In September 2020 I was invited to work with all the children at Marine Park primary school in South Shields. This was a song writing project and the brief was to get all the children to contribute to the creating and recording of a song that carried a positive message about being friends and supporting each other. It was not a Xmas song! It had been a little while since I had done anything like this and my approach was ‘I will learn as much from you as you will from me’ and I certainly did. It was a joyful experience and one I will treasure.
I started by visiting all the classes from nursery and reception all the way up to Year 6. Working with the early years it all came flooding back, some points and observations …
Working with Key Stage 1 there was a greater awareness of what was happening and that what I was offering was a little different to the usual routine. The first thing I noticed was a much greater collective energy with the children/young people being more aware of each other, that sense of doing something together. There was a lot more talk of we instead of I ‘we’re all smiling’ and the importance of friendship, for many this is where friendship begins, who was your ‘[best friend’ in primary school?
Moving up into Key Stage 2 was different but I tried to build on the work done with the years below. When do children become young people? A key factor I suppose is respect and the valuing of each child/person’s contribution regardless of their age and then maybe it doesn’t matter. We need to acknowledge and make room for all the differences. Some points and observations …
From my sessions with the younger groups some words appeared … smiling, laughing, dancing and from that point on we were off. Melody wise my good friend Jane Lindenberg, an old colleague from Sage Gateshead advised playing in D for pitch and a simple melody evolved as we sang words together. I took this to the older children and gave Year 5 the task of developing some verses and simple rhymes. They worked in small groups and I moved from group to group chatting through their ideas asking them to make a group decision as to what their completed verse would be.
Year 6 were interesting, entering that transition stage into secondary leaving lots behind but taking so much with them. They liked the song and how it was developing but I could sense they wanted their own thing too and during my first session with them one of the young women wrote some words that built on the theme of the first song. The rest of the class were keen to explore this and some volunteered to add some beat boxing. A different song was developing and we went with that as well as well as adding some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to the whole school song.
The next and final stage was to get the songs recorded. I prepared a couple of backing tracks and then visited each class with some mics and recording equipment and we made like we were in the studio! Concentration levels were high and I got everything I needed to be able to mix the tracks. I think one of the reasons for this was because the children had a vested interested in the song(s) and had all contributed to the creative process.
It was great fun and perhaps my only error was telling one of the classes that they could look forward to hearing their music on a CD, to which a number immediately asked … what’s a CD?
Whilst I think all the children enjoyed the music sessions there were definitely some who got more out of them than others and benefited from this informal ‘teaching’ environment. As I said earlier, I personally got a lot from working with the children. In terms of next steps, working with smaller groups and targeted those most likely to reap the wider benefits of this music experience (confidence, self-esteem, self-expression, transferrable skills) would be my preferred route. I would also like to involve some of the children in the recording and mixing process.
Finally I would like to say that this project would not have been possible without the amazing support given by the Head Teacher Alison Burden, class teachers, support staff and artist in residence Paula Turner.
'Good in The World' was a song commissioned by Dry Water Arts as part of their Arts Council funded KIN project. They are based in the small town of Amble on the north east coast in Northumberland. The piece took lyrical inspiration from participants in Dry Water Arts Dementia Positive programmes and vocal assistance from The Amble Harbour Lights Choir. Read this blog to find out a little more about how the song came about and those who contributed to it.
Steve set up his YouTube channel sometime ago but has only recently begun to add to it. The content will be expanded in the coming months. You can expect a combination of some 'live' performance clips, promo videos and conversations. If you click the subscribe button (free of charge, of course) on the YouTube channel page then you will be notified every time some new content is added to the channel. For a link to the channel and a few insights into the video making process, take a couple of minutes to read the blog post.
It feels like a lifetime since I last 'hit the road' but on Friday 13th of August 2021, I was able, at last, to go out and do a 'live' gig. The date might be unlucky for some but not for me. The venue was The Kontra Roots Club near Northampton and I was so happy to finally make my first solo appearance in years . The audience came to listen, appreciate and have a bit of fun. I had a great time.