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We Don't Fit In A Box

Music, trains, workshops, reunions, networking and even more music! A hectic week working around the country but so many uplifting moments and insights!

Last week started like it does every Monday at the moment; at the train station on my way to Liverpool to teach the young musicians with additional needs in young DaDa ensemble! I'm now getting used to travelling the three hour journey across the country to Liverpool but after previous weeks snow drama I was praying this journey would not be another six hour adventure!

Luckily it was a smooth three hour journey and I made it to the session with no issue! I was even able to say the destination this week to the taxi driver too! On arrival at the session, myself and the other leaders were notified that half the group were going to be absent due to various reasons. Therefore, we decided to have one group altogether rather than split off into our separate groups we have been working in previously.

After a quick catch up on our weeks we then decided on one song we could learn to play altogether in the one session. After a few minutes deliberating we came to a decision of the song we would learn as a group - Ed Sheeran's Perfect. We split into four sections; percussion, guitars, keyboards and vocals. The chords were written out onto a large chart for the participants to follow. We learnt two different sections; verse and chorus separately and then bought them together and added the vocals. Within fifteen minutes we had the basis of a structure learnt and the vocalists were able to fit in over the top.

During this activity I jumped on drum kit. This proved to surprise a number of the participants as they thought I only played piano! Therefore, I was met with some funny, but lovely responses including; "Miss, you play drums?!"' "You got that beat sounding so smooth!" "We played some proper rocking stuff tonight Sarah, you are good" It was great to receive these responses and nice to know I can play drum kit efficiently to an Ed Sheeran song after 10 years of playing!

The session came to an end as we played the whole song over with everyone playing their part with confidence and energy. We had a team debrief before I made my way back to the station, had a bite of food in Weatherspoons and then made my three hour journey back across the country to the North East! (There were no hold ups this week!)

On Tuesday I was off for my x-ray appointment on my leg. I made it to the health centre and signed in and waited to be called. Eventually I was called in and got changed into the funky blue gown I had to wear! I was then positioned under the x-ray machine when the radiologist said to me; 'all you need to do is lie perfectly still...!' For those of you who know me, this is my biggest challenge due to my multiple movement disorders I have! I responded with 'you do know I have Cerebral Palsy and cannot lie still?!' As always they respond with a shocked face!

The more I try and lie still though, the harder it becomes! After the first attempt, the radiologist said we needed another go as the first one didn't come out clear enough! So again, I did my upmost best to keep my body still and on my second attempt I was successful! My results are due next week some time, so in the meantime it's back onto the painkillers!

Thursday was spent on a train, this time headed down south to Luton to stay at my parents house as I was due to be working in London the following morning at 9am and didn't fancy a 5:30am train from Newcastle!

Thursday's are also the day my mum babysits my nephew so it was a chance to spend time with my little nephew who I haven't seen since Christmas and missed his birthday too due to work commitments!

I was amazed at how much he had grown and also how much he has improved in his speech, he'll be talking better than me soon! He really does light up my life and makes my heart burst with love when I spend precious time with him! Looking forward to my next adventure with my favourite little man at Easter!

It was a fairly early night Thursday as I was due to be on a train from Luton to London around 8am the following day! I got to London St Pancras and made my way to the tube where I was met with peak time tube travellers! After waiting around ten minutes I crammed my way onto the tube and made my way to Old Street station. Out came google maps on my phone to direct me to Amnesty International UK where Drake Music's event We All Make Music was taking place.

On arrival I was met with familiar faces and it was great to catch up with my fellow Drake Music team. Once the majority of the leadership team had arrived we had a team debrief to go over the plan for the day before those of us that had a workshop to deliver went off to set up our rooms.

The delegates then began to arrive and congregated altogether in a side room for tea's and coffee before the event began.

Once most of the delegates had arrived we moved into the main auditorium for the event to begin. We were welcomed by Daryl Beeton and Carien Meijer. Daryl went on to talk about the statistics of disabled people including that around 10-15 percent of the world's population, or an estimated 650 million people - 1 billion people are disabled.

This was followed by more statistics including that there are 13.3 million people in the UK who are disabled. 7% of children, 18% of working aged adults and 44% of pension aged adults are disabled in the UK. However this also brought up the question of how many people are disabled but aren't registered as being disabled?

Another statistic was shared, that four year on from London 2012 nearly half (43%) of the British public don't know anyone who is disabled, and the majority (67%) feel awkward around disability.

One main point that was notified for this event was that it was to be a 'non-conference' and that the majority of the time would be spent 'doing' activities and networking and not sat around listening to presentations. It was highlighted that this would be known as a 'non-conference'.

Therefore, the next part of the day was listening to John Kelly singing his protest song - We Don't Fit In A Box- this was to be known as the anthem performed for the event and for everyone to participate within it.

During the performance by John, some of the Drake Music team were told prior to the performance to join in with him on stage with various placards to create a protest atmosphere. I was on stage holding a sign that read ' Bring Music into the Communities' something which means a lot to me! Coincidence? Who knows?

After the performance Daryl went on to speak about barriers and the social model of disability, something which my practice and identity sits within firmly. One point from Daryl's talk was that 'disability isn't an individuals responsibility, it's society's shared responsibility'

After Daryl's presentation Jonathan Westrup shared a quick insight into putting the music ed climate into context. This was then followed by all the delegates splitting off into four groups which they had signed up to to learn a section of the song by John which we would then come back together as one mass group and perform the song altogether. Very community music! Love it!

The four groups were split up into; ThumbJam on iPads, Sampling, Touchboards, and combining Tech and Traditional Instruments. I was co-leading the ThumbJam session with Jon Herring, who I work with in Liverpool.

Once everyone had arrived at their designated groups we started the workshop I was leading with Jon. We were focussing on using the app ThumbJam on the iPad within music sessions.

We started the session by introducing ourselves and our work within Drake Music and outside of it. I introduced myself and my work with no interference from my speech impediment which gave me confidence for the rest of the workshop.

Jon and I described the use of ThumbJam and how each part of it works. Considering 6 months ago I had no idea how to use any apps properly I'm proud of how much I've learnt, taken in and can now share with others.

Once we had described how all of the app works we then went on to learn the section of the 'We Don't Fit in A Box' song we were going to play on mass. Everyone chose an instrument from the selection available, set their iPads to the same key and note range and I taught them the two sections of the song. It started to sound so good! Once we had gone over it a few times, it was sounding better and better each time, we then moved into the main auditorium where we were all going to play the song we'd just learnt altogether.

Once all groups were back in the main room we each had a chance to hear each section and what they had been working on in their workshop. Once every group had played their part we were then getting ready to play altogether. However, before this, I was called up by Ruth Currie and John Kelly who asked if I would develop a body percussion rhythm to teach everyone so they could play along with the vocal section John was going to teach. I had about 30 seconds to hear the part John sang before I was on stage in front of all 125 participants leading a body percussion rhythm! It was awesome though! Once we'd all had a play and sing we then went into the full piece and played the song as a mass ensemble. It sounded immense!

Once we'd played our song it was then time for lunch! We were treated to a selection of sandwiches, cakes and fruit laid out across various tables. This was a great chance to catch-up and network once again with various people from different organisations. As well as stuffing my face I made some more connections with people for future events and potential work opportunities.

Once back in the auditorium we now moved onto the next part of the day, the four breakout sessions discussing different aspects of music and inclusive practice. These four sessions were; R&D (Research and Development) in the Classroom, DMLab North West challenge, Accredited music courses and Challenging the Tradition of Peri Lessons.

I went to the R&D in the classroom which was being co-led by my friend Kris. Kris and I worked together on a project last year touring the country writing and recording protest songs with people of all ages and abilities. It was amazing and we gave people who didn't always get the chance to speak up, a voice. We call each other our CP Twin. It was great to be reunited after four months and to have a catch up at an event we are both very passionate about. Kris and I both have CP and we always end up getting into some sort of commotion where Kris runs over my foot in his chair and I twitch and hit him. This event was no different!

Kris spoke about his experience of having and growing up with CP. Both our experiences are very similar; being one of the only 'disabled kids' in school and being treated differently. But, both of us found an escape through music and have foccussed on developing our musical identities, as musicians who happen to have disabilities, not 'disabled musicians.'

Kris and Gawain then went on to discuss the impact music tech has had on Kris' musical development, especially the use of the Mi.Mu Gloves Kris predominantly uses to play and perform with now.

In this session we spoke about the use of different music tech that Gawain has used within his work including SoundBeams (he bought in a mini prototype) and other musical tech devices that can and have been used.

We then finished the session and had another break. During this break I caught up with Sarah Mawby who I have been conversing with online about a blog and research paper. Finally we were able to meet in person and discuss it all in more depth. We now have a date set to discuss the research project we are looking at around music and disability in schools, the identity of young musicians with disabilities and different approaches on how to teach these young musicians too. Let's see what happens next!

Once back in the main auditorium we were given the chance to make our own protest placards to then hold up and shout out during another rendition of 'We Don't Fit in a Box'. Almost everyone who attended had made a placard and held it up or shouted it out during the song, it was great to hear what everyone was passionate about and how to make music more inclusive within the communities. It created a proper protest atmosphere!

As we drew near to the end of the 'non-conference'- we had some reflections by Matt Griffiths of the day and how to turn these thoughts into action once we finished and left for the day. The highlight for me that Daryl mentioned at the start was that Inclusion is a journey - not a destination, starting with access to simply take away the barriers to participation. Everyone together, both disabled and non-disabled can work together to make a change within society and make everything just that little bit more inclusive.

As We All Make Music came to a close it was time to say goodbye to various people before a bunch of us congregated in the pub around the corner for a well deserved drink! It was great to catch-up with more people, socialise and generally wind down before my friend Matt and I had our three hour train journey back up to the North East! We had just over two hours till our train was due to depart so we settled down and chatted to everyone that was there. As it got nearer the time for our train though Matt had said yes to another drink from our friend Michael! I had been giving Matt looks at my watch throughout the night hinting that we should probably make a move soon! I wanted food too before getting the train. However at 6:30, (our train was at 7) we still hadn't left the pub! Once I'd finally got Matt's attention we then rushed to gather our things and make our way to the tube station. We were walking super fast, almost running, well, I was limping due to my leg but we made it to the tube station.

We were in a rush at the ticket barrier, I was ahead of Matt and I placed my Oyster card on the scanner however it didn't read and the barrier had not opened. However, Matt, who was directly behind me had already put his ticket in the machine and the gates had opened so we both went through on Matt's ticket! This meant that I probably wouldn't get out the other end as my card hadn't registered the journey. After travelling the two stops from Old Street to King's Cross we then had to do the same thing to get through the ticket barrier! On the plus side I got a free journey on the tube! We frantically made our way out of the tube and up the escalator to King's Cross. We had just minutes to spare, but we made it onto our train! It was absolutely rammed! Luckily for me, I had a seat reservation! Matt however, did not!

We squeezed our way down the carriages and eventually made it to my carriage with my seat reservation. There did happen to be a seat opposite me that no-one had sat in so Matt claimed that seat as the train departed. By this time I was sweating from practically sprinting from the pub to the station and I was so hungry as we didn't get time to get any food. There were people on the train just behind us eating noodles! My mouth was watering and I was so hungry! There was an announcement by the train guard to say that the trolley would be making its way down the train with cold snacks.

Eventually it made it's way into our carriage, by this point there was not much selection, Matt also had no money on him so I ended up paying for both of us to have a sandwich and some crisps! Not quite what I had in mind for my evening meal but it was better than nothing!

The rest of the journey went smoothly, despite the person sitting next to me having her drink explode over both of us and the exceptionally hot and crammed carriage! But we made it back to Central Station just after ten when I said goodbye to Matt and got a taxi home!

Although it was an exceptionally long day, it was brilliant, mind fulfilling, fun and adventurous. I'm loving the projects and adventures I'm currently experiencing, it's pushing me and my disability to overcome many challenges I've always had. It's given me many insights into the development of music and disability and how I can get the most out of my experiences and share with others; something I'm very passionate about! So, let's see what happens next! And remember, everyone's different, unique, cool, we should think outside the box, because; We Don't Fit In A Box!

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