester United. I was trying to play it cool when I said yes, but inside I was buzzing as I’m a massive fan. We’ve now worked together on several projects.”
Stories of working class artists keeping their creative talent under wraps are common, and the notion of cultivating ‘ideas above your station’ still linger and inhibit talent. Many feel it stems from the generation above not having any reference points with which to view the arts as a viable career. However, Scott believes the issue is self-inflicted.
“That fear is within you. As soon as my mates saw me perform, I realised I’d built the whole thing up to be more than it was. Because we may come from what looks like a rough exterior, we think we’re not allowed to show emotions or any creative side. That’s thought to be a sign of weakness and our peers may look down on us for it. But once I started, I found out lots of my friends were also creative. None of us could work out the origins of keeping things secret. It’s not that our parents rammed down our throats that we could not be creative. I think it comes from the mistaken belief that no one else was doing it, so it was unprecedented waters.”
Scott has more than made up for any initial delay to perform and now works across several art forms. Is this a classic case of being a jack of all trades or just the result of having a busy mind?
“Busy mind,” he laughs. “I get really bored if I’m not plate-spinning, juggling jobs and looking to the next thing. I don’t like turning stuff down. If I’d been born 10 years later I’m sure I would have been diagnosed with ADHD. I’m fortunate that a lot of opportunities come my way. One thing always leads to another and I’d rather do something and regret it than not try at all. I could never stay in jobs because I found it really boring and thought it was a waste of time. My Dad believed if you’ve got a job, be grateful, but his Dad advised me to never stay in a job I didn’t like because life’s too short. As a father of three children, I’m busy for practical reasons, too. You have to spin many plates to earn enough as a full-time artist.”
From a marketing point of view, using the pseudonym Argh Kid has certainly garnered attention. But Scott believes the time has come for all of his projects to be collectively known under his own name.
“The moniker thing has been a blessing and curse,” he explains. “It brings with it a weight of expectation. People still judge a book by its cover but when they’ve heard my work they’ve gone, ‘oh, I wasn’t expecting that’. You have to think how many people don’t press play because of a name. Argh Kid has been a great brand name and, when I started out and wanted to get noticed, it stood out on posters more than David Scott would have. It has caused people to make a judgement on what I’m talking about though, as if I’m some sort of Liam Gallagher parody. I don’t pander to an audience by any means but I’m going to be writing poetry under my own name from now on and maintaining the band and the music as Argh Kid.”
Lockdown has had a profound effect on artists across all genres. Many fear that, for the foreseeable future, opportunities to present their work may be thin on the ground. For Scott, the extra time has allowed him reflect on his work to date. “Lockdown has really made me look at what I want to do with my career. I’m not sure I’m creating the best work I know I’m capable of, or even if I’m working in the right medium to express what I want to say and the stories I want to tell. It’s a restless feeling and I suppose that explains why I’m always active. I love creating and part of me hates finishing a project because once it’s done and the process is over, you can’t go back and I hate that. There’s been a dialogue in my head for a while about where I go next creatively. I absolutely love the radio show and the response it has received, so maybe that’s the natural path to go down?”
He continues: “The stuff I’m writing at the moment is more personal. My previous work has been more looking outward and social commentary on stuff. There’s a lot of aspects about me I want to talk about now, but there’s a nervousness about putting myself out there in that way. I suffer from PTSD and I hope to do a show around that, though COVID-19 has probably put the brakes on it for a while. The band is also trying to work on tracks at the moment. We don’t fit into any specific genre and that makes it harder to find the stations who will play our music.”
Personally, once the live arts are up and running again, I don’t want to see works on the pandemic. Art has to be influenced and informed by life but, after living through the whole nightmare, surely the last thing audiences want to be hit by is a tirade of lockdown-inspired productions? Scott is of the same mind.
“I hope we don’t get inundated with it but I fully expect it to happen. People can be very self-centred, thinking everyone wants to hear about their experience of moping around on their own. It would be quite depressing, but I imagine 2021 will probably be the year of the lockdown album. Creatively, I am trying to move away from mentioning anything to do with it.
“One of the effects that COVID-19 has on the industry that I worry about is that the arts will become even more of a middle class opportunity. Nobody’s going to be able to maintain a career as an artist unless they’ve got wealthy parents to sustain them. My fear is that there will be an even bigger gulf between those with money and those without. If working class artists do press on, there might not be venues to play at. Artists need venues and vice versa.”
Scott’s point about the potential lack of venues is particularly pertinent. Over the past few years there has been a major poetry resurgence with countless opportunities to perform in pubs and clubs. Without places to perform, newer writers could struggle to be heard.
“I struck lucky timing-wise,” says Scott. “When I did my first fringe show there weren’t that many Manchester poets and only a few open mic nights. It’s tougher now for new poets because there are more of them out there trying to break through to the next level. I was able to get gigs and grow more confident. You can’t beat performing on stage, interacting with the crowd. It’s an amazing feeling and the adrenaline is the best high you can get.”
Image credit: ASUPREMESHOT/DEBBIE ELLIS