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I was quite big, a foster kid & I loved singing.. 3 reasons why I ended up being bullied; EXCLUSIVE G4'S BEN THAPA TELLS WHY HE BACKS.

Byline: By MAEVE QUIGLEY

AT THE age of 23 dark-haired Ben Thapa has the world at his feet. The G4 singer has had two number one albums and has made a successful career out of doing what he loves best.

But 10 years ago things were very different - if Ben casts his mind back he can see himself as the silent child too afraid to speak up against the bullies who were making his life hell. That is why next Sunday's ChildLine concert at the Point in Dublin is such an important gig for Ben.

He explained: "Bullying is something that happens a lot of children - and it happened me. I don't really know what the catalyst was for it - I was fostered when I was 11, I was quite big when I was a kid and I loved singing.

"I was always singing but I really began in earnest in my teens.

"So I suppose it was those three things that meant I ended up with a triple dose of bullying."

Ben's dad walked out of their Cambridge home when he was three and mum Jenny struggled to bring up Ben and his younger siblings while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and severe depression.

Ben ended up in a foster home from the age of 11 until he was 16.

And because he was already vulnerable, the bullies saw him as an easy target.

He said: "I suffered all sorts - bullying that was both physical and mental.

"And I saw it happening to other people as well - we got beaten up, we got our lunch money stolen, we got abused in the playground.

"Bullying really digs into a child's selfesteem - it makes them feel somehow less than other people.

"No child wants to feel as if there's something wrong with them and that is what being bullied makes you believe.

"Also there's the fact that you don't want to have to rely on other people to sort it out.

"Boys especially think that they should be able to make things right themselves.

"I was a very secretive child - I didn't tell anyone what was going on with me and I kept everything bottled up.

"It can be hard for anyone to speak up about bullying but I think it is harder for boys because you want to have the strength to carry on yourself and sort things out - you don't want to be seen to be dependent on other people."

Ben's experiences are one of the reasons why G4 are performing at the Childline Cheerios concert in Dublin's Point Depot next Sunday.

G4 will join Simon Webb, Liberty X, G4, Zoo, Son of Dork, Krisma, Lee Ryan & X Factor winner Shayne Ward for the show to raise funds and awareness for the phone service which has become a lifeline for so many children.

Ben said: "Time does dull the pain and you forget a lot of the stuff that went on.

"But I'm sure if I really thought about it and got things fresh in my mind I would be really horrified at some of the things that went on at school.

"I can't really believe that I put up with so much and didn't tell anyone but I think I got stuck in a rut and I felt it would have been weak to talk to someone about it.

"That's why it is so important to raise awareness about services like Childline. "It is a huge step for a child who is being bullied to tell someone about it.

"And it is a very difficult thing to do but Childline makes it a bit easier.

"Reaching out to someone on the other end of the phone seems less confrontational. You can speak anonymously and someone is there to listen to you and give you practical advice when they can.

"Bullies are insecure themselves but the most important thing is to have the strength to talk to someone about it.

"You have to realise there is a lot more to life - school will end, the bullying will stop and you will be able to go on and achieve something with your life."

Ben said music and singing were what kept him going through the hard times.

And now he says it hurts him to think that children who are being bullied will not follow their dreams because their self-esteem is so low.

Ben said: "I kept on singing in spite of the bullying. I've always been incredibly stubborn - it's one of my personality traits.

"Music and singing was something I loved doing - you can escape from everything if you stick on the radio or the stereo.

"For me being able to create music through singing was incredible - it helped me in so many ways.

"It drove me on because I was getting good at it and it helped me see I could make some kind of a career out of it, which was brilliant.

"But to be honest when I was being bullied and having difficult times at home, singing was one of the few things that I could do that made me really happy.

"So there was no way I was going to let anyone make me give that up.

"And it proved to be the best thing that ever happened.

"Children in difficult situations need to realise there is a lot more to life - they need to realise that they are not lesser people.

"About one in three marriages ends in divorce these days so there's no such thing as a 'normal' family any more.

"And children who suffer at the hands of bullies mustn't let themselves be stopped from achieving what they want.

"Success comes in so many different ways for different people - it could be having a family, getting a job, passing exams, having a career.

"The only thing stopping you from doing what you want is the limitations you place on yourself.

"It is hard not to let bullies get to you - it is something that makes you feel bad about yourself and numbs you to the good things that you can do.

"My heart goes out to people who are numbed by their circumstances into thinking they are not good enough to achieve their goals to get what they want."

Ben started to achieve his goals when he left Cambridge after getting a Scholarship to the Guildhall School Of Music.

When he was there he became friends with fellow pupils Matt Stiff, Jonathan Ansell and Mike Christie.

The lads were buskers before they saw an advertisement for the X Factor auditions.

Now Ben has paid off all his student debts, has a record deal and spends most of his time doing his favourite thing - singing.

He said: "I can look back and say: "Yes, I have achieved something.

"It isn't that I am walking around with a massive chip on my shoulder because I was fostered and bullied.

"But I can say that I stuck it out, I didn't let the bullies stop me from singing.

"The main thing for me about it is that I now make music that touches other people the way it helped me when I was a kid.

"We get lots of letters from people saying our music has helped them get through a hard time.

"And if my story can give a child some hope that things will get better, then it has all been worth it."

l The Cheerios Childline concert takes place at the Point Depot on January 29 and will be broadcast on RTE on February 6 .

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Ben Thapa was big for his age but that didn't stop him being bullied' Ben with the other members of G4 - Jon Ansell, Matt Stiff, and Michael Christie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 22, 2006
Words:1292
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