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welcome to Heart Beats

welcome to Heart Beats

Friday, 1 December 2017

AllStars is ended - so what happened?

We're just finishing our final report to the funders of the main AllStars programme- the National Foundation for Youth Music. Without whom, none of this would have been possible.

 So - we wondered, what had we done? 
Lots and lots of music.... lots and lots of fun...lots and lots of learning. 
Plenty of new friends made along the way.

 The occasional party!

Here's some of the things we have reflected on : 

The programme was aspirational and to a degree experimental. 

We followed a community music model that was underpinned by therapeutic approaches, participation, and best practice in communication. We researched improvisation and free ensemble playing. We took musical risks and processed the outcomes.

We followed our programme plan carefully : it worked well. We extended our delivery thanks to local support. Increasing our pool of accessible instruments, we explored sensory approaches to music through offering ‘conventional’ instruments to people who had never had this opportunity before.

We brought people together who would never normally meet , allowing them to explore relationships through sound and structured musical activities that led to an increase in musicality, personal progression, and social interaction. 

We supplemented the education of a diverse range of gifted young musicians whose lives have been altered by the experience. 

We empowered individuals with complex learning needs, sensory impairment and autism, allowing them to participate playfully or with gravitas, leading others, and engaging on their own terms. We responded respectfully to all input and valued the unexpected. 

We worked diligently with our SEN volunteers and music leader, taking their lead and valuing their voice. – This at a time when ‘disabled music leadership’ is high on the agenda.

We shared knowledge with teachers, professionals and graduates. We gave advice on starting organisations, fundraising, and good practice; also, career guidance and mentoring support.

Our team have grown in expertise through co-working and skillshare. This is fully transferrable and affects all our practice.

We helped groups interact and find a group mind. We provided consulted opportunities for celebration and sharing, including a day of joyful partying at one of the most beautiful locations in the area.

We’ve seen music changes lives, takes us to places we wouldn’t otherwise go, and builds true communities of experience.

So - cheers everybody! Bye for now.

Monday, 10 July 2017

How to end - part two : Twelfth Night at the Globe

Throughout the AllStars project, Alex and Jane have been running the Listening Lounge - monthly music mentoring sessions with a mixed group of SEN/D musicians and music students / Graduate Music Assistants.

This safe, small and exploratory group have been integral to the delivery of the project. Ideas for workshops have been investigated and developed. We've chatted, played together, and used all sorts of approaches to interactive improvisation.

We've invented games, written songs, experimented with graphic scores, art and sound, iPads apps, voices, and lots of surprising ideas.

This summer Alex has been in London a lot, as the drummer in the band for Emma Rice's production of Twelfth Night at the Globe Theatre.... ' the Summer of Love' season. We'd spent our session last month exploring drama and music, learning about the play, and impersonating the characters. Josh identified with 'Count Cappuccino' and Hannah, Sir Toby Belch. Lots of laughs, and some serious playing.
The Globe Theatre
The stage
It seemed obvious that our last Listening Lounge session should be a visit to the Globe Theatre.
a warm day...

So - off we went on the hottest day of the year!  It was an adventure, and a long day, but with Russ at the wheel it was a smooth journey.

a full house
Our seats were in the upper gallery. We had a good view of the play and the musician's gallery and managed a couple of celebrity waves at the drummer.

The play, the music and the atmosphere were completely unforgettable. Lots of humour, with top class musicianship and singing from the cast.

As we drove back west we were treated to a spectacular sunset over Stonehenge and Salisbury plain.

A colourful end to a special day, and a vibrant end to a special piece of work.

How to end - part one : the Giant Jam

How to end AllStars music? Starting in the spring of 2015, the delivery phase has ended now - we will spend the next months reflecting, planning and evaluating - taking a breath before new things roll out.

Even in the early planning phase of AllStars we knew we'd want to mark the end of the work well.
Finishing can be difficult; it's one of the recurring themes of funded work. We knew we wanted to say goodbye with optimism and a sense of achievement.

We planned an end-of-project festival. With additional financial support from the Big Lottery and their perfectly-timed 'Celebrate' fund, we were able to put on an event that brought our community of young and SEN/D musicians together.

Beautifully put together by Ben, our pastoral support worker, and Jade, our admin star, the Giant Jam festival was organised in consultation with a team of party planners from the Heart Beats group.

Frome Street Bandits
Art Box bunting
The Gaint Jam was held at the Ammerdown Conference Centre - a beautiful garden alive with flowers and bees.
The sun shone all day.

Bands played outdoors and in the 'main stage room',  a transformed space with underwater decor borrowed from a local festival organiser and excellent sound equipment provided by our project partners SRYP.
The main stage room
A dance workshop, Loops disco and four live bands made it a real festival.
Festival goers enjoyed a performance from an inclusive choir, a ukelele workshop, a drum circle,  an art workshop, free massage, interactive storytelling from Openstorytellers,
Smiling gate crew
Relaxing massage
Live music workshops
outdoor games, wood fired pizzas, and an array of treats supplied by the brand new catering van from Critchill SEN school.

An outdoor improvisation workshop showcased the talents of the Heart Beats group and involved lots of new people too.

An amazing team of stewards and volunteers  made the day safe, fun and accessible for everyone.
Stewards and volunteers
We even got a slot on BBC Points West.

The Giant Jam brought all sorts of people together - it was inter-generational, inclusive and really enjoyable.

We're glad that the AllStars project, which has united so many diverse musicians, could end on such a bright note and a beautiful day.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

What's the 'perfect session'?

Last Thursday our Heart Beats group gathered in Cedars Hall for the last session of the AllStars project. The mood was upbeat because we are all looking forward to our festival, the Giant Jam, this Sunday.

AllStars has been a long and complex project, involving many different people across Somerset and beyond. The Heart Beats sessions in Wells have been the core, with 38 sessions since Easter 2015.
Every session has been surprising, fun and different, and last Thursday was no exception.

In reflection, we agreed that it felt like a 'perfect session'.
As often happens, a few folk couldn't be there, but we had a good mix in the room, musicians with disabilities, young music students from Wells Cathedral School and Bath Spa University.
Everyone was relaxed, at home, and full of affectionate chat. Laughter ran round the room.
People choose their instruments with confidence and played them well. Listening was focused, respectful, and there was a plenty of considerate space in the music.
The dynamics of the session grew slowly from playful interaction to upbeat dance groove. The music grew and became bigger than the sum of its parts.

Most importantly, after starting the pieces, the music leaders could step right back and just play as equals. Everyone participated on their own terms, coming together to create a harmonious whole. The music took over.

We parted as friends and in the hope that we will all play together again really soon.
Thanks everyone! A perfect session.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Workshop and Performance at Three Ways School.

Scott, John and Naomi are music students from Bath Spa University who've been on placements with the Heart Beats group this year. It's been fun working with them!

When Three Ways , a local SEN school, asked us to come in and do some music, we were thrilled when Scott and Naomi said they could join us...mostly because it was a real-life work experience opportunity for them, but also because they are top class musicians and have so many great ideas. Here's a clip of our planning session.


Last week we went to the school and ran workshops with two groups of post-16 and secondary students, improvising and creating new pieces of music together. Naomi and Scott added harp, saxophone, percussion and vocals, scaffolding the music and making sure everyone was engaged in a truly musical way.

The following morning the two groups performed in assembly to a relaxed and attentive audience.

The pupils enjoyed this experience as much as we did. 'I liked it because I haven't done anything like it before. It was fun to work with professional musicians. I was happy today in assembly. I'd like to try a different instrument next time, maybe a stringed one.'
'I've never played the steel pan before, it's my favourite instrument at the moment.' 
'The people let me have a go myself and be independent.'
'It was really good and interesting. I liked using the iPad because it avoided handache. I liked trying different instruments.'

A member of staff said : 'it was lovely to be able to see all the kid's faces in the group, they just looked so engaged and proud of themselves.'
The music co-ordinator said 'It was a fantastic thing to do, and covered so many aims that we've had for Music this year. 


Monday, 19 June 2017

Celebrating the AllStars Music project

The AllStars project is reaching an end with our mega-celebration, the Giant Jam, coming up on July 2nd.

What are we celebrating? We're celebrating
- hours and hours of live music played by amazing people with extra special powers
- establishing new friendships and connections
- a training programme that made us think hard about what we do and how it works
- some wonderful 'outreach' workshops and performances
- a chance to explore and reflect at the Listening Lounge sessions
- many surprising, fun, and serious moments
- all the volunteers and professionals who have given generously of their time and inspiration
- all the many individuals and grant giving organisations that support our work
- our partnerships with Wells Cathedral School, Spaeda, the Somerset Rural Youth project and Bath Spa University
- all the parents and carers who have supported all the young disabled musicians we work with

There is a lot more to say. This summer we'll be writing up our reports and evaluating the work. Everything we have learned from all the good people we've met along the way will help us to go forward and reach even more people, spread the music and see what is around the corner.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Giant Jam news updates

Lots of good news about our festival The Giant Jam.

Ben is busy booking people to come and help make it happen.  Drum It Up drum circle, Frome Street Bandits, Openstorytellers, Bianco Rosso Pizzas, Loops disco - and loads more to be announced really soon.

Follow the news on facebook. Book free tickets on Eventbrite.

The Giant Jam is a celebration to mark the end of the AllStars project, which has included HeartBeats music club and much more besides. Help us to make it a day to remember. Tell your friends and 'spread the Jam!'

Monday, 10 April 2017

A Music Making conference

On Friday April 28th we'll be showing what we do at Youth + Music =  a Music Making Conference - a conference for teachers, youth workers, musicians, and music practitioners in Bridgwater.
Youth + Music = is organised by local organisation the Somerset Rural Youth Project, who have been project partners of ours for several years now.

Here's Geoff doing some music leading at their conference last year . This year we shall be explaining what we do to make our music workshops more inclusive.

Monday, 20 March 2017

'a different outlook on improvising and listening to one another.....'

On Saturday we ran a training day - music leadership skills development. It was inspiring and fun to spend the day with a group of talented young musicians, who have an interest in community music and music therapy.

Days like this are rare enough -  and short, too - so we needed to get straight to the point. We wanted to talk, share, play, and explore concepts.

Being given the opportunity to share what you do begins with plenty of thinking. The idea was to explain what we do in our sessions, and why, and put some context on it all. We needed to cover all areas of interest, through doing as well as telling.

Between us we covered a lot of ground, from information on how the brain is affected by music, to receptive and expressive communication, to what happens to your listening ability when you only play for 50% of the time in an improvisation.

We asked everyone what they thought of the day - was it useful? Some comments...
- inspirational, invigorating, eye opening, educational
- very grounding, so much de-stressing - so warm and friendly
- a different outlook on improvising and listening to one another
- meditative, insightful, really fun
- cemented my want to be involved in community music and music therapy
- JOYOUS! - expressive, relaxed, informative, and personal in the sense that I felt as if I and other members of the group were expressing personal things through spontaneous music making
- I hope we can have future sessions like this!

We're already planning how we can offer more sessions like this. Thanks for coming, everybody.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Integration, inclusion - powerful music

What a brilliant session today in Bridgwater - with students from the Jean Rees Centre and Chilton Trinity school coming together to improvise, co-create, and listen.

We can say this was an 'inclusive' session because there was a role for everyone, with open permission to play, listen and be creative. The atmosphere was respectful, playful, and trusting. No one was excluded.

We can also say it was an 'integrated' session because everyone there was bringing different skills to the room. J from Jean Rees taught the Chilton Trinity students some Makaton which they then incorporated in to some conducting. Everyone worked together to craft and perform small pieces of new music.

Some leadership skills emerging

We are running these sessions to explore what happens when you bring peer groups together from different settings, and to see how communication develops with music as the medium.

Well! today certainly had a big warm glow, and the room was full of life affirming sound.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sharing what we do

Doing our final planning for our music leaders development day this Saturday, we are reflecting on what we do and how we do it - and of course, why we do it.
The trick is to share that usefully with other people so that they will be inspired by it all.

We like running training sessions. It's worth acknowledging that our main funders, Youth Music, support and encourage CPD within projects.
It helps define what we do as a team, and what is unique about our approach.

There's a lot of interest in musical inclusion at present. Between us we've been working in this area for plenty of years. The privilege of wide experience gives us something worthwhile to add to the conversation.
some serious listening!

Here's some feedback from our last open training day

- fundamental, free, expressive, understandable
- what a great combination of theory and practice!
- amazing - I learned a lot. I learned, what is music.
- life affirming. It opened my eyes to a different type of work
- inspiring, motivational, therapeutic

If you would like us to come to you, in whatever setting, and deliver some training, do get in touch.

Friday, 3 March 2017


 We are so pleased and excited to be launching The Giant Jam - a one-day festival celebrating musical creativity within the local learning disability community.

All our team are delighted to have been awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund to celebrate the achievement of our young musicians , trainees, volunteers and wider community that have been drawn together by the AllStars project.

The party planners

The Giant Jam will host an amazing variety of musical performances, jamming and workshops, dancing and discos, rest and relaxation and of course plenty of tasty food.

This party will be taking place at the Ammerdown Centre, near Radstock on Sunday 2nd July 2017 from 12pm to 8pm.

Tickets are FREE, and are available at The Giant Jam Eventbrite page.

Keep an eye on the blog for more news, and follow our facebook page

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Music leaders' development day - an opportunity

The AllStars team are running a FREE music leader's development day in Wells on March 18th.

This is for anyone with an interest in music leading and community music - come and learn some new ideas in a fun environment, and try some stuff out. The activities will be led by Russ Stanley, Alex Lupo and Jane Harwood.

We'll be sharing tips and ideas for good music leading, especially with groups with additional needs.You can do some leading, take notes, film, or just join in and play.

Bring a packed lunch and an instrument or your voice.

Venue : the Denning Room, Union St, Wells BA5 2PU
Date; March 18th
Time : 10.30 - 2.00

You'll need to book a place : email

Monday, 13 February 2017

searching and reflecting - a team day

Alex, Jane, Russ and Ben were off over the border to Earlswood in Monmouthshire last week for a team skill share and reflection day. Before we did any speaking we made time for some music - tuning up and tuning in.

Professional development is important to the way we work together. This was a chance to try out some new things and really concentrate on how we play together as well.

Cold enough for woolly hats..
We had lots of fun which must be a good sign!

It was an opportunity to eat cake and discuss the future  - we have lots of ideas for ways to take our work forward, so it all feels positive.
nice sunset!

One idea is to spend more time together reflecting on good practice and inspiration in music leading.... a day didn't feel long enough.

We discussed creating a resource that would help others work in the way that we do.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

the music of how we're feeling

At the Listening Lounge, we were thinking about how other people might be feeling..... how those people made us feel ...and even, just how we were feeling ourselves.

 Then we had a think about what kind of music would describe those feelings, and had a go at playing some of those feelings.

Playing 'calm' made us relaxed.... even if we weren't that calm at first.

Playing 'angry' was noisy but fun.

'Jealousy' was the most surprising : we all ended up laughing, sneaking a go on each others' instruments, and being playful.

What we discovered was that, as a group, playing music could change our mood. It wasn't just that we could represent a feeling through sound - it was more complex than that.
Because we were listening, and responding, and initiating,  together we could build pieces of music that could make us happier, calmer, or surprised.

Playing 'angry' didn't make us angry though. Actually - we felt better afterwards!

Later, Josh started to play the piano. Here's how it sounded. How would you describe this?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Music tonight!

Hello - if you are in the Heart Beats crew - come along to Cedars Hall tonight to get our exciting programme for 2017 going with some real live music....

Everyone can expect a warm welcome, new faces and old : and we have some exciting news for you too.

Friday, 6 January 2017

AllStars in 2017 : heading West

This is the final year of our AllStars project, which will end with a HUGE celebration this summer.
We've got plenty of great stuff to look forward to in the next few months.

This January we start a new mini-project that we're calling AllStars West.
The Jean Rees post-16 centre in Bridgwater is hosting a series of weekly music sessions where we will be playing live, interactive music with 11 students.
These sessions will build listening and social skills, as well as being fun, interactive and age appropriate.
We'll work with staff to help students move towards their Thrive targets.

Because AllStars brings mixed ability groups together to communicate through music, we will invite students from Chilton Trinity school, which shares a location with Jean Rees, to join the sessions too.

We expect to help build self esteem, confidence, listening skills, and social and emotional learning....because music is a great way to do this!