by Author nicbriggs

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What it means to have setting staff support by Dan Cippico (Music Leader on Quench Arts’ Plugin Project)

As music facilitators, we know how difficult it can be to enter into a setting where we can never be sure what the young people will be feeling like on that day. Sometimes, we don’t know what the setting will be like, or how much the staff can help us when we arrive. Often the setting is short of staff numbers, or spaces appropriate for music-making, so there often has to be some creative logistical shuffling in the moment!

Quench Arts’ Plugin project has been taking place at Ardenleigh Hospital for a number of years. We have been extremely fortunate that there has been a core team of setting staff who have managed the project from their side. Small things, such as meeting us at the entrance doors, helping us set up, handing over any updates, to significant actions such as curating an order of who we will see, retrieving the young people from the ward to our music room, and actively encouraging them in sessions.

Though I know that Quench Arts put a great deal of thought into their partnership agreements with settings, we never expected them to do this, and part of this is because the hospital has secure doors in which we cannot pass through without a staff key, but their involvement in supporting the project has never felt like it was simply out of duty. They have always expressed how much the project positively impacts their young people, and always gave encouragement and praise in sessions.

“When he shouts, it’s usually negative stuff, so it’s great to see him find a positive outlet for it” setting staff Jon comments about a participant playing and singing original rock music.

“You can play ukulele, piano, bass, and sing! You’re brilliant at everything, aren’t you?” another staff member exclaims to a participant who wanted to learn as many instruments as we could practically bring in.

“They’ve all grown so much in confidence. We never thought they would be capable of performing in front of people when they first came to Ardenleigh” setting staff comment after our final end-of-year sharing.

We as practitioners felt that the staff really believed in the work we were doing with their young people. One staff member, Tamika, a poet herself, ran workshops for the participants to develop their own poems, one of which she encouraged the young person to bring to our Plugin sessions. She knew that young person needed help with expressing themselves appropriately, and communicated with us how we would approach it together. Staff member Ed would play guitar with the participants outside of session time, and Jon, a successful DJ himself, would give valuable feedback to the participants on their music, and actively took an interest in the technology side.

Though we were just two Quench practitioners, when we entered Ardenleigh, we became a wider team, all working together to provide the best sessions possible for the young people.

Our 2023 end-of-year showing was a tremendous success. The word got out that we were putting on a performance, and so on the day, our often quite empty-feeling music-making room became packed to the brim with setting staff, of all positions, and Plugin participants of past years and present. The feeling was electric, and the performances were genuine and wonderfully varied.

The young people could see that the staff valued them, and the project, and we as practitioners felt similarly. Setting staff can be the bedrock that supports a project like Plugin – and Ardenleigh always went above and beyond.