In March 2013, Drake Music ran its first Artistic Development Laboratory at Graeae Theatre in London. Our main aims were to offer musicians an opportunity to try out new ideas and for us all to think about the future.
Prior to the Lab Day, we put out a nationwide call to disabled musicians interested in cross art-form collaborations, and who wanted a space to meet others and to experiment. Three musicians were chosen and matched with three artists from other disciplines. These pairs were then tasked with sharing their ideas and presenting the germ of future projects to a small group of Drake Music Associates and other friends of the company.
The processes themselves were fascinating. Lady MJ Warrior, part of the Krip-Hop Nation, worked with film-maker Ivan Riches to look at how video images could enhance her lyrics. John Kelly has been fascinated by the notion of “songs that change our lives” and explored his ideas with performance poet Zena Edwards. Composer Sonia Allori worked online across the Atlantic with choreographer Sheron Wray, developing ideas for a piece inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
During the process of producing the Lab, we discovered more disabled musicians who fitted the bill than we could accommodate for the cross art-form work that had been planned. So we extended the day to include a jam session, facilitated by the Lost and Found Orchestra’s Tom Arnold and involving long-time Drake Music musician Charlotte White and multi-instrumentalist Kris Halpin.
We invited colleagues from partner organisations Graeae, StopGAP Dance, Greenwich and Docklands Festival and Attitude is Everything to share the fruits of the jam session and to discuss how we might develop the work of professional disabled musicians in the future.
The Lab Day not only created a buzz as artists became excited about potential future projects, but it also helped to inform our plans for the future. We are now in a position to begin working with Sonia and Sheron to develop the germ of their idea into a fuller commission. We are also exploring ways in which we can create other jams and informal scratch performances so that disabled musicians can get together with other like-minded artists to develop their work.