‘I just want to be a good dad’

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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In the darkest days of his young son’s life, Josh Clark would sing to ease his pain.

Little Jayden could spasm and go stiff up to 30 times a day before he was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy. But his 22-year-old dad would pull out his guitar and use the sound of his voice to soothe him into sleep.

IN SONG Aspiring musician and former Royal Marine, Josh Clark.  'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (120833-2)

IN SONG Aspiring musician and former Royal Marine, Josh Clark. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120833-2)

Now Josh is hoping to use his skills as a musician to raise awareness of West syndrome.

And he’s made it through to the next round of a competition which could set him on the path to fame and fortune.

With a top prize of £10,000, winning would give Josh the chance to give Jayden regular treatment that could make a real difference to his life.

‘Winning would mean a lot to me,’ says Josh. ‘You’re talking about a lot of money and that would put me in a good position to support Jayden.

Josh with his son Jayden,  who has West syndrome.

Josh with his son Jayden, who has West syndrome.

‘That’s what I want most – to be a good dad.’

Within a few months of Jayden’s birth, it was clear something was wrong.

The new routine of coping with a baby was soon shattered when Jayden began to suffer from seizures.

‘He stopped breathing and started to turn blue,’ remembers Josh, a personal fitness instructor from Gosport.

‘He looked like he’d died. I picked him up and whacked him on the back as hard as I could and that put the air into him.

‘He would go blue and stay like that for a minute or two. We’d wet his face and sometimes that would shock him back into life.

‘At the worst he could do that 20 or 30 times a day.’

At first doctors told them he had reflux but the diagnosis was at odds with what they were witnessing.

After seeking a second opinion that involved him having ECGs and MRI scans, they were told he had infantile spasms, or West syndrome.

Jayden was put on steroids and a special high-fat diet, designed to ease the seizures.

‘It’s not easy,’ says Josh. ‘When he was really bad the prognosis was not more than five years.

‘I just hope he’ll be able to walk and keep up with his learning. It’s a very rare thing. There’s not a lot of treatments for it.’

Josh is no longer with Jayden’s mum and at the moment his little boy is in Poland getting treatment.

On the NHS, Jayden could only access 30 minutes of physiotherapy a week but his parents have been told having treatment every day will make a real difference.

Paying for physio sessions privately in this country would cost around £600 a week. But in Poland it works out at around half the price.

‘Going out there and seeing him in hospital makes you realise it’s not about me it’s about him,’ he adds.

‘As long as he can walk and smile even – because he hardly ever smiles, in his lifetime I’ve only seen him smile once or twice – I’ll be happy. But it’s very difficult.’

Like most parents, Josh has had to make sacrifices to see his son and in his case that involved leaving the Royal Marines.

Josh had joined the Royal Navy at 16, straight after leaving school.

And during his time in the navy he went on deployment to Iraq in 2008 and was part of the British forces responsible for helping to evacuate Lebanon in 2006.

Josh’s guitar was always at his side on deployment and he’d sing to keep morale up.

But in the end he decided he wanted more of a challenge and passed his Royal Marine training in August 2011.

If Jayden hadn’t been diagnosed, it’s likely that Josh would have been deployed to Afghanistan.

However, when he found out how ill his son was, all Josh could think of was staying at home.

‘The marines were really helpful and gave me a lot of time off,’ he says. ‘I put in a transfer so I could keep my job but I wanted to leave altogether.

‘I didn’t want to but I couldn’t really concentrate. We were getting ready to go to Afghanistan and I was going to be away a lot.

‘Being a marine is amazing if you’re 18 and haven’t got responsibilities.’

When he left the marines he really began writing his own material – including an emotion-packed song dedicated to Jayden.

‘When you go away all you think about is people at home,’ he adds. ‘It’s always hanging over your head, it’s always in the back of your mind.

‘Now I can do my music, I can spend more time here.

‘I write my own songs and the ones that are quite popular are about my experiences, the ones about my life, especially the song I wrote for Jayden. I wouldn’t rock it out at a gig but what really does it for me as a musician is the emotion.’

Josh considered auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent but decided against it, fearing it would be too commercial.

But he did apply to take part in the Portsmouth heats of Live and Unsigned – a competition dedicated to rooting out talented musicians.

‘The thing that appealed to me about Live and Unsigned is that it’s like X Factor for musicians,’ he adds.

‘You’re judged by a panel of industry experts and that really appeals.’

Performing under the stage name Remedysounds, Josh has a distinctive style that involves rapping and singing. As well as playing the guitar he uses a loop pedal – similar to the one used by Scottish singer KT Tunstall – to record and play back segments while he’s performing.

The first round of Live and Unsigned was at Highlight at Gunwharf Quays and Josh had to compete against hundreds of other hopefuls. He was delighted to impress the judges enough to get through to the next round.

For now he’s looking forward to preparing for the regional final of the competition next month (see panel) and being reunited with his son.

‘Jayden’s great,’ he adds. ‘He has his own personality, he likes it when I sing to him. I used to sing him to sleep.

‘I just want him to be able to walk. As long as he can walk and look after himself he can be happy.

‘I think about him all the time. Families are important.’

HE’S IN THE FINAL

Josh Clark will be competing in the regional final of Live and Unsigned after making it through the audition stage, beating hundreds of other hopefuls to earn his place.

The next round takes place on April 22 at Highlight, in Portsmouth, when musicians will be competing for the opportunity to go forward to the grand final at Live Fest at The O2 in London.

Live and Unsigned is the biggest original music competition in the UK for unsigned bands and artists.

Attracting more than 50,000 entries in the past five years, it has set itself apart from its predecessors by offering and promoting originality. It’s now established as the definitive music competition for original acts and it’s open to all genres of music from heavy rock to rap.

Birdy – who had a hit with her song Skinny Love – is a previous Live and Unsigned winner.

This year’s acts will be competing for the main prizes which include; £10,000 to be spent on development, a further £10,000 for publicity investment; slots at more than 30 international festivals; a UK tour of up to 100 shows plus a UK festival tour.