Guest Blog: Matt Griffiths reflects on We All Make Music

Matt Griffiths stands onstage in front of a microphone, next to a sign language interpreterAs part of We All Make Music on 9th March we asked the Chief Executive of Youth Music, Matt Griffiths, to carry out a ‘watching brief’ and to share his thoughts with us all at the end of the day. Read his thoughts and reflections in the guest post below.


 

I had the great pleasure of attending the ‘We All Make Music’ event put together by Drake Music, which took place at Amnesty International’s London office on Friday 9 March.

My job was to provide a ‘watching brief’ throughout the day then summarise my thoughts for the delegates at the end, which I was very happy to do. I’ve summarised them here too.

Firstly, big congratulations to the Drake Music team and their partners for setting up such an important day – it’s very timely at a point when so many of us working in music education are looking to further embed inclusive music-making throughout the sector.

Music-making was at the heart of the day and I loved being part of the world premiere performance of ‘We Don’t Fit In A Box’ – a great new anthem for us all led by composer, musician and activist John Kelly.

John Kelly is onstage with a signer

This, together with Daryl Beeton’s lively and passionate facilitating of the day and the creation of our own protest placards at the end of the day, provided a positive, uplifting dynamic throughout the day – “we’re a movement!” we proudly told ourselves.

We also heard at several points throughout the day that “inclusion is a journey but not a destination”. To a point, yes, but I have to say we don’t want to be on an endless journey with no destination in sight, getting restless in the back of the car!

In each of our organisations, we do need to be very specific about what our goals are, so we have something to aim for which we can measure ourselves against.

As I said in my closing remarks, the best movements have a clear purpose and are the best-organised: clear on a goal, clear on strategies to achieve that goal and clear on actions. This is where I think we all need to focus our attention to take inclusive practice to the next level across the country.

There was no shortage of passion throughout the day and no shortage of positive values. What I would like to see now is clarity of strategy and purpose, backed up with specific actions from Drake Music and their partners, to make Drake Music’s Think 22 campaign a reality – particularly in terms of more young disabled people being able to make music and increasing the amount of disabled musicians working in the music education sector.

This is all in line with Youth Music’s goal to achieve a ‘musically inclusive England’, which I believe is eminently possible over the next four years (we’re very pleased to have just had our National Lottery funding confirmed by Arts Council England up to 2022).

We in the music education sector all need to be dogged in our determination and specific in our actions to achieve this – we have a valuable opportunity to do this and we must grasp it with both
hands.

Drake Music have experience, expertise and a role to play in achieving inclusion for disabled young musicians and I’m looking to the charity to take a bold lead in this area.

The event was sold out with over 125 delegates attending – this was great to see. We were described as ‘like-minded’. This is probably true, but I can’t help thinking that our job now is to influence others who perhaps aren’t as ‘like-minded’ to embed inclusive practice into their work. It’s always comforting for us to talk to people who agree with us – far more challenging is to convince others who don’t.

This work must be more than a Special Interest Group, more than a ‘cottage industry’ of inclusion. We need to raise our game so inclusive practice continues to become better understood and embedded across the music education sector. Otherwise, we’re doing young people experiencing challenging circumstances a disservice.

The day combined presentations in the main space along with break-out groups focused on specific topics. Many of the break-outs were hands-on sessions for the delegates to try out various assistive music technologies, which are designed to help more children and young people get involve in music-making. Ironically in some of  sessions, the technology wasn’t working properly or took a while to get working!

This is a perennial problem with technology of course, but it is a shame. If we are to advocate for new technologies, we really do need to be confident that they will be easier for everyone to use. I would recommend thorough sound checks and contingency plans in the short term – and in the long term, continuing to invest in and develop assistive technology which is reliable, simple to use and innovative. An important point, I think, if we are to make the impact we want to make.

I’m being challenging here as I can see the potential and opportunity for a step-change over the next four years in terms of growing inclusive practice across the country.

But to do this, we all need to be highly organised and strategic to make this happen. I look forward to this and congratulations to Drake Music for helping to place the values of inclusive practice
centre-stage and for being at the forefront of the conversation.

Now let’s do the doing.

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More photographs from the day