The Big Bang hits Leeds

The Big Bang performance at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

In the Summer of 2003, Paul Dear of Rhythmbridge, Shari Baker of floemedia, and Val of Cottingley Pupil Development Centre, embarked on a music project with a cluster of inner city Leeds schools. Paul and Shari developed ideas and built the proposal together, along with consultation from Val at the PDC. The project was delivered through an existing network built around the PDC. The PDC is a unit which offers an alternative curriculum to children who are having difficulties in mainstream education. The PDC is based in a school and the children attend it as well as doing regular school too. The PDC we had targeted was in Cottingley, Leeds and we selected 6 schools that were outreached by this PDC. Shari and Paul met with Val the head of the PDC and again this feeling of positivity continued with Val’s enthusiastic response to the idea of Drum Circles and my discovery that the philosophies behind the PDC were very similar to what Drum Circle work could achieve. The project would involve the wider community as well as the children in the schools and our intention was to create regular ongoing drum circles in each of the 6 schools. We talked through a number of possible approaches and finally came up with what we thought was a workable plan. We submitted a bid and in due course we received funding from Youth Music and the Arts Council England and the “Big Bang” was born.

14 children were selected from each of the six schools. 7 were targeted PDC pupils and 7 were from within the school. The decision not to go wholly with Targeted children was in support of teh wholistic aims of the project – to create ongoing circles and cohesion. Just working with targeted pupils may have alienated others and set up a divide. With the selected pupils were combined – two schools formed one POD. One of the two partner schools would become the host for the circles.

Each of the three POD’S therefore consisted of the following:

* 14 Target pupils
* 14 non target pupils
* 4 members of staff (min)
* 1 music student *

*Part of the funding from Youth Music was given to take on a Young Music student for the duration of the project. The project took on 3 volunteer students – one for each POD.

Each POD would take part in a facilitated Drum Circle every week for 6 weeks. Each session would last for 90 minutes in duration. Phase one was essentially an introduction the Drum Circles for both pupils and staff.

In phase two another 20 pupils (10 target, 10 non) were added to each POD, bringing POD sizes up to approximately 50, with the idea that the Phase one POD would act as mentors to the new members, allowing for easy integration. Phase two also saw the beginning of basic training in Drum Circle Facilitation Techniques for the staff and the music students. Again each POD took part in a weekly Drum Circle for 6 weeks.

Phase three began with a final period of training for the staff and music students. Each POD then took part in a weekly circle for the remaining 6 weeks with staff and students receiving facilitation time in the circles and feedback on their work.

At the end of Phase Three all of the POD’S came together for a final circle at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Family and friends were invited and on the night 400 people came together for the “Big Bang”. [More photos]

As part of the funding each POD received its own Drum Circle Kit, comprising drums, percussion, Boomwhakers© and Remo Sound Shapes for 60 persons which were split between the two schools at the project end. Each of the six schools taking part would be left with a legacy of equipment, trained staff and a training manual including CD-Rom and both Arthur Hulls Book and Video. All of the staff were committed to continuing the Drum Circles in the schools when the project finished.

In summary, the project was a huge success and managed to engage not only the children but also a large number of parents. There is a possibility that funding may be attracted to either repeat the project throughout the city or to develop a second phase which will be delivered to the remaining 4 PDC’S.

Shari Baker is a creative consultant, artist and educator. She writes regularly for Practical Funding for Schools, and School Enterprise, and can assist in the delivery, or development of creative programmes of alternative curriculum for schools and community groups. Say hello and find out more.

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