Jenni from Soundcastle blogs about her recent experiences discussing inclusion at the Inclusive Excellence Conference in Bristol, Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and with Entelechy Arts, Deptford.
Challenging questions are being raised in the room. How can we improve inclusion in the music industry? I’m sitting in Colston Hall, Bristol, at the Inclusive Excellence conference. Within these walls there is someone who can build you an instrument if you only have use of one arm, or someone who can facilitate an orchestra of iPads with no minimum limb requirements. There are experienced teachers and mentors to guide you in every step of your musical journey. There’s someone with a stage for the final product, and someone to ensure the audience accessibility. Here we surely have all the ingredients for an eclectic and exciting musically inclusive future.
What a luxury to be in an environment so rich in knowledge, ideas and forward-thinking. I would love to see the results of a post-it note exchange here, an activity demonstrated to me the day before by the Lewisham Education Arts Network. An event connecting educators with arts practitioners provided a chance for questions and challenges to be displayed and solutions to be offered, via a post-it note wall consultancy process. An array of colourful and creative suggestions to every problem materialised, proving the beautiful simplicity and reward of sharing practice.
The cry for practice-sharing came across loud and clear at the various conferences and events attended by Soundcastle members over the last month. This is not a question of training but of two-way exchange. An early years practitioner may be looking for innovative solutions for musical activity, while their in-depth insight into child development could greatly enrich the approach of a music facilitator. Or two arts organisations may be working in the same challenging context, who could learn from each other’s setbacks and successes.
I’ve taken this idea to an even more creatively indulgent level, by visiting sessions at Entelechy Arts in Deptford. Abandoning my usual role of facilitating a music session, I had the opportunity to become immersed as a participant in a movement and music free improvisation session amongst adults with learning disabilities, with no responsibility except to experience what was unfolding in the moment. This is a different breed of practice-sharing, one where putting yourself in the shoes of a participant, with no expectations and an open mind, can open up new avenues of thought and insight. I receive an authentic and new experience, and in return I offer feedback on the process from an outsider’s perspective.
Practice-sharing can take many forms, it can involve post-it notes or glasses of wine, gatherings or virtual reality, observation or immersion. We don’t have to answer the challenging questions in isolation, when there is an enormous pool of kaleidoscopic expertise out there to dive into. Let’s open our eyes and ears and nurture a diverse and captivating arts scene, where between us we can make sure that music and arts really are for everyone, everywhere, in every way.