Jay returned ‘from the dead’ to teach East Enders to sing
JAY Kamiraz has finally ventured back to the East End 14 years after he nearly died in a brutal street attack as a teenager and following years of being bullied in school.
He was on life support in hospital and spent two months in the Royal London before he could return home.
It was enough for the 17-year-old to quit the East End when he went off to university, vowing never to return.
But Jay, now 31, has returned to “put something back into the community,” running a weekly workshop teaching self-confidence and esteem through singing in a choir.
He knows something of self-confidence after his experiences as a teenager.
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“I was to give back to the community that helped me,” he says. “I left the East End at 17 because of the bullying.
“I was attacked because I was different to the other boys.
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“I didn’t have faith after months in hospital and didn’t think I was going to live. I was in such a low state of mind.
“Whatever confidence I had was knocked out of me by the attack. I didn’t feel like I had any support or love at the time.”
But Jay, who grew up in a family of nine in cramped conditions in Whitechapel’s Old Montague Street, was given a second chance at life following extensive surgery and 16 months of painstaking recovery, as he began piecing his life back together.
He fought back against the odds and has since been nominated for a Prince’s Trust ‘Enterprise’ award for his zeal in helping others.
“I became a strong person because of it,” he recalls. “I now go out and achieve more. Those who attacked me still hang out in the East End doing the same thing. They have got nowhere in life.”
He went on to university and got a BA degree in visual arts and psychology.
“My family were humble people form India,” he tells you. “They taught me humility in my life.”
Jay later set up his Souls of Prophecy gospel choir to raise funds for victims of the 2004 Tsunami disaster and to bring people together to give them self-confidence. It had just three bookings in its first year, but over the past 12 months has sung at 50 events. Fans include veteran entertainer Lionel Blair.
The success got him thinking he could turn his passion into a full-time business. Jay successfully applied to the Prince’s Trust for a loan to set up his JK Creative Arts company which runs a programme of ‘Sing to Smile’ workshops. He is currently running Monday morning sessions over the next four weeks at Bethnal Green’s new Mowlem Children’s centre for mothers who need that helping hand to boost their self-esteem.
However, Jay feels there is a lack of this type of integrated workshops to help community groups. His campaign tries to break that mould with workshops that build confidence, teamwork, communication and character.
The programme has already run ‘pilot’ sessions which were so successful with single mothers that it led to a performance at the opening of the Mowlem’s centre in July and the current series of workshops there.
Future workshops are planned, with the ‘Sing to Smile’ experiment Jay has been running in his native East End likely to be introduced across London in the New Year.
His Gospel singers, meanwhile, go from strength to strength, voted Britain’s fifth ‘best choir’ by BBC Radio 3. It has performed for Prince Charles, on BBC TV and radio, on ITV, on Radio Europe—and even had a spot on TV’s EastEnders, as if to remind Jay of his Whitechapel roots.