Friday, 3 November 2017

'Musical Words A-G' Before and After

So, here's what we planned: A series of workshops for the first 
weekend in October - traditionally this is Art on the Hill Weekend
our community arts trail for Windmill Hill and surrounding 
neighbourhoods in South Bristol: 

Flyer for our Arts Weekend Multi-Arts Workshops. Pictured: Colin Smith, pianist

We had a lot of fun, particularly on the Saturday when
Colin Smith provided the musical entertainment, all inspired
by our words from the musical scale A-G.  The participants, 
mostly children, were great sports and the dance moves from the
fantastic stories they created were particularly entertaining. 

Moreover here's what we got:  A Musical Words A-G 
community collage! Now in the Charles Padfield Centre, 
next to Victoria Park Baptist Church BS3 5DA:

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Breathless...With A Thought

Theresa's thought poem

Thoughts And Earworms - our Emotional Wellbeing Families project, with an emphasis on Primary-school-aged children

"Breathless. With a thought. Ideas. Balloons, bubbles, bursting. Beginnings".

This is Theresa's 'thought poem'.  Others of us have been sharing our 'thought songs' or general earworms...songs that won't go away.

The words have particular significance for Theresa and I like them.  So they have become the lynchpin of our Emotional Wellbeing Project (see previous post) involving *live music, dance, artwork* and lots of balloons and bubbles.

Our Happy Happenings and serious thoughts are all taking place at Victoria Park Baptist Church, Bristol.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Thought Bubbles

All workshops are taking place at Victoria Park Baptist Church.
Thoughts and Earworms - our Bristol City Council funded Emotional Wellbeing project for children and families - is going well.  On Sunday we held a visual arts-based workshop called 'Thought Bubbles'.  People of various ages had a great time making a paint and washing-up liquid mixture, which then translated into wonderful bubble paintings. 

We've created work that'll go on the walls in time for our presentation of *live music and dance*, which we look forward to showing on Sunday 9th July.

Coming soon to the EWF Children & Families 'Thoughts and Earworms' project :

'Thought Paintings', a visual arts workshop using acrylics and oils.  For example: the bird in the picture feels lonely.   There's an open padlock, made of gold, with a rusty chain which, to the outside eye, might represent freedom.  But sometimes feelings are so strong, we cannot escape them. Feelings are not always bright and happy.  This is why this project is considered important and has been endorsed by the organisations below:

A lonely bird standing in dirty dark surroundings with a broken padlock and rusty chain nearby
Lonely Bird from original by JJ

Sunday, 22 January 2017


A bold new way of looking at an old hymn, maybe?... Using it as an intro, then hurling it over a precipice and letting modernism and minimalism take it somewhere else?  Some 7-9 year olds have been shaping our new multi-arts workshop piece into something tumultuous: "For those in peril...S O S".

Live music at Victoria Park Baptist Church

Have a listen to our early workings and the skills we're learning:  A first attempt at public violin-playing, learning to play cymbals and hammering out a distress call in Morse Code on the piano...It's all part of the fun.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016


I'm glad to say our Christmas 2016 Multi-Arts Workshop material will feature in the *Christingle Service* on December 11th at Victoria Park Baptist Church, South Bristol, UK.  

It's all quite simple this time - I'll be playing Melodion and Shruti Box and musicians Paul Midgley and Monika Kralj will be playing other wonderful instruments - and participants, from local Primary and Secondary schools, will be dancing....a folk dance to match the Folk genre of this carol, known as The Sussex Carol.  By way of contrast and as referenced in the title of this post, I've written a slow, reflective section for the middle of this piece (not included below).

The tune of the Sussex Carol  - below - was discovered and documented by Cecil Sharp at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


Shruti Box from
First of a series of recordings: 'Short Songs With A Shruti'. We sang this song in church, a while back...and I thought, this hymn is special - why's it special? Anyway, it transpires that it's a traditional spiritual. I don't know who wrote it, but it ended up in the hymn book.  

I'm hoping to create some exciting, immersive multi-arts workshops soon, centred around this music.  But, in the meantime, here's a little singing practice - just the Shruti Box...and me:

Thursday, 11 August 2016


I'm working with Primary school children, mostly Juniors, on a movement and dance piece and we'll be experimenting with the Pentatonic Scale...We're holding a workshop on Tuesday 30th August.  Here's the piece we're going to use - and play live.  It's simple and happy: 


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Owl, the Pussycat and Personal Pronouns

A few weeks in the making and our new interactive school workshop is in shape featuring poetry, dance and music - centred around the work of Edward Lear.  The full workshop takes about half an hour.

Year 2 (6 and 7 years olds) completed their SATS tests this Spring.  And before this they learnt, all together, "The Owl And The Pussycat".  I loved hearing the whole class repeating this poem together, they did some great actions too.  

So, if personal pronouns were a feature of the SATS grammar tests...then no worries here. There are no personal pronouns in this poem.  Which makes it all the more enigmatic...

I like the rhythm of the poem.  I created a backing track, which I think has a bit of a bossa nova lilt. Isobel is narrating the text.

BELOW: Link to a draft recording of this project, using voice, piano and shruti box.  Please 'like' and comment: 

Saturday, 26 March 2016

PANDORA - Hope in a Culture of Blame


In the myth of PANDORA, the first woman was named, shamed and blamed for introducing all the evils of the world. Only Hope remained in the jar  

‘Pandora’s Box’ is a participatory workshop, a re-telling of the story from Pandora’s perspective -  through original music, dance, storytelling and song.  What will we open up? Join us in this exploration of creativity, hidden feelings, fears and hopes, aimed at and adapted for KS1-3 groups as well as the wider community.

How will we work in general?

Each workshop will be different according to the life experiences and themes. Feelings of uncontrollable curiosity, boredom, fear, anticipation, shame, guilt, finding a scapegoat, the struggle to find meaning and hope. Typically we will present a partial performance and see what it stimulates in the attendees.

Why this piece and what’s the point?

This undertaking of the story of Pandora is fuelled by Judith’s personal experience in becoming a single parent through widowhood: feeling separated, shamed and blamed by prevailing views of the Establishment (eg reliance on Tax Credits). Our experience is that when we enter dark, uncomfortable feelings in creative ways, alongside each other, held by experienced arts practitioners, it can allow illumination of issues, even transformation.

How will we carry out the workshop?

The opening performance lasts 10-15 minutes. All the school children listen and observe - also get actively involved. The story builds suspense as Pandora arrives with a mysterious box, knows not to open it, yet is curious, a curiosity which is overpowering. The story ends as the box is opened and words about bad things come out. Pandora enters a spin of despair and confusion. She is named as the one responsible, she is shamed, she is blamed. We convey this through movement and harmonious and dissonant music.

Later: The artists work with smaller groups.  School children will provide a musical score with school instruments. Pandora (Judith) invites the children to adopt a physical position that relates to Pandora’s shaming. The children choose what feels right and try and connect with the appropriate feelings as they get into position. Then Pandora (Judith) invites the children to rise up, unfurl, stretch, towards a feeling of freedom. The trumpet/shruti box (a sort of drone giver) can also help to accompany this.

RUNNING ORDER (and guide as to how a workshop might unfold):


Pandora sings MANTRA...with piano and shruti box. “Don’t open the box, Pandora!”

MANTRA is interspersed with “9th chord”...”but she was curious”, (what was in the box?) “was it something beautiful?”  “was it her heart’s desire?”

“Now she’s WATCHING THE CLOCK”….quarter past, half past, quarter to, one o’clock” (x2) (Children can join in with this)

“And, watching the clock for hours she fell into a sleepless dream” improv with trumpet, piano and Pandora’s hand reaching out to the box, when not playing the piano keys.  The tension builds...

Suddenly - unexpectedly, she opens the box...horrible words (in the form of small fragments of torn up newspaper) fly everywhere.  She looks at the words, moves with the words, tries to piece them together...but it’s overwhelming.  She throws the words high into the air and dances a dance of despair, as the words fall around her.  She realises she must get back to the box, so she reaches for it, grabs it and holds it close.


HOPE is left in the box!  This is our motivation: what do we do with HOPE?

Music workshops, with movement.  School instruments, plus shruti box, trumpet etc.

I wrote this as a possible ending...which I think is a happy ending.  But the workshops might pan out differently, so we are available for any ending or outcome! “And gradually the love, kindness and compassion of people woke Pandora from her near death.  And she realised that love casts out all fear, and she believed in herself and trusted that, while some people might still blame her for what she had done, others would love, respect and understand her.”