Folk Arts Oxford aims to promote folk and traditional dance, music and song in the Oxfordshire region. In particular we are interested in improving access for those who might face barriers to participation in the arts.
Through our funded project work: children in Headington have learned about local lad William Kimber, and the musical legacy he has left; a new band called Iris has been formed, who accompany all their songs with Makaton signing; children from mainstream and special schools in Oxfordshire have the chance to create music together, and perform on the main stage at Folk Weekend: Oxford.
Alongside our own projects and events, FAO works collaboratively with other local organisations, forging links and creating opportunities for folk artists to work in education and community projects, as well as showcase their talent in local events.
Building on the success of last year's Inclusive Folk pilot project, we are thrilled to have secured funding for this next stage. 'Hands up for Singing' is a project using Makaton-signed song to bring together children from mainstream and special needs schools. The project has been praised for its inclusivity, and was granted one of the High Sheriff's Community Integration Awards, via Oxfordshire Community Foundation. This project culminates in a huge celebration concert, with children from participating schools performing their songs on the main festival stage alongside professional folk artists Iris, to open the 2018 festival. Click here to reserve tickets.
23rd March - Mabel Prichard and John Mason Schools
Written by Cat McGill
In this final school workshop we were joined by pupils from the secondary site of Mabel Prichard School and John Mason School in Abingdon. We had a very rhythmic day, experimenting with lots of different body percussion with artist Jo May. The pupils were great and created some quite complex layered rhythms!
16th March - Kingfisher and Botley schools
Written by Cat McGill
On to school workshop number three, this time down to Abingdon where we were hosted by Kingfisher School, and a lively group of Year 4 pupils joined us from Botley Primary School. This was the day that had been snowed off previously, so we are very grateful to the staff for their flexibility and willingness to reschedule the session.
As usual, the children were fascinated by all the instruments, and in particular had a lot of fun making sounds that reminded them of the sea - using instruments, their bodies, and their voices. We made our sea sounds during the song Fine Sailing, as it's about someone who is sent off to sea away from their girlfriend. We also had a lot of fun learning Daddy Fox - a song about a naughty fox who steals ducks and geese from the farmer and takes them home for his family. Everyone was particularly excited to learn that there is a Makaton sign for 'throwing a duck over your shoulder with its legs dangling down'!
We finished off the day with a bit of ceilidh dancing, and a mass folk-jam!
9th March - Springfield and Stanton Harcourt Schools
Written by Cat McGill
Today we were working with children from the primary site of Springfield School, and nearby mainstream primary Stanton Harcourt School. We had a lovely time with these younger pupils, who were all very interested in each other, if a little bit shy! We spent a lot of time exploring different instruments, seeing how they made noise, and trying out all the different sounds they could make. The children from Springfield particularly enjoyed the different vibrations made by instruments such as the shruti-box (see picture) and the harp.
Next we learned our songs: Fine Sailing, an ancient 'break up' song, and The Good Man - a slightly silly song about a man who comes home and sees things that aren't there. You can hear our performance of The Good Man in the video below. In the afternoon we learned a ballad about Robin Hood, telling the story of how a man called Arthur joined his gang. We had a lot of fun with body and vocal percussion during this song!
6th March - Bardwell and Cooper Schools
Written by Cat McGill
This was supposed to be our second workshop day, but the first one was snowed off! Thankfully the weather had cleared enough to let us get up to Bicester, where we spent the day with a group of sixth formers in Bardwell School, along with some visiting Year 10 students from the nearby Cooper School.
Initially most of us were a little nervous (pupils and artists alike!) as we didn't know quite what to expect - however we soon got in to the swing of things as we taught everyone how to sign their name in Makaton. The pupils really enjoyed exploring the different instruments we'd brought along, and learning some folk songs with signing. The pupils from Cooper School were fabulous singers, and were soon singing in three part harmony for one of the songs. After lunch we did a little performance for some of the other pupils at Bardwell and finished off the day with a ceilidh!
Unfortunately my phone died a death around lunchtime, so I don't have many photos of this day, but I did manage to get some nice clips of the ceilidh on my ipad!
Hands up for Singing - training days
Written by Cat Kelly
I'm really excited to get going with the Hands up for Singing project! We've got a few new artists on board this year, and thanks to our funders we've been able to put together two full training & development days so that we can all work together on developing the material for the workshops.
First up we looked back at some video clips from the pilot project last year, and talked about what we saw in each. There were some lovely examples of children really responding to the music, and we discussed topics such as the need to give plenty of processing time, matching the rhythm and movement the children are producing naturally, and how to judge how much the pupil is wanting engagement at that moment. After this we had a Makaton workshop, giving a brief taster of how to communicate using Makaton, and some signs and symbols we would find useful when leading music sessions with children who have learning needs.
The set up for this project is designed to integrate children from mainstream and special schools, so each workshop day is going to be based in a special school, with a group of children from a mainstream school visiting as guests to take part in the project. All the children will take part in musical activities together, as well as learning three folk songs with Makaton signing. By the end of the two development days we had a workshop outline we were really pleased with, and a whole bank of varied activities that we can do with children of all abilities. Now we're raring to go and try them out with some children!