Singer-songwriter and singing teacher
Singer-songwriter and singing teacher
What brought you to England?
I first came to London just for the summer, after completing my studies in Poland. My plan was to earn some money and I worked as a waitress. Because I’m a singer, I also wanted to make some music contacts and start my career here in England. I’m a classically trained opera singer, but I did not want to do opera at the time. So I started researching jazz and pop music courses in the UK. I found Leeds College of Music very interesting, the pop course in particular – it’s the best and one of the most popular courses in the country. So after I earned some money in London, I came to Leeds – and here I am! I’m now a student at the Leeds College of music.
When you first moved to England, did you encounter any problems?
The beginnings are difficult everywhere. I moved here on my own, without any family or friends, so I was a little bit lonely and making friends was a problem. Also, I found that my English was rubbish! [laugh]. So I had to learn the language. I’m still learning it, actually. I’ve only lived here for two years, and all my life I was learning German, not English. But now I no longer have these moments when I cannot express myself; I can communicate easily now.
How have you managed to overcome these difficulties?
Everything came with time – I made new friends, I found a place to sing and perform. My friends helped me a lot during this period. Leeds College of Music enabled me to make many new contacts.
How did you find learning the English language? Was it difficult?
English is not very difficult compared to other languages. It was new to me, but I knew some English because I’ve been singing in English. I’ve been translating song lyrics from English into Polish for years, because it’s important to me to understand what it is that I’m singing about. People comment on how much I’ve improved my English, but it came really naturally to me, mostly by talking to people – I didn’t do any serious studying. I had three-hour English and Polish language-exchange lessons with Brin (the co-author of Poles in the UK) each week, so that also helped a lot, because he’s a fantastic teacher.
How does it feel to live in England now?
It’s getting better, it’s good! I really enjoy my course. It’s my priority at the moment and I concentrate on my studies and my music – I’m aiming to release my first album this year. Having learnt the language is a major advantage. Living in England is an adventure for me. It is challenge – and I like challenges! What would I do in Poland? Probably get married and have kids. But instead, I’m now launching my career and doing all these interesting things, which people my age in Poland often don’t get to do. I’m happy here.
What do you think about British people? Have you had positive interactions with them? Have you come across any prejudice?
I have never come across any prejudice from British people. I think they’re very sweet and helpful. Once when I got lost in the city centre I walked into an office to ask for directions, and the staff even printed some maps off for me! People are very friendly, especially here in the North. I found that London can feel quite cold, probably because it is a busy capital. But here in Leeds people are warmer. The only thing which I find strange about English people – it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just different – is that Polish people are very open and frank, and English people sometimes seem too nice, too polite! [laugh]. Sometimes I’d like to know if anything is wrong – but an English person will not tell me, because they don’t want to make me feel bad! But of course it’s better to be like this than to be rude – so I still prefer it this way.
What do you think is your contribution to Leeds, or Yorkshire?
Over the last few years I’ve performed many gigs in Yorkshire, in pubs, restaurants and wine bars, especially in the Leeds area. In a duo with a keyboard player, I perform my original songs and cover versions of songs in the charts, for example by Adele and Paloma Faith. You can watch videos and listen to my music on my YouTube channel, Kinga K.
I also teach singing to both children and adults from the Leeds area. For example, I have worked with Bobby (an eight-year-old) and Grace (also eight), helping them improve their music skills, teaching them to sing songs which they like and helping to build their confidence. On Christmas Eve 2015, I launched a special video on YouTube of me and Bobby performing a bilingual version of ‘Silent Night’, which we filmed in the amazing interior of Leeds Minster. I also teach adults singing too, including those who want to prepare for competitions, improve their confidence or people who always wanted to sing, but were never able to afford lessons.
I’m very passionate about cooking, especially recipes from my home country, and love to introduce my British friends to traditional dishes from Poland. And I’ve had some wonderful comments back, in particular for my ‘signature’ dish, żurek (a sour, sausage soup).
What’s your plan for the future?
I still have one year of my studies left. For now, I’m staying in England, but no-one can tell what the future holds! I would prefer to go somewhere else, maybe the United States, but probably not back to Poland – unless I’m a celebrity by then! [laugh]. I also plan to develop my cooking skills, as I think cooking is a very creative pursuit, much like my making music. I’m hoping to launch a cooking blog in the next few months.
COPYRIGHT AUGUST 2016 - BRIN BEST & MARIA HELENA ZUKOWSKA
Many more stories of Polish people in Britain can be found in 'POLES IN THE UK: A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP AND COOPERATION', which was published by The British Polonia Foundation (UK charity 1168711) in August 2016. To download the free eBook PDF version click the link on the home page.