by Author Laura Emerson

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Wear Making Music - Summer 2018

What a summer we’ve had with our ‘Wear Making Music’ programme! The weather has been glorious and we’ve been making the most of it, hitting the streets, parks, parties, and anywhere else that will have us!

Our World Music group has been bringing the flavour of Brazil to events all over the county and beyond.

‘Runaway Samba’ has gained new members, trained hard to develop a wealth of new contemporary and traditional rhythms, and flown the flag for youth leadership and musical excellence. Best of all we got to do it in our new t-shirts designed by the wonderful Kim McDermattroe over at Greener Lavelle – check them out in the pictures. 

We performed at the Magic Weekend International Rugby Tournament, the Labour  party summer BBQ in the gorgeous grounds of Durham Miners Hall, and at Run to the Sun, a mid-summer sporting fundraiser for our friends at RT Projects, where we held on to our title of ‘Slowest Lap’.

The highlight of the Samba Summer was our collaboration with Northern Monkey Brass Band. The group spent an afternoon with our team to develop new rhythms to accompany two of their tunes. The new material was performed at the end of their set in Crook – our hometown! – as part of Durham International Brass Festival. 

The process of collaboration and ‘on the hoof’ development was a new dynamic for many of our members. The young people (and us adults within the intergenerational band) flexed their creative muscles to the delight of the Northern Brass Monkeys. Many thanks to the band for their creative generosity, their energy, and the fantastic experience.   Baque de Ogum, our resident Brazilian Maracatu band, got just about everywhere short of Brazil itself this season! From Hospice fundraisers, to Mindfulness Days, they brought the flavour of Carnaval to events around the country.

The season kicked off good and proper at the Great Exhibition of the North at the Sage, Gateshead, where Baque de Ogum brought the thud of AXÉ (that means peace, love, and spirit among other things) to the Gateshead/Newcastle Quayside. Best of all, THE Tom Robinson (BBC6 presenter and musician of old) took a video of us and tweeted it to his 31.7K followers! Check it out -

We started parading with a bang at the Spennymoor Gala. We also welcomed new dancers to our team, under the tutelage of professionals and all-round superstars Lizzie Klotz and Alys North. Alys recently returned to the North East of England from the North East of Brazil (birthplace of Maracatu) where she has been studying carnival dance.

No time to rest and we were off again, this time to Liverpool’s Brazilica – the UK’s biggest festival celebrating Brazilian music and culture. We met up with our London-based sister band Baque de Axé who also trained under our mentors from Nação do Maracatu Porto Rico. Cue a very sweaty 3-hour rehearsal to perfect our collaboration for the main event. 

And then we were off – a two hour parade through the centre of Liverpool with over 20 of the biggest, brightest, and best bands celebrating the music of Brazil, including our good friends at Katumba, Juba do Leão, and Paradiso. We spent long rehearsals building our stamina but Brazilica is a real test, especially when you add on an impromptu jam with Juba at the finish line (but we wouldn’t swap it for the world). We had a full compliment of incredible dancers, including our new members from Syria who have joined us following our successful Erasmus+ project back in spring. And best of all – the whole rehearsal and parade was led, most expertly, by our young leader Sam Ward-Hardy. At only 18 years old he has become one of the youngest people to receive a Winston Churchill Foundation grant. He’ll be jetting off to Brazil in September for 5 months of musical and cultural study. We couldn’t be prouder, and young leaders Matthew Lonergan and Brendan Hoar are stepping up their game to become samba and maracatu leaders themselves, beginning next term. Hooray!

In the meantime, our merry band of Creative Performers have been hard at work devising and developing content for their upcoming outdoor show to be performed in Hamsterley Forest in November, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The production – titled ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ after the damning poem by Wilfriod Owen -is a collaboration building on a long-standing friendship between ourselves (Jackass Youth Theatre), Turrets Youth Theatre (Barnard Castle) and Wash Youth Theatre (Bishop Auckland). The play will explore the lives of local people who fought, died, and lived through the shadow of the Great War. The project is supported by Youth Music and the County Durham Community Foundation’s #IWILL campaign.

The young people are currently developing soundscapes, theatre score, live music, and song to accompany the piece. It is being developed in partnership with Burn the Curtain Theatre, a company who specialise in immersive outdoor theatre. They are experts in creating multi-dimensional narratives as well as the development and use of technology, multimedia, and music in outdoor settings. They are also experts in the Hamsterley Forest terrain, having performed 2 of their recent productions there themselves.

Thanks to funding from the 3 Towns Area Action Partnership, 6 members of the group travelled down to London to visit the Imperial War Museum. They have returned brimming with ideas and the development is in full swing.

Our team in the Collective Music-Making strand made the most of the Summer ‘Awards Season –  In June they were presented with The Key ‘Special Recognition’ Award for organising the ‘Key Change’ event, with Backyard Rhythm Orchestra headlining, and their youth band Cuttlefish Orchestra and Baque De Ogum as support. The event was in aid of the “If You Care, Share’ Foundation, an organisation dedicated to supporting emotional wellbeing in young people and those affected by suicide. 

They also performed a storming set at the Sage, Gateshead as part of the Great Exhibition of the North, gathering great reviews, and earning themselves a spot on BBC Tees’ Introducing radio show.

Our Outreach strand has been engaging and recruited across the local area with our young leaders at the helm.

They have delivered samba workshops to young people at the Durham Scouts’ Cubaree 2018, a Crook-based Churches Together project providing activities and hot food to local young people, and Bridging Week at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College Darlington to name a few. Young leaders also supported the delivery of a 10-week Maracatu project at St. John’s School and Sixth Form Catholic Academy, culminating in a performance in Crook Town Centre. We are keen to nurture and support youth leadership throughout the remainder of the project and are investing in training, CPD and mentorship opportunities for our young musicians.

Beyond regular sessions and performances, we’ve also been busy on the Cultural Opportunities front.  In July we let our staff and young leaders out to play with our lovely partners at the Auckland Project. 35 young people aged 8 - 25 spent 4 days in the beautiful Deer Park and grounds of Auckland Castle and visited the Miner’s Gallery to develop an original piece of outdoor theatre based on the mining heritage of the North East. Live music included reggae-style song about Wallace the Pit Pony, and a moving version of Johnny Handle’s ‘Farewell Johnny Miner’.

Two of our ne’er-do-well young leaders Tom and Brendan spent 2 weeks on College Work Experience with us over the Summer School period. Some of their ‘work’ included pit pony mask-making, drum-lifting, alfaia-roping, gamelan-tinkling, and sessional support. They got a real taste of arts administration too, as they tackled databases, mail shots, blogs, and the dreaded GDPR! They were amazing, and we miss them, and not just because the kettle doesn’t boil itself.

Masterclasses abounded this term! Alys North worked with our Maracatu dancers to learn traditional steps and arm movements to accompany the music in parade. The spectacle of the dancers and their fabulous dresses in motion is something to be seen, and they WERE seen, all the way through the streets of Liverpool.

 We spent a wonderful afternoon with Brazilian samba master Emilio Martins, who came to us via Nik Alevroyiannis of DrumDin. It was lovely spending the day with them, learning more complex elements of the samba reggae style. The band for the most part played unfamiliar instruments and were really challenged. The result was amazing – thanks Emilio. This was an excellent example of partnership working, engaging in collaboration with other musicians and organisations in the area to deliver opportunities to rural areas.

We also spent 2 exhausting days with the irrepressible and all-round wonderful Ritchie and Julianna of Katumba, Liverpool. Smack in the middle of an international tour, they stopped by to deliver 2 sessions for Runaway Samba exploring new rhythms and methods of incorporating movement into our routines. Movement isn’t our speciality, so it was great to learn how to enhance our visual performance. We looked at dances inspired by the Brazilian Candomble Orishas, and saw how their attributes – water, thunder, lightening etc. – can influence not only the movements, but the music itself. We also spent some time picking their brains for new ways to recruit members and manage beginners alongside more advanced players. I’ll be undertaking a 3 day shadowing opportunity with Katumba in September to see their teaching and learning model in action.

3 of our young people headed up to Glasgow’s Encontro Street Festival to collaborate with other young musicians from Juba do Leão and Samba Ya Bamba. The music was fast-paced and high energy and our young players represented our organisation brilliantly. So brilliantly, in fact, that they were invited to join the adult performance that smashed a World Record – Most Sousaphones on Stage at Once! Never a dull moment, eh?

And what’s next? Well… A small team from Baque de Ogum will join Baque de Axé in the parade at Notting Hill Carnival. Runaway Samba are headed to Whitby’s Musicport World Music Festival, and the Collective Music-Making team have something very special I the pipeline. Watch this space.