Tag Archives: Panopticons

Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Ben McCabe

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Ben McCabe, recalls his experience…

Looking Back

I have, of course, moved on or at least over to, various other projects now whilst the Songs from Singing Ringing Tree quickly becomes a fuzzy but friendly memory.

We’ve just had an evaluation meeting at Mid Pennine Arts which included viewing videos we’d made and thinking about ways forward. It seemed pretty obvious to build on what we’ve done – playing, chatting, composing, exploring with children, staff and parents in nurseries in Burnley and Brierfield.

I’ve had a mixture of feeling confident and like the right person in the right place, and then feeling like a fraud with nothing to offer. Often within a space of a few minutes.

Now we’ve finished, my main sensation is that the project was a bit too long for me to maintain focus and energy, and to stick to what I felt the brief was – improving life chances for nursery children through developing speech and language skills and confidence through music making, all through the method of being inspired by a visit to a work of public art and then responding to that.

It was great to get comfy in each setting and to get to know the children and staff so well and we certainly were able to pursue some pleasingly playful and creative avenues of song writing, storytelling, performing and arranging. Becoming part of the rhythm of the week meant that some of the specialness and engagement from all directions wore off – although not in one to one interactions. I feel I should have more willingly to let go of referring back to visits to Halo or Singing Ringing Tree and just made new music every week – following our noses. Gladly there were many occasions when a group or a particular person steered sessions out of my control and into more interesting in-the-moment play.

Going on a Trip

My first outing with Stoneyholme Nursery was wisely delayed for quite a while as the children had only recently arrived at nursery and were still finding their feet. The staff felt that they wouldn’t be able to offer much of a response to a visit to Halo if they were too stressed out dealing with getting through the day.

So we waited a while and I therefore adjusted things a little. Looking at pictures of where were going to go and trying to work out what on earth it could be.

Loads of ideas sprung up and we were always drawing pictures in our discussions and then turning them into songs. Sometimes songs would emerge in the moment with tunes supplied in response to the question “can anyone sing how this one goes”. Sometimes we couldn’t get the thing moving so with smoke and mirrors we’d move on and I might write a little music myself to match our words in the staff room just before lunch. I think this mixture of shared compositions, and stuff I know I can make work, is fine. Working quickly seems important. Keeping going back to the beginning works well too – feels like a game.

We prepared messages – actually pictures – to tie to the legs of the Halo which we decided was a spaceship and then we’d send them off into space when we eventually got there.

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fullsizerenderWe also prepared a disco tune – I can’t remember why but we certainly danced in the breeze once we made it to Halo.

The journey is just as important as arriving for many of us.  It’s nice to get excited about things we know about. So we wrote songs about getting the bus, going on a trip, playing I-Spy on the way there

As we’d learnt on the Wonderful Things in Song project, that this team had delivered previously, it was valuable to have reminders up around the nursery for children and staff to refer back to in groups or during a more open session. We developed this a little more at Stoneyholme, recording songs as a group as well as versions which I recorded in the staff room. These were available for children to play back in nursery as well as becoming backing tracks in our sessions as well as being the soundtrack for our coach journey to Halo.

 Fliers and Weepers

The groups were a nice size 5 – 8 children with a staff member and me as well as one to one sessions with me plonked in a bit of the nursery as the children went about their day.

Each day I seemed to challenge myself to try and get the balance right on allowing children to lead us through a session but still cover enough music making that would seem meaningful to the staff that were with me. Hoping that they’d see the value in what we were doing as well as any leaps, bounds and increments that individual children might be making.

It was lots of fun to be guided by particular children who were having fun with taking the lead – sometimes completely dominating a session, sometimes talking themselves stuck, sometimes getting carried away and getting a little too cheeky for the group to be able to continue down that road.

And I always feel a really strong urge to make things FAIR for everyone. I suspect this isn’t that fair of me and probably coming from my own experiences at school?  So I’d invite someone who’d not had a turn or not given us a lyric yet to have turn. Sometimes this was too much to have asked and there’d be tears or just frozen silence but often we’d get a quiet word, picture or a tap on a drum. Tiny moments of progression that could open the door for a lot more interaction and involvement as the weeks went by that build on the resulting trust formed.

Ben McCabe

You can read more about the project and view the documentary film on our website.

Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Zoe Greenhalgh

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Zoe Greenhalgh, recalls her experience…

Relationships

For me, the joy of working on projects such as this, is the wonderful human connections with the very young that are born out of musical play and exploration, without any need for speech.  Singing is such a wonderful medium; no right or wrong, just variations which have infinite potential for development in a whole new direction.

In the settings the day comprised of working with all children in the nursery in small groups of 6-10 each supported by a member of the nursery staff which allowed the children and myself to become well acquainted and build a good relationship. It also enabled me to learn something of the children as individuals; how confident they were, their readiness to sing and make music, their ideas and interests, quirks and foibles.  In these small groups I became familiar to them and they to me, meaning that I could structure my teaching to support their individual needs whether musical or otherwise.  Progress and participation was good and much enjoyment was evident.

The Singing Tent

In one setting I came to know the children over a number of weeks working with small group and their key worker before creating and opening the “singing tent” for business. The groups were predominantly adult led so the tent was intended to redress the balance by offering the children the opportunity to initiate and lead the musical activities, for me to join in with their play.

The “singing tent” was constructed from a clotheshorse and some music printed fabric held together with clothes pegs.  This was intentionally only large enough for me and two children to occupy at any one time thus maintaining a sense of intimacy that might elicit the engagement of even the most timid of children.  Sometimes it was situated inside in the nursery, sometimes outside in the garden.  I stayed in the tent with my ukulele and the children came and joined me as and when they liked.  The ukulele turned out to be a good provocation for the children to respond to: they were attracted to the sound and wanted to play it, but were inclined to play with some delicacy, either listening intently to the sounds they produced or strum it as an accompaniment to their singing. It was often not played at all.

I had tried different instruments for variety – a small number of quality percussion instruments and chime bars – but whilst the children enjoyed exploring these, as a joint interactive activity it was not very fruitful.  Likewise, me sitting in the tent just singing with no instruments was not as attractive, possibly because the sound of a singing voice is a familiar one in the setting.

Within the intimate, private space of the tent, these children recognised me as a play partner and offered me the crown jewels – magical musical connections with voice, sound and rhythm, spontaneous original song improvisations, musical play of all shapes and sizes.  What an honour and infinite pleasure to be so accepted and trusted with their precious offerings.

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Inspiration visit to the Singing Ringing Tree

Ways of working…

During this project I have worked in a more formal, adult-led manner with small groups of children as well as in a more informal, “free flow” way. Both are valuable in their own right but I believe that the impact is greater than the sum of its parts when the two approaches are combined.  How important then that educators within the setting have the musical confidence and skill to scaffold and support children’s musical creativity and development, and that staff development is built into the project in a workable manner.

From my experience; Thoughts on project planning and delivery

All projects of this sort give a cohort of children access to musical experiences beyond those normally available in the setting; musical exposure and engagement that without the project they would not have had.  Fantastic!  What is more difficult is to build in longer term legacy for the settings in subsequent years.

I believe the most crucial and detailed part of all projects is the planning stage.  There is this great idea to run a project doing “X” which would work really well with these leaders in this location and we could build in “Y” and “Z” – wow, how exciting!  This is perhaps the easy bit.  What follows is the contacting of settings and individuals involved to gain interest in being involved which is relatively straightforward, particularly where relationships already exist.

Then comes the nitty gritty of how it will work on the ground, what it will look like in reality, firm commitment to dates, time, staff availability, trips out, available physical space, parental/photo permissions, etc. etc.  This is the really tricky bit.  It is so important that all parties “buy in” to the concept and that the finer detail is worked out collaboratively with all partners at the earliest stage of planning, especially those involved in the day to day delivery.  Settings are very busy with many demands upon their time and energies making this level of detail sometimes hard to sort out, but it is precisely this, along with the ongoing communication between the visiting music practitioner and the setting staff, that turns an ordinary project into an extraordinary one that leaves behind it something truly worth having.  This collaborative, committed relationship means that the project activity is more than just a “bolt on” extra, that it is integrated into the setting beyond the allotted project time, extending reach to more children and developing staff confidence, knowledge and skill and impacting positively on practise within the setting and the experiences of its children.

Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree from Mid Pennine Arts on Vimeo.

David On Tour: Part Three – Jerwood

Editor: The continuing adventures of David Smith during his week in Brighton…

 

‘Cultural tourism’ is on everyone’s lips in the south-east: ‘Turner Contemporary’ in Margate, ‘The Towner’ in Eastbourne, ‘De La Warr Pavilion’ in Bexhill and ‘Jerwood’ in Hastings.  The role of the arts in social and economic regeneration continues to have credence. Well, it was ‘The Jerwood’ for me. My first time in Hastings.

£8 to get in seemed a touch on the expensive side especially when one of my party only wanted clean toilets whilst the other some lunch.  So we started with lunch – fresh crab salad and sandwiches left everyone in good mood especially as I had paid for everything so far.  How refreshing too to visit a gallery with huge panoramic windows letting in the outside.  Two huge pieces by Quentin Blake of artists on the beach drawn especially for Jerwood held the attention of all the diners.

Quentin Blake

In the gallery Quentin Blake, who lives just round the corner, had been asked to respond to 10 pictures he has chosen from the collection. More than that, he concentrates on each of the artists showing them at work on the beach by Jerwood in a way that you makes you smile as you explore them – Stanley Spencer with his pram!  Alongside each drawing he has included a piece of text he has written for each piece. I only knew of Stanley Spencer; so it was a fascinating introduction to a number of artists whose work I didn’t know: from Edward Burra to Prunella Clough.  It was also a way into seeing the part of the Jerwood collection on display which focuses on modern British art.

As a Salford boy, it was great to stumble on Lowry’s, Canal Bridge, which I hadn’t seen before.

Coming back to ‘Cultural Tourism’ and regeneration: it’s great to think that Mid Pennine Arts has been making its own significant contribution in our region since 2003 with Panopticons, Land and now the LANDMARKS programme in the Forest of Bowland.  They are all worth visiting or revisiting.

In Praise of Julie

David Smith reflects on MPA’s relationship with the lovely Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Julie…Julie Hes…Julie Hesmondhalgh….Hayley Cropper…we all loved Hayley and now she’s gone….

I met Julie in the mid eighties.  I was dropping my son Craig off and picking him up each day at a three-week long summer drama course at Moorhead High School in Accrington.  Julie was a part of a friendship group of very talented girls who after A-Level Theatre Studies at Accrington and Rossendale College all went off to drama school in London together.

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Julie kept in touch with Craig whilst they were both in London and recommended him for a job acting and writing for theatre with the West Yorkshire based Company Impact.  At that time Craig tipped us off to go to see Julie at the Royal Exchange in Much Ado About Nothing where she was performing alongside her great friend Joseph Alessi son of an Accrington tailor..  She had two small roles: a maid and a soldier night watchman.  It was here that she was spotted by a casting director from Coronation Street and you know what happened from there…

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In 2001 Mid Pennine Arts was working on a major environmental arts community engagement programme called Land.  It was supporting the iconic Panopticons project.  A part of the programme was a project called Trees for Babies.  In partnership with Trees for Burnley we created a new woodland at Rowley Country Park recruiting young families from the Edith Watson Maternity Unit in Burnley.  Julie and her partner Ian Kershaw had a young daughter, Martha Mo.  When asked if she would come to a celebratory event to meet the families involved and present them with a special memento of their involvement not only did she agree without hesitation, and refuse to accept a fee, but she brought two month old Martha Mo with her!  It was an evening to remember. The clue to Julie’s feeling for people was the way she engaged with the young children who came along, making time to speak to each one as they came up with their family to receive a hand-made book:  Trees for Babies…and of course we planted a tree in the new woodland for Martha Mo.

Did you know that Julie asked her fellow cast members not to buy her a present on leaving ‘the Street’?  She asked them to make a donation instead to a charity in Accrington: possibly ‘Maundy Relief’ for which she is a patron.

….and back to the drama course at Moorhead High School in the mid eighties…who set up and managed the project?  Mid Pennine Arts, of course! Have you heard the theory about the importance of the eco structure that exists in the arts, supporting and developing early signs of talent…?  Mid Pennine’s role here is a small example of how it works.  That course was important for me too.  I was so impressed by the school that I went on to work there as Deputy Head for 13 years and then came to Mid Pennine Arts having seen at first hand what it can create and deliver for the communities it serves.

…and what of Julie?  Go to see her at the Royal Exchange in February in Simon Stephen’s new play Blindsided.  Then you might return to see her astonishing performance in Black Roses: the killing of Sophie Lancaster.  Julie is a terrific actress who has never forgotten her roots in Pennine Lancashire .

Yes, we all love Julie…

Opportunities for accomplished project managers at Mid Pennine Arts

Mid Pennine Arts is recruiting.   We need additional support to help us maintain and extend our busy portfolio of creative learning and community engagement projects.  We are therefore seeking one or more experienced, versatile project managers, initially on short term agreements, but with the opportunity to develop longer term relationships.  If you have a strong track record of developing and delivering high quality, project-based work, and would like to contribute to the work of our team, we would love to hear from you.

About Us

MPA is the commissioning agency based in Pennine Lancashire and developing projects across Lancashire and beyond.  We commission high quality creative work through a variety of collaborations and in response to the distinctive contexts of our natural, built and social environments.  Our projects interrogate and celebrate what is unique about our area, our heritage and our communities.  We aim to originate exciting creative work that has lasting impact for participants, audiences and our project partners.  MPA brings art, people and places together to transform perceptions and change lives.

MPA was established in 1966 and has a long and proud track record of working in our communities.  Our work is centred on contemporary visual arts but uses a broad creative palette.  MPA has developed specialisms in commissioning work in landscape and public spaces and in heritage settings.  Our portfolio of recent work has included the Panopticons contemporary landmarks and the Contemporary Heritage series of major new commissions in heritage locations.  All of our projects include dimensions of engagement and learning for young people and adults.

Over many years we have built up a reputation for high quality work especially with schools and young people.  MPA works with some 60 schools each year.  In 2013 our creative learning team have made advisory visits to 90 schools, working in partnership with the ACE Bridge Organisation, Curious Minds, as cultural advocates for Lancashire.

Key partners for MPA projects have recently included local authorities, Lancashire Museums, environmental agencies and our fellow arts organisations.  We believe strongly in collaboration and all of our work is developed through a variety of partnerships.

MPA attracts funding from a variety of sources, including Arts Council England, Lancashire County Council and lottery distributors.  With less revenue funding now available, we generate funds project by project, from multiple sources, to help sustain our organisation.  All our team contribute to this effort, which is vital to our future.

Our Team

MPA maintains a multidisciplinary team to originate, curate and project manage our busy programme.  In autumn 2013 a number of circumstances will be reducing this team, but MPA’s programme will be busier than ever.  So we are seeking additional support.

We have a number of projects already in progress and further exciting projects in development.  So we want to reinforce our team as soon as we can.  We are therefore seeking experienced, versatile individuals who might be available at relatively short notice to contribute to our team over the next few months.

Our Programme

Projects already confirmed include these:

  • Portraits of the Past – an extended engagement programme built around our Contemporary Heritage commission at Gawthorpe Hall and celebrating the place of this Jacobean gem in the life of the local community.
  • Youth Music – Two new projects resourced by this lottery fund and engaging groups of young people and early years children.
  • Creative Communities – A programme of structured volunteering for young adults, funded by Awards for All, providing opportunities to work with us on a variety of exciting projects.
  • Burnley Rivers – Partnership work with the Urban Rivers Enhancement Scheme to celebrate the Brun and the Calder.

In addition a number of projects in development are likely to add to our workload in the near future:

  • Contemporary HeritageMajor new commissions for 2014 and beyond, and engagement programmes to support them.
  • Spodden Valley Revealed – Creatively interpreting the ancient and modern heritage of the area around Whitworth.
  • The Three Towers – A strategic partnership programme to celebrate the heritage and realise the destination potential of the West Pennine Moors.
  • Super Wet Way – Participation in a major new partnership programme themed around the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, with Canal & River Trust, our fellow arts organisations and others.
  • Truce – An engagement programme for Accrington throughout 2014, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

We will also be continuing to originate projects and develop partnerships.

The Opportunity

We would like to identify probably two individuals to join our team on a part-time, short term, contract basis.  Initially we are able to offer a term of around three months, but we are looking to identify contributors with whom we can establish a relationship for the longer term.  In the future, we anticipate maintaining a more flexible workforce that can adapt swiftly to changing circumstance, so we are keen to build a group of regular associates.

Terms are flexible according to experience, but as a guide we envisage basing the remuneration on a full time salary of £20,000 to £23,000 (pro rata) for a commitment of around 2.5 to 3 days per week over three months.  This is open to negotiation for the self-employed and for exceptional candidates.  Proven capacity to help generate further income may be an influential factor.

Person Specification

The individuals we seek will be able to evidence certain core skills:

  • Substantial experience of managing complex or extended projects.
  • Experience of working with a wide variety of people.
  • Accustomed to building partnerships and working collaboratively.
  • Excellent written communication skills, and ability to produce convincing funding proposals and project reports.
  • Highly organised, capable of multi-tasking and prioritising a busy workload.
  • A self-starter able to identify opportunities and realise them.
  • A team player who will enjoy working collaboratively within the MPA team.
  • An understanding of our geographical area (social-economic context) or of comparable communities.

In addition, you should have one or more specialism(s) that will be particularly relevant to our programme of work:

  • Creative learning work, with an understanding of the National Curriculum and experience of key programmes like Arts Awards and Artsmark.
  • Contemporary visual arts, with experience of curating work outside of the gallery setting.
  • Experience of work in landscape, the natural environment and rural contexts.
  • Community engagement, with a range of resources for effectively involving groups and individuals in creative projects.
  • A focus on heritage and the rich fund of creative possibilities that it offers.
  • Issues around sense of place, destination and local identity.

How to Apply

If this sounds like you, we would love to hear from you.

Please apply, using our standard job application form (downloadable from our website) to highlight your most relevant experience and your reasons for wanting to work with MPA.  You should attach an up to date CV, and a covering letter if you wish.  Please submit by email only to:

melanie@midpenninearts.org.uk

Please submit your application by Friday 30 August.  There is no formal timetable for recruitment, but we aim to act without delay.  We will acknowledge all applicants.  If you are shortlisted, we will invite you for interview as soon as can be arranged.

To find out more about us and our projects look at our website, Facebook page and Vimeo channel.  If you have any questions about our work or this opportunity, please contact Melanie Diggle, MPA Finance & Admin Director, as above, or on 01282 421986.