Making Bridges with Music: Lullabyee by Hugh Nankivell

The last session at Bethesda today – and we made stories and songs and played and held hands and hugged and laughed and smiled and cried (a little) and now this wonderful little experiment has come to an end. But the story didn’t end, we just went to sleep, we ended – as we always do with a lullaby. After a lullaby we sleep and dream until a week later when we wake up again and start playing together again and feel like a big family aged from one to a hundred who are all singing from the same page and playing the same game and telling the same story for that short time together.

The skinship is really important. How much of it do we do together? We hold hands, we hug, we sit on each other’s laps, we (sometimes) roll around together on the floor, we dance together, we wave to each other and we row boats together, always making sure that no-one gets left out. At our final session today several of the older residents said that their favourite moment of the day was seeing one of their colleagues smile and laugh. They have known ‘B’ for several years and siad they had never seen her smile or laugh in all that time. The moment was when she held hands with a young child and their hands swayed from side to side as we sang a new song about how we have all got bones! There is magic in these moments. ‘B’ came alive to her friends and they found real joy in sharing that moment.

Today there was physically active dancing led by M,(aged 3) and before we knew it there were four folks in their 80’s and 90’s up dancing as well. This has not happened before and was wonderful. We have been physically active throughout all our sessions, playing instruments, conducting, clapping and more. I am not surpirsed that the children and the elders sleep well afterwards. I do.

The final session today in the afternoon after the children had gone home was another special moment. We only sang new material and we created a new song. I am not sure that there are many situations with elderly people where a group focusses for so long on newly created original material. We ended our story with a lullaby.

LULLABYEE
We travelled so far
Now let’s go home
Under the stars
We’re never alone

Lullabyee

Lullabyee

The words describe what has happened. We have told a long story over the six weeks, each week never quite ending, but leaving us wanting more. Now it is time for the children (and Meg, Steve and I) to go home.

But we know that we are never alone.

We sleep well.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. The project is funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.

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Making Bridges with Music: Under the Sea by Nathalie Palin

At Pendennis Care Home, our group of children (aged 3 and younger), residents (mainly over 80), artists, staff and child-minders have just spent our third morning together.

Two of the constants in our sessions so far have been the accordion and a large purple sheet of Lycra. The accordion ‘breathes’ and we all breathe with it, it accompanies the new songs we make together, and now we are all starting to play it too. The Lycra is stretched between us – 25 or more pairs of hands – creating a trampoline, a stormy sea, an imaginary space linking us all together. Soft toys take to the waves and are toppled this way and that as we sing, provoking gleeful shrieks and a slight sense of danger.

Last week, as young and old made pictures together, E (aged 3) led a story-song about all the inhabitants under the sea – sharks, dolphins, crabs, butterflies… At the end, under our Lycra waves, he invited … “Do you want to come under the sea with me?” And so, this is where we began this week … singing, painting and playing under the sea.

Pitched instruments, chimes, bells, xylophones, glockenspiels and a water gong – a cacophony of watery sounds as residents and children experiment, exchanging beaters, instruments, glances and few words. Watching and listening. Some are mirroring each other’s playing. As the singing begins, I start to paint the songs … a fish, a mermaid … and P gravitates towards the paint. P is 3 and has been more reticent to engage so far. Others follow her and in no time at all their painting is awash with colours.

One resident, E, has been watching the children closely as they paint, whilst playing on a chime instrument. L (age 2½) comes up with hands covered in paint and picks up a beater to join E on the chime. E and L exchange looks and touch. When L takes herself off to wash her hands, E reflects – “I used to know a little girl just like that. It was me. I loved it – I was always painting.” She remembers playing the piano and talks about the children she didn’t have.

Later, out in the garden, a game starts with a big inflatable ball – sitting in a circle with children and water-play in the middle. At first it’s carefully coordinated, helping residents to catch and throw it – to C, to H, to M, to S, to N, to P. P gets the ball, but she can’t throw it back into the group. The children know what to do and are too excited to wait. Three children go up to P, gently take it from her hands and begin the game again.

It’s a sign of how much everyone has ‘settled in’. The children are less tentative, less cautious. There is more noise, mess and excitement – which all seems manageable in the open air. It’s as if we’ve crossed the bridge and are now starting to roam around the pasture on the other side – meeting friends young and old and muddling along together, sharing toys, time and songs.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. The project is funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.

Making Bridges with Music: Finding Treasure by Meg Searle

We are telling a story.

 

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In fact, we are mostly playing and singing a story. Accordion, guitar, percussion, shells, bananas, sheet music, baton and a chest full of surprises.

Some of the story is familiar. You might recognise a melody or a lyric but because of the unique group of people that are taking part, it’s our very own story. An original tale that weaves its way though the hour or so that we have together every Tuesday morning in Bethesda Care Home in Torquay.

The authors of this story are aged from 18 months to 90 years plus. A mix of elderly residents and their carers, children with their child minders and 2 musicians with their filmmaker. We set the scene because that’s what we do; it’s become the expectation of all the participants. Equipment is fetched to help narrate and open the imagination. Instruments become tools for building a boat, walking frames become bridges and lorries and we set sail to be pushed and pulled in what ever direction the wind might be blowing on this particular Tuesday.

It’s exciting and loud. It’s focused and gentle. At moments we can be completely still with little or no noise but which ever mood we are in, it’s still our story.

Today we are looking for treasure. The narrative has moved from the familiar front room, down the steps and into a beautiful (real life) garden. A treasure chest has been buried and the smallest of our collective are on the hunt. They are totally absorbed in the story. In the background, a little boy plays with a toy piano in the middle of the lawn. Two older residents experiment with bird whistles which mingle with the laughter of the children and the actual Bethesda garden bird song.

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This is our fourth session out of six and we are already approaching the final chapters. How will it finish? That depends on the direction we decide to go. Maybe we won’t finish it at all. A never-ending story is what some of the elderly residents have suggested. A forever story. An ever story. Who knows, it’s all in the making anyway.

Post written by: Meghan Searle

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to
make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. The project is funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.

The Wrap-Around

Post written by: Erin Walcon

I just spent a fantastic afternoon at acta in Bristol on Friday 16 June, talking about the topic of class and theatre. The discussion topic was:

Is theatre really an artform for everyone, or does it remain the domain of the middle-class? Why do people without privilege feel that it is not for them? Do people need to actually make theatre in order for it to become part of their world? Community theatre serves and responds to the whole community. Theatre created on people’s doorsteps, telling original stories, bringing new voices to the stage. But can it be strong enough to challenge the status quo? The seminar will examine the role of community theatre in making theatre relevant to the working class majority.

These Friday provocations are being run as part of acta’s Paul Hamlyn-funded seminar series. It was a wonderful discussion – warmly and well held by Neil Beddow and the acta team, and the room was full of participatory arts specialists who are all trying to examine their practice to see how it can be as inclusive, ethical and action-based as possible.

The other two provocations (besides the Doorstep one) were done by Sarah Thornton from Collective Encounters and Jacqui Contre from Banner Theatre.

In talking about Doorstep’s work, and in sharing best practice with the other outstanding organisations in the room, it was clear that there are some commonalities amongst us in how we work…

  1. working where people are already at is key – both in terms of access and in terms of aesthetic.
  2. clear pathways of progression are essential… in other words, we all agreed that it would be unethical to run outreach unless it was leading on to a more meaningful sustained involvement opportunity.
  3. the work must be linked to big questions or rich theatrical content – it must be of substance.
  4. participation is absolutely the way in.

During the seminar, I spoke a lot about the value of the curtain-raiser event in the Doorstep Theatre model.

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Curtain-raisers, for us, have been essential as a way of getting young people’s work seen by a larger audience, and by creating a shared platform between a national touring artist and local Torbay young people, we raise aspiration and develop new audiences too.

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Driving home on the crawling M-5 southbound from Bristol in rush-hour traffic, I found myself with extra time to think.

And while I edged down the sun-blazoned motorway, a particular phrase kept running through my head: ‘the wrap-around’. This is a phrase that gets used at Collaborative Touring Network meetings a lot. We use it to describe the diverse plethora of activity that surrounds touring spine shows in a festival.

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The wrap-around could be (and usually is) engagement-focused – so workshops, CPD offerings, participation, curtain-raisers, trainings, seminars, and community platforms.

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The wrap-around also is often about food… every Doorstep Theatre Festival we’ve run so far has involved free food for participants, often home-cooked by Mara at The Edge or potluck meals brought by the young people we work with.

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Food is an equaliser. Food makes people stay.

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We’ve wrapped-around all sorts of other things too… music events, street busking workshops, cardboard box re-purposing art events at libraries, and fish and chips suppers in the sunshine after a breakdance workshop.

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The wrap-around activity is where the real conversations happen, where we can lure someone to stay and see a show that they would never see otherwise, where a grandmother stops to tell us that her 11-year old granddaughter wants to do theatre but is too nervous to try it.

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The wrap-around is how we build trust, how we know that we are deeply embedded in our communities where we work.

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It’s where we feed each other, where we nurture, where we build connection.

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The wrap-around is the lifeblood of the festival.

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The wrap-around is bigger than just the festival too. The wrap-around is year-round, it is Doorstep’s ongoing participatory work, which we run, week-in, and week-out. Consistent, reliable, sticky.

The more I thought about, as I inched down the motorway, the more I realised…

the wrap-around?  It’s the whole point.

I love the brilliant touring work that comes to us in the festival – it is innovative, exciting, inspiring stuff.

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It lights a fire and makes us all want to see and make more and better theatre. It is often gobsmackingly good. We will work tirelessly to ensure that it keeps coming to Torbay after CTN finishes. But that touring work, it’s not the real point.

For Doorstep Arts, our heart is always going to be in the wrap-around.

That’s where the magic happens.

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Making Bridges With Music: G’s Birdsong by Steve Sowden.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. 

This is a project funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.

G’s BirdsongGeorge at Warberries

Post written by: Steve Sowden

G is a 79-year old resident of The Warberries. The first time I met him, my colleague (who’d been helping to co-ordinate a previous gardening project with children and childminders at the home) was surprised by how animated and cheerful he appeared and remained for the session. G seems to me to be very talkative, although his speech is quite disorganised and he often talks about and remembers parts of his professional life. As a porter he looked after young adults, some with disabilities and some with mental health, and he was by accounts, well respected and liked by his charges.

At the beginning of session 2, he entered the room and clapped and danced with a red ukulele to entertain the children, he has exuded smiles and humour throughout both sessions. Today he was joined and supported throughout by his wife, D. With his regular verbal and musical interventions, G is a really compelling participant to track and capture.

Hugh and Jade were guiding and recreating the Oz-inspired story from Session 1. At the point where mirrors and mirroring came into the narrative, G seemed to take over, as if conducting; producing a birdlike whistling sound and flailing his arms. He then proceeded to sing in a sonorous Scottish folk voice, a series of verses to the room, and everyone quietened in response to him while his wife looked on in apparent incredulity. No one recognised the song, but upon replaying the video later that day and transcribing it together, we think G was inventing a lot of it in the moment. We recognised the melody of ‘We’ll Meet Again’, a song that another resident has played on keyboard at both of our Friday sessions, and we recognised fragments of bird themed imagery, perhaps growing out of the whistling sounds. While he sang, he seemed to be making wings with his arms, as if gliding.

The wings are like this
The birds begin to fly
But Mum returns and seems very unhappy
To see that her babies have gone
So It’s now a year
Before you’ll hear
The only one you’ll hear is a little robin
And he is a very good man
And his love is well shown
And we’ll meet again to us

By the end of session, his mood had adjusted and he seemed quietly emotional and contemplative, talking to his wife who may have been unpacking it all with him. I talked to them both and she was still quite shocked by the singing. What really inspired me is that D insists she hasn’t heard him sing before, in over 30 years of marriage. Jo, the manager of Warberries, was also able to affirm the change; he has been singing regularly during lunchtimes since our first session here last week.

G seems to have found some freedom to sing performatively, so I wonder about the changing of permissions in that space and to what extent these precipitated G’s creative outburst. Mostly, I wonder about the song and I look forward to seeing/hearing the life of the invention play out, with ideas in my head but no solid expectations.

Next week we are planning to make paper birds and to have ambient birdsong coming through a Bluetooth speaker at the start of (and throughout?) the session.

Studio Course Update: We Are Back!

Post written by: Polly Ferguson, DAS Lead Artist

We are back and Milky White is on the move!

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The first week back after half term is always tough. Children are tired and getting back into the swing of things, however with that said, the DAS groups have done a brilliant job.

The junior DAS group worked really well together. I set them the task to create a story about Milky White (the cow from Into the Woods).

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Good old Milky White

What does she do if she’s not with her friend Jack? Does she like to go to certain places in the woods, does she get up to any mischief, does she dance? I set them this task and they created extremely comical scenes.

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We used Harriet, our wonderful pianist to set the atmosphere and the children presented their work to one another.

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Lots of comedy gold was made, children were listening to each other, offering ideas, being respectful and most importantly laughing. It’s workshops like these that remind me as a practitioner that children have wonderful ideas. It’s our job to nurture and encourage them. Allow them the freedom to explore their imaginations and work with children they wouldn’t usually.

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Nurture always.

I can’t wait to see what they devise for next week’s workshop.