Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

X Factor's Janet Devlin: 'I wish I'd told mum earlier that school bullies were making my life a misery'

Family support: Janet Devlin with her mum Pat
Family support: Janet Devlin with her mum Pat
Janet Devlin performing on the X Factor
Family support: Janet Devlin with collaborator Newton Faulkner

She stood out as a special talent on the X Factor because of her unique style and voice, but just a few years earlier daring to be different made Janet Devlin's life a misery.

Bullied mercilessly for years at school because of her individuality, the talented teen who is on the cusp of a successful music career with her debut single Wonderful, due out on Monday, has lent her support to Anti-Bullying Week this week.

Since her famous X Factor performances in 2011, Janet – who turned 19 last week – has been working hard in England writing songs for her first album.

This week she took time out of a busy promotion schedule to talk about her experience of being bullied at school and lend her support to the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) campaign whose theme this year is 'I See, I Hear, I Feel'.

Janet, from Gortin in Co Tyrone, has always stood her ground when it comes to following her heart, even at the cost of her happiness while in secondary school.

Simply because of her very different musical tastes and personal style, from the age of 11 Janet endured three years of intense name calling and bullying which made her life hell.

The last major study into bullying in Northern Ireland found that the most common form remains name calling, being made fun of, or teased in a hurtful way.

Janet knows exactly what this feels like.

She says: "It started when I went to secondary school when I was just starting to find out who I was as a person.

"I was into Emo and a bit of a Goth and because I dressed differently to everyone else, the other kids didn't like it.

"It got to the stage when I couldn't get the school bus home because of the abuse.

"It lasted until I was 14 when I made friends and that made it easier.

"I was mocked because of my style and clothes and I remember a couple of girls told me to slit my wrists.

"I was quite different; I wore skinny jeans which back then weren't really in, although everyone is wearing them now.

"I was called a dyke because I wore Doc Martins.

"It didn't feel nice. It made me very sad.

"It also made me question who I was and, for a while I tried to dress like everyone else and listen to what everyone else was listening to just to try and fit in and make it stop. Then I went back to being myself and knew it was ok to be different as long as it made me happy."

Janet did confide in one teacher who came across her crying in school.

She was gutted when he broke her confidence and rang the parents of one of the bullies which she said made things worse.

However, she does regret the fact that she kept the bullying a secret from her parents and other staff at the school and advises young people not to suffer in silence like she did.

"I didn't talk to anyone about it, which was pretty stupid.

"I still think kids need to talk to someone they can trust and realise that they don't have to be alone.

"Also they need to know that they should not blame themselves."

Janet continued to remain true to herself even after her very successful five-week run on the X Factor.

Although she received numerous label offers to record an album after the show, she turned them all down because she wasn't being allowed any creative input.

Instead Janet has done things her own way and during the past 18 months has invested everything she has made through touring and fundraising via a PledgeMusic crowd funding campaign, into furthering her songwriting.

During this time, Janet has also been co-writing with top recording artists Joshua Radin, Jack Savoretti and Newton Faulkner, whom she cites as major inspirations alongside Red Hot Chili Peppers and Devendra Banhart.

She is due to appear on the sofa of This Morning tomorrow for the start of a hectic round of promotional interviews for her debut single which she co-wrote with Newton Faulkner via a new venture with Indie label Insomnia Music Records.

Wonderful has been described as "an infectious and upbeat folk driven pop song that beautifully showcases Janet's unique and enchanting vocal talent".

A video for the single, filmed in the Lake District, was directed by Gary Dumbill, who has previously worked with the likes of Blue and The Noisettes and which features Janet walking through an enchanted forest.

She has just finished her first sold out solo tour of the UK and her debut album 'Hide & Seek' will be released early in 2014.

She says: "It's been hard work and I haven't been home in months but I am planning to get home for Christmas.

"I was so glad I did the X Factor when I was 16. It was tough but it made me grow up quite fast.

"I was offered a few record deals afterwards but they all wanted to rush out an album and although there were promises that I would be able to do my own thing on a second album, what they wanted was completely different from what I wanted so I turned them down.

"I decided to do PledgeMusic which would give me full creative control. Around 4,000 people supported it which was quite cool and which really surprised me.

"I've got to work with some big names in the music industry. The songs have been written by myself and Newton Faulkner who is someone I look up to, and that was pretty cool.

"We will just have to wait and see how it goes now. It's daunting but exciting."

650 schools sign-up for Anti-Bullying Week campaign

Over 650 schools and youth groups across Northern Ireland are taking part in Anti-Bullying Week which runs until tomorrow.

The campaign is co-ordinated by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) and supported by Translink.

Under the theme, 'I See, I Hear, I Feel', the week aims to provide an opportunity for schools and youth groups to work with young people to explore how they communicate with each other, both online and in person, and how bullying can happen.

This could include name-calling, teasing, mocking, dirty looks, spreading gossip, nasty text messages and embarrassing posts online.

The last major study into bullying in Northern Ireland asked pupils about their experiences of bullying in the past couple of months and found that the most common form of bullying for pupils in both Year 6 (42%) and Year 9 (36%) remains being called names, being made fun of, or teased in a hurtful way.

Lee Kane (below), regional anti-bullying co-ordinator with NIABF, explains the impact bullying can have on a young person: "While name calling remains the most common form of bullying at all ages, pupils in Year 6 also cited being left out, excluded or ignored (36%), as well as being subjected to rude gestures (35%) as major concerns.

"For pupils in Year 9 the second most frequent type of bullying was spreading lies and rumours about peers (30%), with being excluded (26%)."

Lee adds: "It is clear that how we talk to, and about, each other is a key concern for many. We must remember that this is not limited to the physical world, but also includes how we communicate online and through smart phones.

"The participation of schools, youth groups, parents, children and young people is critical."

For further information go to www.endbullying.org.uk.

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