This website is written in the first person so I would have the chance to share some thoughts here.
Music has been very good to me. I’ve been all over the world courtesy of its embrace, and met some very interesting folks along the way. In the early 2000’s I began to wonder how I could share my musical skills in a way that would broadly benefit my community, away from the stage and the recording studio. I focussed on working with people for whom access to music was restricted. Initially in a voluntary capacity, I began to work with adults with learning disabilities. I ran a music group at The Westminster Society (now known as the London Disability Network) devising accessible musical games that could stand up as performances; pieces and systems that didn’t rely on retention of musical material – just an understanding of the “rules” of the games. I leaned a great deal over the three years I was at the Westminster Society.
Around the same time I was doing a lot of theatre work with author/director Chris Johnston. Chris was a real mentor to me and I worked very closely with him on dozens of projects right up until his death in 2016. Chris was a director of a theatre company called Ride Out, an organisation that conducted creative projects in prisons. In 2002 I tagged along with Chris and Saul Hewish (a co-director of Ride Out), complimenting a project they were doing with young offenders in HMPYOI Swinfen Hall. Akin to my earlier work in the field of learning disabilities, this was quite an epiphany for me.
Within a few months, through Chris I met Sara Lee, the creative director of The Irene Taylor Trust Music in Prisons. Since 2003 I have worked for ITT as a project facilitator in prisons around the UK, Norway and in Chicago. To date I’ve conducted hundreds of these projects with ITT.
Since 2017 Sara and I have been travelling to Chicago where we work as teaching practitioners, training Fellows of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In partnership with the not-for-profit Purpose Over Pain we work with parents who have tragically lost their children to gun violence, co-writing songs in memoriam of these children. The archive of these songs is called Notes for Peace.
Along the way I’ve sought to refine and hone my skills with respect to these creative collaborations with folks experiencing social exclusion and hardship and I’ve been lucky enough to work with a great many groups – with homeless people for Crisis, in immigration detention centres, mental health settings, secure hospitals, in pupil referral units, with asylum seekers and with looked after children for Creative Futures.
These films are from a series of films that I was musical director on from 2012 – 14. Film makers Tom and Malcolm Hadley and I worked with members of Crisis to produce these video Xmas cards that raised money for Crisis. Beautiful reimaginings of Christmas songs.
Since 2020 I’ve worked with The Digital Story Company combining film and music in collaborate projects that engage with the community in Walthamstow, East London.
The backbone of all this work is the use of music as a conduit to bring people together and create. The lessons we learn on the bandstand and when songwriting together are lessons that resonate outside of those environments – leadership, teamwork, listening, giving and following instructions, empathy, compromise and many more. These projects offer opportunities for folks from many different backgrounds and experiences to meet and work together: such meetings are hard to imagine taking place otherwise. The outcomes of these projects in terms of personal development and lifelong learning are quite profound for the facilitator and participant alike. I feel genuinely privileged to have been involved in this nourishing and inspiring work.