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What's the point of diversity?

Sol Samba running a Samba Drum taster in Oxford at Night Lights

The My Normal music project at the Ark-T is focussed on making music accessible to a diverse range of people that have maybe felt excluded or alienated from music making when they have encountered it in other contexts, and the thing that's struck me most, working on it for the last six months, is how much brilliant music is made here that would be otherwise lost to the world.

This is why inclusivity is so important. These young musicians may have previously been physically unable to use the musical instruments provided for them, they may have been denied safe spaces in which to share ideas and experiment creatively, or they may have simply been told that music-making isn't for them. And without diverse role-models, who can blame them for feeling excluded?

Sometimes it can be the simplest thing – listening to someone, being patient with them, treating them as an individual. Not being afraid to experiment with different ways of doing things, or to make mistakes, or to learn from them. Simple doesn't mean easy though – using a new ipad instrument, or using an open-tuned guitar, is just as likely (if not more so) to be a wrong turn than a right one. But it's the process that's valuable, that's what makes the best art in the end, and we know that as musicians. Creativity is about being flexible, and listening to each other.

The '‘Disability Equality Training for Music’ and ‘Music and Disabled People: An introduction to real participation in music-making‘' training from Drake Music really helped me with this idea of treating people as individuals, and experimenting to find paths that work for them. If you haven't done it then I urge you to consider it – it's honestly helped my as much with my work outside Ark-T, often with so-called mainstream young people, as it has my work on the project.

The aim of the music project here is to make sure these people can express themselves freely and don't feel judged, and of course it's brilliant for their own personal journeys, their well-being, gaining qualifications and transferrable skills, their self-esteem, inter-personal communication and their satisfaction in producing works of art. Those things are perfectly lovely of course, but actually they're side-effects - if we want the best art, we need the best people, and if large sections of society are excluded from creativity, some brilliant, boundary-pushing, important, thrilling, joyful, inspiring, silly, profound, beautiful music will never get heard.

What do you think?

Mike - Music Practitioner on the My Normal Music Project