It could only happen in Barnsley but I hope similar activities are happening all over the country.
Last Thursday started off as a normal day, had to stop in a lay-by on the way in to work and write down an idea that was singing away in my head, a few meetings booked in my diary, some background reading for some questions I will be asked in the near future and the usual time spent replying to e-mail enquiries, references, invitations… By chance, the afternoon turned into conversations and cuppas with some very ardent advocates of the Arts and education, followed by an evening in the company of inspirational singers, musicians and volunteers. Because of the people involved, this could only happen in Barnsley, but I hope it is not only the people of this creative and innovate town that have the thought and drive to make things happen and help improve their community.
The afternoon encounter was with writer and proactive supporter of arts projects, Mel Dyke, with two friends, Barnsley born Egyptologist, Joann Fletcher and her partner in adventure, film-making, BAFTA awards and mummification, Steven Buckley. The conversation ranged from the Egypt inspired science and art project they instigated at Darton ALC, Universities, life on the promotion round to a new documentary that has it’s first showing on BBC2 this coming Friday (March 22nd, 9.00pm), Ancient Egypt: Life and Death in The Valley Of The Kings.
What was immediately evident from speaking with my visitors is they care about the future of the town and its people. They all have an infectious enthusiasm and passion for their specialist subjects and they want to share it. I hope that their collaborative work with primary and secondary schools, Barnsley College and the University Campus in Barnsley can run for many years to come.
After the farewells of the afternoon, it was straight to Horizon ALC, the school used as the rehearsal venue, to listen to Barnsley Youth Choir (two choirs really, the junior choir and the youth choir). This is a group of inspirational people, the singers – from six years old, the musicians who – conduct, accompany and sit in the choir to help with the awkward parts and the many volunteers – librarians, web and social media, finance, welfare, promotion, pastoral care, transport, administration… and the many other roles that go with looking after a group of 100+ performers. The first thing that I observed at the rehearsal was they all wanted to be there, they were keen and wanted to work at making the music as good as they could. Another aspect was how welcoming they all were, some new children had auditioned that evening and they were all individually applauded as they were introduced to the other choir members.
The choir also made me welcome, even though I had arranged some challenging music for them, they sang with energy and when I suggested some performance directions they were keen to try the ideas. I am looking forward to the concerts in May and June, if any of you are interested in listening to a brilliant community choir, http://www.facebook.com/BarnsleyYouthChoir has the most up to date information (or follow them on Twitter @BarnsleyChoir).
All this enthusiasm and inspiration in one day helped me to put together a plan for a community arts event to run in the summer, details will be advertised as soon as negotiations are completed. I expect there are similar chance meetings, discussions, community events guided by fervent individuals throughout the country that promote music, art, sport and many other creative disciplines. One day there will be a simple way of finding out about all these projects, with a view to sharing ideas, collaborating on joint events and growing the understanding of different communities throughout the country. Maybe this is my next project.