The Turning Tides Project (TTTP) believes everyone should have equal access to music, the arts and life. At the Crediton Station Tea Rooms, and in the community, they have been working to make this right a reality for people with learning disability or autism labels by offering regular music, art, sports and social sessions and events, alongside many other enabling services and opportunities. 

During lockdown their group sessions have had to move online, and here TTTP’s Director Jane Williams reflects on the unexpected benefits of making music together on Zoom.

Turning Tides busking on Crediton High Street

It has been a year none of us expected and that will have an impact.
Will we have worked with fewer people this year than we projected? Probably.
Will we have worked with fewer environments? Maybe not, they will be different but probably not fewer.
Will we have worked in new ways? Yes.
Found out new things about ourselves and each other? Yes.
And, therefore, seen people and the music they create, grow and change? Definitely.

These are my favourite things about Zoom music sessions;

People who are new to the group can meet everyone without having to walk into a room full of people

  • With every group member directly in front of me on a screen, it’s easier to make sure that everyone gets a voice
  • Some people are far more confident about being part of a group, when they can do so from the comfort of their own home
  • It’s easier to manage the difference in people’s sensitivity to sound
  • It’s easy for people to remove themselves during the session if they need to
  • The ability for us to spend time with each other, whether virtual or real, is now more highly valued
  • We’ve re-connected with old friends
  • Distance to travel is not a barrier to participation
  • Schools closing led to a wider age range in our weekly music sessions
  • People who are usually at school or college have been able to make a longer-term commitment, rather than just dipping into sessions during holidays
  • The people that group members share their homes with sometimes join in too
  • We’re writing music in the moment and sharing an experience that none of us have had before –which provides equal access to a new experience and great material for original writing
  • Lag, echo, and the need to manage it leads to a different kind of music-making and music writing
  • The approaches to mixed live and digital creation, that we’ve developed over the years, to make sure that people who vocalise less often, always feature equally are now used and understood by all of us
  • The pragmatic recording and editing of our music making produces a result that will always be a poignant reminder of the ‘studio conditions’ we were in.

I would never have voted for virtual group or one-to-one sessions. I have always felt that quality engagement happens when people are face to face – I was wrong.

Having found ourselves in a situation where virtual was the only option, we have all learnt some things, we have all grown, and we have created some extraordinary original music.

Whenever the lockdown has eased, our sessions have been real, virtual or a blend of both.  A session that includes both real and virtual participation brings a new set of challenges and opportunities. It will bring new music too.  

Crediton Station Tea Rooms - where Turning Tides is based.

The Turning Tides Project is a Community Interest Company.

To find out more about their work visit their website.

Jan 5, 2021

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