It’s pretty unusual for music to feature in Community Care but thanks to one mental health social worker a rare opportunity has arrived. Social worker Edd Donovan and his band The Wandering Moles have just released an EP and album (have a listen below, including the track ‘The social worker’). We sent Edd a few questions about how he juggles music and social work and asked which job he’d plump for if given the choice…
Tell us a bit about your social work background…
My social working days began when I volunteered at a charity providing short breaks and respite care for people with disabilities and their carers. It had a profound impact on my life. I realised I had something to offer people less able and fortunate than myself and that I could support people for a career.
My first paid job was as a care assistant in a residential home for the elderly. I then moved on to a role as a keyworker in a rehab home for people suffering mental health issues. As time wore on I knew I needed a change but I couldn’t see any other opportunity than managing such a home and that wasn’t for me. I bumped into an old colleague from the residential home who had just completed her diploma in social work. I decided to follow suit, did the degree and qualified in 2007.
My first statutory social work position was in a NHS community mental health team. I later trained as an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) and currently practice as an AMHP and mental health social worker in Gloucestershire.
How much has your social work experience influenced your music?
My experiences through work have definitely informed songs on the EP, particularly ‘House on fire’ and ‘The social worker’. House on fire was inspired by Andrea Ashworth’s book ‘Once in a house on fire’. I read the book as part of my social work degree while I was studying the topic of risk versus resilience in child development. Holding true to the book’s theme, the song is an account of a child’s outlook and journey growing up imprisoned within a theatre of domestic violence and abuse.
‘The social worker’ has minimal production and attempts to express the personal experiences of serving as a practitioner in mental health social work. The dilemma I muse upon in the chorus line is a familiar challenge for social workers – that feeling that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
How do you find the time to write songs amid coordinating Mental Health Act assessments? It wasn’t a hurdle McCartney or Dylan ever had to face!
I have been chipping away at song writing, performing and seeking for opportunities to develop my craft for a long time and it hasn’t been easy. Our first child was born while I was studying in my final year of the social work degree; we had another child a couple of years later and, unfortunately due to additional family pressures, all music was on put on hold for long periods.
I have always put my family first and am immensely grateful to be have been fully involved in those precious, early years. It’s different now though as they’re at that age of being fiercely independent and can cope with me nipping out to the studio or a gig.
Still, achieving all this with the full-time social work post has been tiring and stressful to say the least, but I’m now starting to reap its rewards and have created something that I hope people will find beautiful – I know I do. You can always find the time to write if it’s something you’re driven to do, like any passion in life.
So, would you swap the social work career for full-time musician if the chance came up?
I would be delighted with any success with this venture and have convinced myself, that if successful, I could shave a Friday off my social working week and play the folk singer at the weekend. But if offered a straight swap as you imply then the answer is obvious!