Presenter, DJ, comedian, dad of twins, fundraiser and ADHD sufferer – Ryan Swain is up for two Yorkshire Choice awards.
Catherine Scott meets him.
“I wouldn’t be the performer I am today if I didn’t have ADHD,” says Ryan Swain.
“People often concentrate on the negative side of conditions like ADHD, but I wouldn’t be able to do everything I do if I didn’t have and I learnt early on to accept who I am. There is a dark side to ADHD, and maybe for four or five days a year I get down and take myself off until I feel more positive.”
Ryan, is resident host of Flamingo Land’s Party in the Park, a stand-up comic, radio presenter, fundraiser, mental health campaigner, dad of two- year-old identical twin girls Ivy and Isla – all this while holding down a day job at a specialist car company in Malton.
“I am an expert juggler, especially now the twins have come along,” says Ryan, 26, who lives in Malton with his partner Natalia and their twin girls. He has just been nominated for two Yorkshire Choice Awards – Yorkshire Media Personality Of The Year and the Kate Granger Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognises people who have given significant and lasting contributions to others.
“I am overwhelmed and flabbergasted to receive these nominations,” says Ryan. “They reflect both sides of my life – the performer and the fundraiser. I don’t do what I do to get awards but it is always nice to get some recognition.”
Ryan was only diagnosed as having ADHD when he was 21.
“A lot of people think that only children get ADHD and then they grow out of it, sadly that’s not true. I have had it my whole life, and now have Adult ADHD, a condition which is becoming more familiar in society.
“I was the school clown as I had an ability to make people laugh without actually having to do a great deal. I could never sit still and struggled with listening, but no one ever recognised what the problem was.”
Ryan has tried medication in the past but says he ended up in hospital and so now uses supplements, coffee and self- control to channel his ADHD.
“I always say that having ADHD is like having the mind of a Ferrari and the brakes of a Ford Escort. I struggle with listening and have had to learn when to keep my mouth shut.
“But what really upsets me is when people think I am on drugs because I talk very quickly and am full of energy and constantly moving around. They often don’t believe me even when I tell them that I have ADHD and that can be frustrating.” Ryan was put on an education programme at the age of 14 with young offenders which made him ‘feel like a criminal’. But that was the drive he needed to get his head down. “In the space of two years I managed to complete my full course work, get five grade C GCSEs and a National Diploma in Performing Arts.” Ryan kick-started his presenting career at Flamingo Land Resort and has performed at numerous events across the country. He has also become a social media star, going out to thousands of followers across the world online doing popular comedy videos about mental health, parenting and entertainment.
“But my favourite thing is performing to a live audience,” he says. “I find the best way to raise awareness of ADHD and mental health is to build it into my comedy. I did my first stand-up gig as a teenager in pubs around Malton and so I have learnt the hard way.” Ryan started fund-raising at a young age and he said he had a desire to help those he felt were less fortunate than himself. “I was born with a heart condition which meant at the age of four I had to have a heart operation at Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds which has now been sadly demolished.
“My parents nearly lost me and I think that changes how you look at life. I have always thought that I have been given a second chance and wanted to do something to help others and the community where I live.”
But, Ryan being Ryan, he wasn’t content with doing something as simple as a sponsored run. Instead, having been a keen skateboarder in his youth, he decided to skateboard from Malton to Scarborough and back again for a brain tumour charity.
“I had a friend who died of a brain tumour and she was only 18. I really loved watching Record Breakers on television when I was a kid and so I thought it would be an idea to try to break a record by skateboarding 52 miles to Scarbrough and back.”
Ryan raised more than £6,000 and broke the world record.
His next challenge was to get a group of lads, some ex-offenders, together to put on a performance of The Full Monty for charity.
“At the time I was out of work and struggling with my mental health; it just seemed like a good thing to give everyone something positive to focus on. We didn’t mean for it to be like the film, but in the end it was, performing in Malton Working Men’s Club. We raised £2,500 for children with cancer.”
Over the last few years Ryan has devoted hundreds of hours of his time to help others, always wanting to put something positive back in to his community. They include a woman who needed a DJ for her daughter’s 30th birthday.
“Her daughter has Down’s Syndrome and DJs wanted to charge her the full price. I saw it on Twitter and so I did it for nothing.”
He hopes 2018 will really be his year. “I have become friends with a lot of celebrities and I am really about to hit the big time. I would love to be able to concentrate on performance full-time but we will see.” But he will never turn his back on his charity work and hopes to become a patron of the ADHD Foundation, alongside impressionist Rory Bremner who has also been diagnosed with the condition.
“My message to anyone with ADHD is to accept who you are. If I can achieve, then anyone can.”
The Yorkshire Choice Awards aims to honour the region’s most inspirational local organisations, entrepreneurs and individuals.
Having raised more than £20,000 for local charities in the last two years, the duo behind the awards – Melanie Malcolm and Jo Maltby – are aiming to raise even more this year for their chosen charity, St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds.
Voters can select one person from each of the category sections, although they are limited to one voting form per IP address.
Votes can be made online at yorkshirechoiceawards.co.uk until March 16.
Winners will be announced at a gala dinner on April 13 at The Centenary Pavilions, Elland Road, in Leeds.