At the end of January, our Learning & Participation Team headed out of London for some fresh air, to host our first ever Learning & Participation Artist Talent Development Residency. 

Based in the beautiful setting of Cats Abbey, Sherborne, the residency forms an integral part of our new talent development scheme; ‘LEAP’ (Learning, Education, Access, Participation). Generously supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the programme supports eight outstanding artists from around the UK and Ireland who wish to develop their outreach skills, ideas and practice. 

Over 50 artists were nominated by industry professionals to apply for the programme. Accepted nominations and subsequent applications were reviewed by an expert panel, who selected 8 outstanding artists from all areas of the UK and Ireland to take part in the first edition of LEAP. More information on these artists can be found here. 

After a long journey and chance to settle in, the week began with a seminar on funding for specific projects and artist rights from Naomi Belshaw (PRS Foundation). Following this, the evening took a relaxed turn, as we were joined by Help Musicians therapist Denise Sherwood who led a session on artist wellbeing. Alongside an introduction to Help Musicians’ helpline, artists were given the opportunity to share their experiences as practising musicians and educators and discuss practical actions to encourage positive mental health in the arts.  

The first full day of the residency continued on a jam-packed schedule, after a comfortable night’s sleep at the Abbey. The group heard from partners Phil Castang (Bristol Music Trust) and Hazel Plowman (The Bath Festivals) who introduced the idea of an impact framework to measure quality and success in learning work. Following a networking lunch, the musicians were treated to some advice and case studies on producing and leading mass participation projects from Orphy Robinson. Also on a practical note, Steve Turner from the Oxfordshire Safeguarding team later gave a refresher in safeguarding for both adults and children – a crucial area of expertise for working with the community. 

The following day we welcomed Emily Jones from the close-by Cheltenham Festivals and Musicians Union representative Chris Waters. With a breadth of aspirations for settings for their work, we introduced Sam Settle (Prison Phoenix Trust), producer and arts evaluator Andrea Spain and artist and facilitator Andy Grappy to discuss outreach work suited to various different participants and in unique venues.  

In addition to participating in sessions, pairs of artists were assigned different local community settings, in which to plan and deliver their own trial workshops during the residential. This provided a chance to work on new collaborations for outreach, engage with participants in the local community and to test out new ideas which may have developed as a result of learnings from the week. 

Percussionists Sarah Fisher and Gary Day delivered a session for elderly patients in Witney Hospital, working together to perform some classic repertoire for participants. Singers Tanya Lacey and Cherise Adams – Burnett led a workshop on the different elements of a song, and how to construct your own for Year Six at Holy Trinity Primary School in Chipping Norton. This was alongside Piney Gir and Luci Holland, who produced an interactive musical story for the Reception Class. Just across the road, Ranjana Ghatak and Omar Shahryar fused North Indian Classical vocals with opera singing during a session for children from the ACE Childrens’ Centre and their families. 

After a chance to air their thoughts and reflections on the trial workshops and share in each others success and challenges, we settled into an inspiring evening hearing about Adriano Adelwale’s immensely successful and popular ‘Catapluf’ show – a piece for early years and family audiences free of any language – enabling Serious to develop and tour the production around the UK and Europe for several years. 

Having heard from a diverse range of partner organisations and individuals during the week, the final day of the residency introduced two further members of the Serious team. Katie Pattinson and Piers Mason were invited to come along to give practical advice to the artists on communicating their work to both audiences and funders.

Feeling challenged and nourished with new ideas and skills, the artists headed home to reflect on their learnings from the week. However, whilst the residency had come to an end, the first edition of LEAP will continue throughout 2018. Each artist will be awarded seed funding to develop a new outreach project idea, along with mentoring opportunities from the Serious Learning & Participation Team. 

We look forward to working with the artists throughout the year and into the future, continuing to keep our outreach at the very core of our work here at Serious. 

To hear more about the residency from a participating artist’s perspective, please do take a look at Sarah Fisher’s blog which gives a lovely account of the week.