Birds: Making Bridges With Music by Jade Campbell

When I met 4 year old E in our second session at Warberries Care Home, she was incredibly shy and reserved. Although she did engage a little, we walked over the rainbow bridge together, hand in hand.  Four-year-old C spent most of the session fixing the rainbow bridge, with immense concentration, using brown tape.  E noticed this and chose a different colour – blue, to add to the rainbow.  We did this together on the floor, no talking necessary.

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During the third week, E entered the room apprehensively and her child minder said that she had been anxious about meeting the residents.  After 5 minutes of being in the space, Hugh had used his purple lycra to play hide and seek with C. Eventually all of the children had joined in, including G, an 89-year-old resident.  E was hiding with G and all the other children, laughing and giggling…. And her participation didn’t stop here.

 We journeyed and sang ‘Over the Bridge’ and rowed and sang over the river, until we could hear the birdsong (Inspired by G, but that’s another story).  The birdsong inspired us to create our own birds; everyone got stuck into the task with much enthusiasm. E was particularly focused and instigated sharing her creation with all the residents one-by-one.  We walked around to each person in the room and we had a moment of flying our birds together.  E was so proud of her work and thoroughly enjoyed sharing her creations.  She gathered all of the birds she could find and independently circulated the residents to show them her flock of flying birds – on her own, without me or her child minder or any other children.  With each person she encountered, she spent a few moments engrossed in performing her flying flock of bird movement and then continued onto the next.

 At the end of the session, E said goodbye to all the residents in turn, shaking hands, waving and smiling.

 As a drama practitioner, I often state that drama, dance, music and all art forms increases confidence. I say it all the time as a matter of fact and so do teachers, artists, practitioners, lecturers and theatre makers etc. – we all use that phrase to convince our funders or anyone that will listen, that our work is valuable for a child, young person, or vulnerable adult. 

E’s story here is a small, but potent example of this and I don’t say this lightly.  If I think back to the moment that helped E feel less anxious about interacting with the residents, it was the provocations made my Hugh, Steve or I during the session – to play with the purple lycra, to hear and really spend time listening to the bird song, to be invited to choose an instrument to contribute to a song or composition, to repeat a song each week – something familiar – a song that takes us into our play space, our story and also to create something yourself – to make a bird, to choose the colour that feels right for it and to bring our story to life.

These provocations sparked ideas and the rhythmic, familiarity of the sessions, provided by Hugh, Steve and I, have formed a safe and secure space to respond creatively in the room as artists. E responded as an artist in her own right, she was inspired and her inspiration and creativity gave her the confidence to interact with everybody in that space with a sense of purpose and pride.

……………

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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Agony is bliss!

thumbnail_IMG_20170628_215726_403Completely ecstatic with the work the seniors have been developing this week. They are doing a great job at exploring their characters by reacting and responding to one another. Each actor is taking steps to build their confidence in what they are doing and being really proactive which is just want we need on a production such as this.
In particular the song ‘Agony’ has really moved forwards. Rather than just having two Princes singing on there own, they now have a large ensemble performing with them. This ensemble consist of a group of ‘Ladies in Waiting’ literally waiting for the two main Princes to take notice of them. These ‘Ladies in Waiting’ are there to give the Princes comfort and sympathy during the song. Also there are younger Princes onlooking the situation. Confused as to why they are not receiving any attention, as they are of course just as handsome and manly as the lead Princes.  The song is now a large ensemble piece that should leave the audience smiling from ear to ear.

For next week this group will be focusing on posture, presence, status and voice. They now need to connect the physicality of their characters and understand about holding a space, having power within a room and know how to use that power.

Well done DAS seniors, you’ve worked hard this week and I am looking forward to future progression.

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

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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.

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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