I lecture in music for the Open University as well as freelance.
I organise workshops and participatory music events for all ages and abilities, using both electronic and acoustic instruments, and often involving cross-disciplinary collaborations with other artists (dancers in particular). Within communities of Oxford, I help establish and maintain musical groups.
I see my engagement in the arts with the local community, my teaching work with the Open University, and my practice of composition and performance as complementary and rooted in political commitment. I took on working with the OU because of its aim to promote lifelong learning, something it still tries to encourage despite increasing financial pressure.
Arts funding has been severely cut back by government opposition to the arts, which must be regarded as a dangerously democratising force that challenges the replacement of democracy in the UK with the corporate interests that fund contemporary politics. I see the support for arts practice and arts education as prerequisites in any democratic society. I therefore see the work I do in promoting and teaching the arts as politically-motivated in the broad sense of giving a voice to those so often denied one and facilitating debate on how to create democratic engagement.
I have detailed work related to three community groups; one of which I set up (Confluence) and one I helped establish (Oxford Improvisers).
The group Confluence epitomises the approach I have to making music within the community. This group came out of workshops I ran for Crisis Skylight in 2012/13. People from different backgrounds attended the class and we began performing every week in the Crisis Skylight Café. When the classes finished I set up a collective with the following aims:
1. To operate as a group that plays music from all over the world, focusing on cultures represented by members of the group, whether by origin or interest. The group will be viable to perform in events in Oxford and elsewhere, but will retain a strong community focus.
2. To promote the performance of music from all cultures represented in the Oxford area, primarily by musicians living, studying, or working in the region. A particular focus will be on community members who have no political voice, such as asylum seekers and the homeless, but who can find a voice through their musical culture.
3. To promote a greater understanding of music from the diverse communities of Oxford, through recording and notation as well as collaborative performance.
There is now a performing group from this initiative that plays music from countries including France, England, Wales, Iran, Spain, Portugal, India, Pakistan, and Brazil. We also run free workshops and rehearsals for the marginalized in society, especially asylum seekers.
We are now established as a community group, yet the standard of the group has reached a level where we are asked to perform. We have recently performed for the Old Fire Station and Refugee Resource, amongst other local groups.
Recordings of the group are available on Soundcloud:
I helped form the Oxford Improvisers when the group constituted in December 2003, and was elected chair for seven years. I organised monthly performances, workshops, and collaborations with visual artists, dancers, and poets, including residences at OVADA, performances at Oxfringe (2009 and 2010), and regular Cohesion Festivals from 2007.
At the same time OI started, I ran an Oxford COMA (Contemporary Music for All) group (from 2002-2006) and organized workshops for the group by composer/performers such as Pat Thomas and Phil Minton, Howard Skempton, Simon Fell and John Tilbury.
I initiated and organised large scale performances of new and contemporary works, including: December 2004 Treatise (involving 34 performers); March 2005 various COMA commissions for new work (involving an orchestra of fifty people put together on one day), as well as my own works mentioned above.
Eventually Oxford COMA merged with the Oxford Improvisers and, as a result, we formed the Oxford Improvising Orchestra as a result. This group was featured in Pat Thomas’ celebrated CD 4 Compositions for Orchestra which came out of the first Cohesion Festival in 2007.
I helped organise the Cohesion Festival 2011 in Oxford. Our focus was on African and African American music traditions in improvisation and featured Wadada Leo Smith as festival guest. I also created a participatory piece with Bruno Guastalla for which we rehearsed and prepared anyone who wanted to be part of the event.
Details are at Cohesion 2011.
I have taught for Footloose Arts, an organisation that specialises in creating music projects for all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Details of a successful project with an Oxford School (the Universe Project) are held at Footloose Arts. We made the music that we created as part of this project available at this site.