During the project we were keen to demonstrate that you could use a wide range of creative medium to get people talking about where they live and their aspirations for the future of their town.
We thought a participatory music activity would work especially well with children. We ran two African drumming workshop with children aged between seven and fourteen.
A musical composition was also created, inspired by sounds of Brierley Hill. It used soundscape recordings of the town as a background track.
African Drumming Workshop
The first of two workshops, led by Mike Tinsley, was run with members of The Brierley Hill Project’s after-school club, involving children whose ages ranged from seven to twelve.
The participants had fun learning rhythms and songs using West African djembe drums. However, as this was the first time that the children had been to Artspace and it was at the end of the school day, it was not the right opportunity to engage the group in talking about the town. So we tested the approach with a different group of slightly older children, and in a different environment.
The second workshop involved a group of ten to fourteen year olds from Hawbush. It was run outside on a sunny day at Hawbush Community Gardens.
The main focus of the workshop, and the ‘hook’ to involvement, was experiencing the African drums and learning some drumming techniques. The first hour concentrated entirely on this. In the second hour we started discussions about Brierley Hill.
First, we asked the children to think about words that they would use to describe Brierley Hill. There was a mixture of positive and negative comments.
Words chosen to describe the town today
- Not bad
- A death trap
- Drunken people
They then took turns drumming a rhythm, saying their word and explaining their reasons for choosing it. The children’s responses were mainly about their own immediate area and experiences; Negative comments focused on the lack of playground facilities, vandalism and litter. Positive comments were related to family and friends.
The children had to be prompted to consider buildings and the contribution they make to the area. The children naturally considered the use of buildings, rather than the way they look, when talking about the High Street and Merry Hill.
Some pre-workshop preparation would have added more focus to the discussions and helped the children to think about the buildings of Brierley Hill before they came. The children would have felt more equipped to articulate what they think about their town and ways it could be improved.
After a brief return to drumming, and learning an African song, the children were then asked to think about the future, in context with regeneration; new buildings, jobs, places to meet. In ten years time when you are in your twenties, how would you like Brierley Hill to look? What would you like to be able to say about your town?
The children were asked to write a word or sentence on a post-it note and stick it on their drum. Most children used adjectives to describe feelings – happy, cheerful, hopeful – in relation to their friends and family. A few thought about change, about playground facilities and the town being cleaner. One boy said he wanted to feel ‘proud’ of his town.
Mike then walked around the group, singing the tune to the African song they had just learnt, but with the words changed to “Ten years time, Brierley Hill, Brierley Hill…” ). The children took turns to speak or sing back their word or sentence and explain why they had chosen it. We were aiming to produce a group song in which they expressed their aspirations for the future to a steady drum beat.
Musician Pete Williams went into the town and recorded ambient sounds of Brierley Hill during a Brierley Hillness workshop. These included: market, street, cafe, Merry Hill mall, canal, the water locks and weir; and inside TXMax, KFC and the library.
Artspace coordinator and musician Ed Cartwright then used a selection of these audio sounds to create a background track for his Brierley Hill-inspired saxophone composition entitled Faggotsnpeas
Brierley Hill Song
A song was also written by a volunteer from The Brierley Hill Project as a result of the creative writing workshops (see Creative Writing).
Steve singing about Brierley Hill.
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