Youth Music Blog 04/10/17
The latest Nature Beats course (no.12) is now in its final week, with a group of seven young people from Coventry taking part, and three others who have stayed on after previous courses to volunteer as mentors with us. They have spent their last five Wednesdays out in the woods at Rough Close, learning and practising bushcraft skills, recording sounds from nature, and creating nature-based art pieces. Friday sessions have taken place at the Koco Community Centre, learning a yoga practice (as a way to ground, energise, and relax themselves in the morning), discussing the transferable skills they have learned out in the woods, recording sounds in the urban environment, and making a music track together.
An integral part of the outdoor sessions is the ‘sit spot’ practice. As they arrive in the woods, all young people and staff spend the first five to ten minutes sitting alone, out of sight from each another, just slowing everything down, tuning into their own breathing, and to their senses. It is a deeply connective mindfulness practice, which not only helps to calm the mind, but also brings people into closer and more meaningful relationship with themselves and the natural world. Over time the practice often begins to awaken a sense of ancestry and belonging, a feeling of becoming native again to the environment which sustained us as a species for so long, and with which we used to be so intimate.
Another important part of both indoor and outdoor sessions is the practice of Council. This means that we sit in circle together, using a talking piece (some beautiful natural object) which we each hold in turn and it means we have the opportunity to speak from the heart, while everybody else simply pays attention, listening without judgement or interruption. The young people learn that they can only speak about their own experience, feelings, and reflections in this practice, which opens the way, bit by bit, for a lot of truth to be shared and trust to build up between them.
It has been a real privilege and pleasure to watch this group of young people explore the woodland, learning new skills and creating music and art pieces together, in such a cooperative, friendly and non-judgemental way. We have even had the regular pleasure of lunchtime performances from one of the young people who is a singer / songwriter, and there is talk of collaborations to be born out of this too, with one or two of the others who are less confident to play in public being able to work in pairs or smaller groups on musical creations. They have all been building positive relationships and fully sticking to the agreement they made for themselves at the start of the course, for creating, maintaining, and growing this safe space between them, and it is truly wonderful to see how they have developed as a group and interact together at this stage.