Teaching and community involvement

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 electronic and acoustic instruments; I organise workshops with artists from other disciplines – especially dance; I help establish musical groups within the communities of Oxford.

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 complimentary and part of a political commitment. I took on working with the OU because of its aim to promote lifelong learning, something it is still trying to encourage despite increasing financial pressure. Arts funding has been severely cut back by government opposition to the arts which must be seen as a dangerously democratising force that challenges the replacement of democracy in the UK by the corporate interests that fund contemporary politics. I see the support for arts practice and for arts education as prerequisites for any democratic society. I therefore see 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 and one I helped establish.

Confluence

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 came to the class and we started 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 that are represented by members or the interest of members of the group. 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 area. A particular focus will be communities who have no political voice – asylum seekers, 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 creation of recording and of notation as well as collaborative performance.

There is now a performing group from this initiative which plays music from countries including France, England, Wales, Iran, Spain, Portugal. India, Pakistan, 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 is now at a level where we are asked to perform and have recently performed for the Old Fire Station and Refugee Resource amongst other local groups.

Recordings of the group are available at:

Oxford Improvisers

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 poet, including residences at OVADA, performances 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: 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 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.

Footloose Arts

I have taught for Footloose Arts – an organisation which 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.

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