For many years as a musician working for the Oxford Concert Party I have been involved in projects in prisons, primary schools, asylum centres and elderly groups. More recently I have been able to combine my practice both as an artist and as a musician in these projects.
This was an Oxford Concert Party cross-arts project that I initiated about immigration and involved refugee groups, asylum seekers, elderly groups and primary school children. The mission statement for the project was:
"Migration across the world is a key component of our past, present and future. It forms the tapestry of human life. People move for a multitude of reasons ranging from the need to survive to the thirst for adventure. Together, using images, music and words, we will share our ideas and experiences to show that there is far more that unites us than we ever imagined."
The project involved children making pieces inspired by a visit to the Ashmolean Museum, writing poetry, playing music and singing songs; the older participants in the project made hundreds of tiny paper boats which we then displayed in a vast installation in Bonn Square, Oxford, the grand culmination of the project.
"In a world where division is rife and the very existence of our planet is under threat, let us join hands and remind ourselves of the healing power of art and music, the importance of embracing our common humanity, and protecting the beauty of our fragile world."
This was another Oxford Concert Party cross-arts project involving schools, refugee groups, elderly groups and the wider community, focusing on the environmental issues and our shared humanity. The project included musicians, storytellers and visual artists.
Filda, the founder of the refugee group BKLUWO, approached me with a long cherished idea of building a project around a Ugandan folk tale, ‘Kamdenge’, with which she had grown up. For her it is an allegory about what it means to be a refugee. It is a story of courage, determination, friendship, love and transformation.
In January 2020 Filda came to Kirtlington Primary School and told her own story and the story of Kamdenge to the children. They were entranced. With the help of poet Pat Winslow, artist Tony Lloyd, composer Arne Richards and myself the story became a play.
Photos by Judie Waldmann