At the age of just seven-years-old, Nico Singh found himself homeless.
Following a change in family circumstances, Nico, along with his mum and his sister, had to upend their lives and moved into women’s homeless shelter Kirton Lodge in Beaumont Leys.
The now 29-year-old said: “When you are young and you go through homelessness, you don’t really know what is going on.
“It didn’t really affect me much then, I was more affected by it when I was homeless again as a teenager.”
When he was in Kirton Lodge, Nico’s mum met some ladies who encouraged her to move to Braunstone – somewhere the family had never been before, having lived previously in the Evington area.
The little family did just that, and Nico said it was very strange as he and his sister were the only children of South Asian heritage in their primary school.
He said: “That area was seen in quite a negative light, in the late 90s when we were there, but for us it was mostly very positive.
“It was at a time when there was a redevelopment programme taking place, and there was a fund for youth provision.”
Nico says that it was this youth scheme that really helped him through the toughest points in his life – particularly when he experienced homelessness again.
When he was 15, he and his family had to leave the housing association house they were living in and they ended up back in a hostel.
Nico said: “I was doing my GCSEs at the time, and it was very stressful for both me and my sister to just be displaced, and you don’t really know what’s happening.
“We just had to deal with it.”
Following their second stay in Kirton Lodge, the family returned to Braunstone and Nico achieved the grades he needed to go to college, where he studied art and design.
However, the troubles were unfortunately not over for Nico, as following a relationship breakdown with his mum, Nico found himself homeless again at 19.
He said: “I lived in a hostel called Park Lodge, and that was eye opening.
“I had to apply for job seekers allowance in order to get housing benefit.
“But then, if you get a job, you have to pay for the hostel – and it’s a lot of money. Young people who were there got stuck in a vicious cycle, because after you pay all the costs you end up with nothing, so can’t get out. It was really hard.
“When you 19 or 20 years old, you have friends who are going out, or are at university – and I was scraping together what I could to pay for food and a cheap phone contract.
“I felt like a bit of a loner at that age.”
He added: “I wasn’t able to get a job until five or six months later that meant that I could get out of there.”
Nico got a job at NatWest and patched things up with his mum, and he says he feels lucky compared to other young people who he was living with in the hostel.
He added: “There weren’t many young people there, and those who were, perhaps didn’t have the education I had had through my youth project.”
He was NVQ qualified at just 15-years-old, and thinks he was probably one of the youngest youth workers in the country.
He said: “The project involved us helping other people, but really I felt like it was helping me the most.”
After getting his job and moving to a small flat, Nico visited his first dance music event in Sheffield, after enjoying the genre for years. This was the first experience that led to him changing his life.
He said: “Seeing the artists I had been listening to in the flesh was amazing – I loved everything about it.
“In 2012 I started going to gigs almost every single week, and after six months of going to these events I wondered why there was nothing like it in Leicester.”
He started to research running a business and how he could bring the dance music scene to the city, and took a leap of faith and started his own company specialising in dance music club nights – called Beastwang.
He said: “My art and design experience helped with the marketing and I’ve always been inclined towards a financial career.
“A lot of people get into this by working for someone else, but I was just a customer so I just put on my own dance music night and that’s how I got started.”
What began as a club night with some friends, and then friends of friends has spiralled massively over the last eight years and last November, Nico’s company sold out all three rooms at the O2 in London – putting on a dance music night for 2,300 people from all over the country.
A feat he achieved again in February this year.
Since then, Nico has expanded his portfolio and now owns a cocktail bar with his business partner and dance music artist PJ Govind, 28 – who goes by the stage name Yumna Black – in Leicester, called Sophy, in King Street, appropriately on the site the old underground dance club Sub8Ten.
He also runs an artist management service and a record label – called Wang Records – which has already had its artists played regularly on Radio 1.
While the pandemic has had a big impact on his business, meaning he is moving back to Braunstone from his home in Knighton, Nico is not put off and is working hard to get his club nights going again when he can, and expand them across the UK. He says he also wants to focus more on the record label.
He has also started a podcast called ‘Last Night A Rave Saved My Life’, where he talks about his experiences and his love of dance music.
He said: “My goal is to show that dance music is more than just a bunch of people jumping around in a room, it’s about diversity and we want to create a safe space for people from all backgrounds to come and enjoy themselves.”
The first episode of Nico’s podcast is now streaming in Spotify and Apple Music.