Meet Dan Flanagan from Dad La Soul!
Tell us about your company:
DLS is a revolutionary, grassroots movement that uses arts, tech, and music to battle the social isolation or loneliness in dads that I set up as a profit for-purpose social enterprise six years ago. We run a network of dad/child only playdates across the UK, producing everything from stand-up comedy and rap workshops in old folks homes to silent disco, beach cleaning raves that sit nicely alongside Lego, soft-play and crafting. The idea is that dads need something of their own to make friends, talk honestly and let off steam with their kids in a safe space. During the lockdown, we launched the "Dad La Soul Sessions", a dads-only event that runs monthly on a Thursday night. It brings together dads from all over the country to laugh, talk openly, access professional wellness and mental health experts free of charge, watch stand-up comedians and take part in challenges. We also produce an online magazine, a new merchandise range and an audio documentary series. All of these are made for dads, by dads that tell our stories in the way we want Fatherhood doesn't come with a rulebook, and, as I know from personal experience, how difficult and lonely 'Dadulthood' can be. At Dad La Soul, all the activities and content sparks conversation. If I were to say in a pub, "Hey, middle-aged men, come over here and talk about your problems", I’d be showered in strange looks and a chorus of "Not me mate, I'm fine" – But I know different. 73 % of members admitted to feeling socially isolated. One minute we’ll have dads from all over the UK debating why “The Stone Roses” are the greatest band ever and laughing at the ensuing banter. Then, in a heartbeat, someone will open up about their gambling issues and the unprocessed grief of stillbirth. Next someone will ask how to support a teenage daughter with her periods and eating disorders, or is it ok that their five-year, West-Ham mad lad only wants to dress like a princess?. Then the doors get flung open and they have access to a wealth of support, advice or just someone to listen to them vent safely. That is an incredibly powerful thing. Through my work with the Dad La Soulies, I have been privileged to be part of all these conversations and more. .
Why did you start or decide to work at your company?
As a middle-aged man, it is pretty embarrassing to say, 'Hey, I'm a "Billy-no-mates", and I would like some proper friends to chat about more than which team won the league. There are so many men like me: isolated, stressed out, and suffering from Imposter Syndrome – feeling like they were failing as a dad. There are 96 men under the age of 45 being lost to suicide in this country every week. Why? Because men don't talk, and we desperately need to change that
Tell us about your family!
I have a wonderfully lively 9 year old boy, that I co-parent.
What was the hardest thing about becoming a dad?
I don't think there is one thing, it's a mix – The guilt of working too much, but still having to provide. The guilt of feeling "not good enough", even though you are.
Has being a dad impacted your career? How?
From a career perspective, I'd spent the last 20 odd years in digital/PR. I started in the music industry, and back in 2015 ended up as a senior analyst for an international media agency. On paper, it was great, big-name clients, decent salary and funky offices – But it was utterly soul-destroying. I'd sold out everything I believed in for a step on the greasy corporate ladder because that is what men were supposed to do. At the time, I was also struggling with my father passing away. I did the typical male thing and buried my head in work rather than deal with it, to the point where not coping with the loss, the stress of commuting, doing a job that I hated made me really ill, both physically and mentally. I realised that I was leaving to go to work before my son got up and got home to see him go to bed if I was lucky. Even then, I wasn't fully present; my phone and emails were my priority because that was my role, the provider, as I saw it. Being ill gave me a massive wake-up call. Something needed to change. I ended up quitting that job to start a revolution .
What's one thing you've learned from your child/ children?
To be more patient. Different people run on different rhythms, and that is OK.
How has being a dad made you a better/ different leader?
I genuinely believe that becoming a Dad has made to look at the world in a very different way. I'm a lot more honest about what I not very good at, and where my strengths lie.Being able to delegate and get out of the team's way, to allow them to focus on the what they do well,.makes the boat go faster.