To celebrate the release of my new book, DAREDEVIL DREAMER, I wanted to share an excerpt to give you an idea of what I've been busily writing this last five years! This little excerpt actually comes from the very end of the book, but it shouldn't spoil too much by letting you read it now! Hope you enjoy!
It all started because the future King of England was running terribly late.
We’d been waiting for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to arrive for over an hour. I’m the kind of guy who likes things to run on time – I don’t usually have much patience for lateness – but I guess when you’re the heir to the British throne, I’m willing to bide my time.
Will and Kate were in Australia on their first royal tour as a couple, and I had been invited to the State Reception. It was a fairly small affair at a rooftop bar in the city with only about 150 guests in attendance, and we were all on a single invitation - no partners allowed - so everyone was standing by themselves, clutching a glass of champagne and trying hard to make small talk. I get really shy around people I don’t know, so I was doing everything I could to stand to the side and make conversation with myself. As I guzzled as much free champagne as I could, I leaned out over the balcony to catch a glimpse of the crowds milling below, and a friendly looking guy with shaggy blonde hair sidled up to me and struck up a conversation.
“You know anyone here?” he said.
“No, not a soul”, I replied.
“Me neither. You a red dot?” he said, looking down at my name-tag.
“What’s a red dot?” I asked.
“The dot on your tag,” he said, pointing to the green dot on mine. “Red dots get to meet the Royals in person. Green dots get to stand at the back of the room and watch”.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“So, I don’t have to meet them?”.
“Nah, you’re a green dot,” he said. “You can just enjoy the free food and alcohol. The red dots are the ones who have to press the flesh”.
Thank God, I thought.
A full A4 page of instructions had come with our invitation explaining exactly how we were expected to behave in the presence of royalty, and I’d been freaking out about forgetting the royal protocol and making an idiot of myself in front of the future King and Queen of England.
Only shake hands if they offer theirs.
Don’t speak unless they speak to you first.
Bow or curtsey when they greet you.
Address them as “Your Royal Highness”.
Only look at them if they look at you.
Do not feed them after midnight.
There were so many things to remember!
Bow, don’t curtsey (you’re not a lady).
Say “Your Highness”, not “Your Majesty”.
I was stressing out! What if I forgot and accidentally spoke before they did, or shook hands too vigorously, or forgot what to call them, or accidentally head-butted one of them? Would I be arrested? Exiled from the kingdom? Beheaded?
Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to find out. Ah, bless you, lucky green dot, I thought to myself, as I sipped on my fourth glass of complimentary royal champagne. For the next half hour, I proceeded to stand in the corner of the room guzzling free wine and shovelling free food into my mouth like the famine was coming. I may have devoured an entire platter of cheese puffs.
Don’t judge me.
After what felt like an eternity, the royal motorcade pulled up on the street below, and we were corralled into position ready for the arrival of the royal couple; the red dots were brought to the front of the room, and a barricade was placed between them and the rest of us green dots at the back of the room, which was a good thing, because, by this time, most of us were well and truly drunk. It had been a long wait on a hot day with unlimited alcohol – can you blame us?
There was a sudden flurry of activity at the front of the room, a sea of flashbulbs and the click of many cameras, and then, at last, the Duke and the Duchess entered the room, led by the Premier of Queensland and his wife. The room was now basically made up of those who were red dotty enough to speak with the royals and the rest of us green dots that were standing around just watching them like creepers.
It was a weird situation, just watching them from the back of the room while trying hard not to topple over from the heat or the liquor.
It got instantly weirder when all of a sudden and most unexpectedly, Prince William breached the barricade of bollard and chain that segregated us lowly green dots from the red dots and started to casually walk among us, shaking hands with random green dots as he went. Kate followed, and soon a room full of highly inebriated people wearing name tags with green dots were being greeted by the future King of England.
“I have to get out of here now,” I thought to myself.
I was too drunk to be meeting the milkman, let alone a member of the royal family.
I pushed through the crowds to head to the very back of the room and tried to disappear among a row of pot plants, but while I was doing that, the crowd in the room started to form a sort of semi-circle around the outskirts of the terrace, so the Duke and the Duchess had a clear path to walk the outside of the room and greet everyone individually. My plan to hide at the back of the room had now just put me at the centre of the giant semi-circle!
Then, to make matters worse, the Premier spotted me. He smiled and waved, and then he whispered to Prince William and gestured in my direction, and then lead him past the queue of guests eagerly awaiting their moment with royalty until he came to stand directly in front of me, with the Duchess not far behind.
“This is Tim O’Connor,” said the Premier, introducing me. “He runs Harvest Rain Theatre Company”.
Prince William reached out to shake my hand.
Do I take it?
I can’t remember!
Am I allowed to touch him?
I’m freaking out!
My hand touched his, and I felt myself going into an involuntary curtsey but managed to stifle it and turn it into a bow before anyone noticed.
“Your Majesty,” I stammered, immediately realising that was the exact thing I wasn’t supposed to call him. Then I realised I was still shaking his hand, so I dropped it awkwardly and bowed again.
“Your Royal Highness,” I stuttered, trying to not look like a complete alcoholic. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” By this point, I wasn’t even sure if I was still speaking English.
“This is my wife, Kate”, William said, and Kate stepped forward and offered her hand, which I took and bowed again. Kate was easily the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on up close. Her skin was flawless. Does she even have pores? I was quite close to her, and I have to say, I don’t think she does. She was just bathed in perfection. Her hair was half up and half down, but the half that was up appeared to be held up by absolutely nothing as if her hair was so royal and magical that it had just weaved itself into whatever style she desired. She was breathtaking, in every sense of the word, and I was drunk. What a combination.
“Your Royal Highness,” I blurted out, “Thank you for having me here today”.
“Tell me about your theatre company”, she said, looking genuinely interested.
“We produce musical theatre, and we create training and performance opportunities for young artists,” I said, struggling to put words together into an intelligible sentence.
“That must keep you very busy” she inquired.
“Yes, it does,” I said. “But it’s very rewarding. I love helping young people follow their passion”.
And then Kate gave me a knowing look like she was pondering something deeply meaningful.
Time sort of stopped for a second and everything went quiet.
I couldn’t hear the noise of everyone else in the room anymore.
There was a kind of silence and a sense of expectation.
It wasn’t just the alcohol. It was something else.
Something bigger than the moment we were in.
““Investing in young people is investing in the future,” she said to me. “We are their stepping stones, the bridge to their dreams.”
And that, right there, was the spark of the Collective Dream, conjured by the future heir to the throne, and passed on to little old me.
In that moment, where time seemingly stood still, I saw a vision in my mind of hundreds and thousands of young performers all gathered together, holding hands, right across the country, and across the world. I saw their faces, smiling, beaming, unified across the globe, joined by their love of the arts and of each other. They were like a network, all interconnected, and intertwined, all helping each other, and leaning on each other, and supporting one another.
Something Kate knew to be true sparked up against something I deeply understood, and for a moment there was this kind of synergy, this strange connectedness, this deep understanding, this common vision, and it lingered with me long after the moment had passed.
I don’t remember what happened after that.
Did I talk more?
Did I thank her?
Did I say goodbye?
How did I get home?
I honestly don’t remember.
But that moment with the Duchess and her words are burnt into my memory forever.
That brief conversation with her ignited something in me that burnt like a fire for the days and weeks that followed.
A bridge to their dreams.
I couldn’t get that phrase out of my head.
We are their stepping stones.
Yes, that’s right.
We lay down all that we are and all that we know so that those who follow us can stand on our shoulders and climb further and higher and go up and beyond. Those specific words sparked the image in my mind of the thousands of faces of young artists across the globe, all looking out towards me as if they were calling me. Yearning for something. Thousands of young hearts beckoning. I thought of our arena shows, and of the effect the whole experience was having on thousands of young creative people from all walks of life, and Kate’s words played in my mind.
We are a bridge to their dreams.
We are their stepping stones.
I began to realise that what we were doing was not just putting on a show. It was much more than that. We were creating a network. A network of creative young people. Making a safe space for them all; a place where they all could belong, where they could share their passion and inspiration, connect and learn and journey onwards together.
We were their stepping stone.
We were the bridge to their dreams.
Over the years, it was always the memory of Kate’s words and the power of the Collective Dream that fueled my efforts to grow Harvest Rain into what it has become today - the world’s largest youth arts organisation. We are now a community with over 25,000 active members; the largest gathering of creative young people on the planet. Our organisation has become a major hub for creative youth, a safe space for artistic teens where they can grow and learn and connect and be inspired, and the evolution of our company into this immense and powerful gathering was triggered by that chance drunken encounter with a Princess, when we both harnessed a single puzzle piece of the Collective Dream, and the magic of the universe began its work.
To purchase a copy of DAREDEVIL DREAMER, click here