When Trentham’s Kieran Pestridge underwent a life changing operation at the age of 17, little did he know then that – as well as being able to walk independently without the use of medical equipment for the first time, he would go on to start something which is now somewhat of a musical masterclass. After learning to play the guitar following his operation, Kieran went on to perform in several cover bands and also performed as a solo artist playing at venues throughout Stoke-on-Trent and further afield. But this Jack Black lookalike always felt there was something missing in his music and was unable to settle. That was until 2017 when Kieran was approached at a gig and asked to perform as Jack Black from the comedy musical film School of Rock, which has also had a TV series and has been adapted for theatre for London’s West End and beyond. And the rest as they say is history…
“I had a big operation as I had Cerebral palsy and I could not walk without medical equipment,” says Kieran. “I had always wanted to play the guitar but the cerebral palsy got the better of me. But then when I could walk it spurred me on to do music – the doctors gave me a set of wings and let me fly. I had guitar lessons, played in a lot of Indie bands and I also went solo for a bit, but I never felt settled.”
Kieran adds: “I was approached at a gig and asked to come up with something a bit different and to be a Jack Black lookalike. I took up the opportunity, enjoyed it and then decided I could do a lot more with it.”
With the support of friends and family, including partner Jodi Carthy, uncle Gary Hurlstone, guitar teacher John Thorrington and Dean Fradley of the Rhythm Foundry Music School, Stoke-on-Trent’s very own School of Rock tribute band – Teachers Pet – was formed. As a Jack Black lookalike, Kieran is the oldest member at aged 30, with the eight other members aged between 12 and 25. After doing several gigs the band were invited to perform at a charity event hosted by 6 Towns Radio in Burslem in December 2017, and since then they have performed at various venues throughout Stoke-on-Trent. In 2018 they shone at the Lymelight Festival in Newcastle-under-Lyme as well as others and 2019 is looking as busy as ever. In June 2019 Teachers Pet Rock are set to perform at Conwy Rocks to help raise funds for young children in the NHS.
Kieran adds: “It means a lot to be able to perform for a good cause as I spent a lot of my childhood in hospitals. I actually watched the film School of Rock whilst I was in hospital and I loved it – I wanted to be in the film.”
It was also whilst in hospital at Oswestry, on the last day of receiving physiotherapy treatment after his operation, when Kieran – unknown to him at the time – had a vision about the band he was set to create.
“I was waiting to go home and a nurse handed me a notepad and pen and asked me to draw a picture of where I wanted to be in ten years,” says Kieran. “I drew a guy with black hair, wearing shorts and playing a guitar. I had never played a guitar then or sang. When I look at the picture now it’s mad because that is where I’ve sort of ended up. A lot of people say to me it’s meant to be!”
Kieran no doubt is enjoying his music now and is settled with the School of Rock tribute band but admits one of the most important aspects is also to provide the young musicians of Stoke-on-Trent with opportunities. He says, “I know what it was like when I was 17, starting out and at that age it’s sometimes difficult to get gigs. It’s nice to give the younger ones an opportunity to go out there and perform. Our band allows them to gain the experience to take with them for the future. They all work together and they love it – it’s me who gets nervous – they are fine and enjoy it.”
In Kieran Pestridge’s own words he was handed a set of wings which enabled him to fly, and with his dedicated members the School of Rock tribute band – Teachers Pet – is certainly soaring towards the success they deserve. Perhaps Kieran should draw another picture for the next ten years ahead…
**See Teachers Pet on Facebook here.
**With thanks to photographer Edward Handley and behindedslens photography for main image and the image of Kieran Pestridge – both taken at the Lymelight Festival 2018.**