Milkmaid Music Class – January – October 2014 Report

 

Project’s intentions, as set out in the initial planning stages (incorporating both musical instrument making and music classes):

 

v  To empower people with mild to moderate learning difficulties through the construction, mastery and performance of their own musical instruments

v  To facilitate authentic, quality musical experience at all times, transcending stereotypes of people with learning difficulties being restricted to basic percussion

v  To afford participants the opportunity to work alongside experienced/ professional musicians with a view to establishing a performing folk band

v  To promote social interaction through the team-centred nature of the project and the ways in which it is implemented

v  To enable young adults to work towards and achieve a recognised Arts Award qualification

v  To inspire participants through a personalised, hands-on approach with short-term, attainable goals as well as longer-term aims

v  To create something unique and joyful: a celebration of music through collaboration, creativity, rehearsal and performance

 

The extent to which the music class has met, is meeting or will meet these intentions

 

The atmosphere during sessions is relaxed yet purposeful, with the sense of collaboration and creativity that had been hoped for. All participants are actively involved in music making, with tangible progress being made in all cases, measurable against the National Curriculum level descriptors (see accompanying document and case study data).

 

Musical activities are based around the bedrocks of singing, rehearsing and performing, improvising (the beginning of composition) and listening and appraising. Repertoire is varied and drawn from diverse genres and cultures. In recent weeks, we have performed Australian percussion music, folk dances (played on the dulcimers made by the students themselves), and the Doctor Who theme! Students have enjoyed listening to and describing music from different settings (supermarket, church, sporting event, TV advert etc), as well as matching different songs and pieces of music to a selection of films.

 

We are looking forward to our forthcoming performances, and the students have worked hard to master their instruments, whether un-tuned percussion, chime bars/hand bells or the dulcimers. We have done a great deal of work on improvisatory music, where students develop their own musical phrase or simple rhythm, with support where required, which then becomes part of a multi-layered group performance. We are especially proud of two such pieces that have evolved organically within the group, and which we feel showcase the individual talents of our students as well as their well-developed sense of ensemble and team work.

 

As all of our students are above the age of 25, we have not yet had the opportunity to offer the Arts Award qualification, but this remains an option as and when younger students join.

 

4 x Case studies

 

Sally

Sally is a sensitive, shy young woman with Down’s syndrome, who has flourished since joining us on the music course. As well as designing and making an entire fleet(!) of meticulously executed and stunningly decorated dulcimers, Sally has a natural sense of rhythm and timing that has been honed during her time with us. Her confidence has soared, and she is now able to take a lead role in group performances. Her skills on the chime bars are now particularly strong, and she plays with excellent technique. Sally has increased her range of dynamics and is now comfortable playing loudly as well as softly, and she strives to do the same with her singing.

 

Anthony

Anthony has a genuine love of music and affinity with the folk world. Despite only having the use of one hand, he has nevertheless assembled and decorated several dulcimers, which he plays with great gusto. Anthony approaches all musical activities with enthusiasm, sings in time and in tune, and has developed his untuned percussion skills, often demonstrating to the group the way to play a guiro or tambour. For some months Anthony struggled to play in time and to play quietly, but by linking his playing with his well controlled singing, and with structured support, he has recently made enormous progress in these areas and can now maintain a steady beat and play quietly as well as loudly. His pride in his achievements is immense – as is ours.

 

David

For some weeks David was reluctant to join in any musical activity, although he enjoyed the coffee break and social interaction of the group. No amount of coaxing or encouraging would entice him even to hold an instrument. From our chats with David we were soon made aware that his interests included wrestling, and one day one of the team suggested he bounce a beater on a tambour pretending he was ‘bouncing someone out of the ring’. This worked like a charm, and although David still has days when he struggles to engage musically, he will join in to a greater or less extent most weeks. The big successes with David have been the spontaneous moments – deciding as a group to sing ‘Only Fools and Horses’ one week because it was his favourite programme, or playing ‘Spiderman’ on the chime bars because he’d just been to see it at the cinema. According to David’s mother, he has never participated to this extent in any other group or activity. In some ways, he is our biggest success story.

 

Chris

Chris arrived a few months after the course had begun. His difficulties include a tendency to interrupt and to exhibit other mildly inappropriate social behaviour, although during his time with the group these tendencies have markedly diminished. Chris is a very talented musician, and one initial challenge was to ensure he was working at the appropriate level without appearing to ‘push him forward’ or in any way to underplay the attainment of the other students. Several months on Chris is happily integrated into the group and, with sensitively structured personalised learning, is working and progressing at his own pace, as are all the other students.

 

Milkmaid Instrument Making Sessions

 

These sessions have been set up to help people with learning difficulties produce useable musical instruments in a caring environment where they can interact with others.

 

The level of dexterity required can be adjusted to suit the ability of each individual and there is always someone on hand to guide and help the clients through the process.

 

The instruments are made from a kit of parts in wood that need to be sanded to make them smooth, glued together and decorated with paint and stick on decals. The clients use no sharp or power tools and because of the danger to eyes an instructor always fits the strings.

 

The final result is an instrument that can then be used, in an open tuning, together with other people in a Music Making Class with the aim of performing in front of an audience.

 

All sessions are run in a relaxed setting with lots of support given, chatting and regular breaks are a large part of the sessions encouraging the clients to interact and talk about their interests, holidays and daily lives.

 

3 Case Studies

Client 1

Enjoys making the instruments but having only one hand requires help with some operations, either requiring the wood to be clamped down so that it doesn’t move or having an instructor holding the wood so that he can use his hand to complete the task. He constantly amazes us with his acquired dexterity and is always keen to do jobs if he can. He is very suggestible and has to be asked questions that require his opinion rather than giving him several options.

 

Client 2

 This is a very shy young lady who picks up group empathy and reacts to the feelings of others around her. She is a happy person whose laughter is infectious and really likes putting he own stamp on the instruments. Her very careful and precise painting of the finished instrument evidences this and her favourite colours of pink and purple usual feature prominently. In the time she has been with us she has come out of her shell and joined in with the group expressing her opinions on many subjects ranging from food preparation, which she loves, to the best places to go on holiday.

 

Client 3

This young man is very confident and is keen to help other people to work on their instruments when he thinks they are not doing it how he would. However when it is pointed out that everyone works slightly differently he is quite happy to let them get on with it. He finds it difficult to wait for a break in a conversation and will talk across people to express his point or even make an unrelated point. Having done some woodworking before he has customised his instruments by using cocktail sticks for frets and adding some varnish. He is always delighted if asked to play his harmonica and plays it well. His social skills have improved immensely and he’s become a valuable ‘band’ performer.

Review Report – June – 2015 By Marco Dos Santos (Intern)

 

                                                                                   

Company No: 07815137

VALUATION REPORT JUNE 2015

produced by  Marco Dos Santos (Intern) at Big Society CIC.

Introduction, background and context

 

1             According to the Suffolk Observatory, Suffolk has a population of over 730,000 of whom 76,000 possess a physical or learning disability.  The latest ‘The State of Suffolk’ report (2015) identifies almost 22,000 people with learning disabilities and 2.454% of young people having recorded special educational needs or disability.  7.4% of Suffolk’s population (54,000) live in the 20% most deprived areas in England.  77,000 people provide unpaid care and 70% of older family carers experience high levels of physical and mental ill-health.

 

2             In this context, and in West Suffolk, The Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre CIC (hereafter call The Milkmaid CIC) is an organisation which is set to offer a venue of welcome and acceptance to all; where individuals with or without disabilities or facing social disadvantage, can interact on equal terms, find companionship and develop therapeutic social interactions.  In order to achieve these, The Milkmaid CIC manages a variety of functions such as timetabled music and art and dancing workshops which run alongside unstructured time and space where individuals can naturally socialise with each other.  With these functions, this organisation aims to help vulnerable adults, family carers and those on the margins of society, to integrate within the community on equal terms and improve their particular resilience and coping skills towards everyday life.

 

3             The creation of The Milkmaid CIC (Community Interest Company) was an idea that derived from the organising committee of The Milkmaid Folk Club, following a concert organised by the same.  In 2007, The Milkmaid Folk Club organising committee formally decided to create The Milkmaid CIC for people with disabilities.  Since then, The Milkmaid CIC has promoted 450 events which have been attended by over 20,000 individuals, including 7,600 (38%) who have disabilities – mainly learning disabilities.

 

4             The Milkmaid CIC management team possesses a strong combination of skills such as promotion and staging of arts and music events and the supporting and training of people with various degrees of disabilities, from moderate to severe.  The Milkmaid CIC generates partnerships with a wide range of social care, health and other institutions, which facilitates the delivery of services for The Milkmaid CIC users.  Cumulatively, they deliver a diverse range of charitable-related activities such as Milkmaid Thursday Folk Club (a monthly club for individuals with a disability), Milkmaid Mindset (a weekly music group for people with mental health issues), Milkmaid Molly (a bi-monthly dance group for people with learning disabilities together with experienced dancers) and many others.

 

5             It is often challenging, if not arduous, for many people with disabilities to access cultural and social events; yet such events can be highly beneficial for their mental, emotional and social wellbeing.  Studies from The Mental Health Foundation have shown that embracing the creative arts can contribute to the improvement of their mental health.  Arts also provide an opportunity for individuals who encounter social exclusion, to develop new skills, confidence and a new medium (the arts) through which they can share their experiences and improve their social network and hence their overall wellbeing.

 

6             Whilst there are some facilities in Suffolk for people with disabilities and each of these possess specific functionalities; their provision can often be limited and difficult to access with places being tightly regulated.  By analysing the Milkmaid CIC, it can be seen that it can offer much broader functionalities and range of social, emotional and health services.

 

7             Taking all these factors into consideration, the aim of this short evaluative-style review and report is to examine the significance and hence the overall impact which The Milkmaid CIC has on its beneficiaries.

 

Who is The Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre CIC and what does the organisation do?

 

8             The roots of The Milkmaid CIC came from an idea that the organising committee of The Milkmaid Folk Club had, following a concert they had organised.  This led to one of the performers being asked to perform for a group of people with learning disabilities in the one of the local residential homes in Bury St. Edmunds.  The performance turned out to be a great success and led to the creation of Milkmaid Thursday Concerts.  After 4 successful events in 2007, The Milkmaid Folk Club formally decided to create The Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre CIC for people with disabilities.

Since then, this organisation has promoted 450 events which have been attended by over 20,000 footfall, 7,600 of whom have disabilities.  In the last year alone, we learn that from all those attending these activities, 1,390 came from the organisation’s target, ie more vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, family carers, older people and NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) young people.

 

9             The Government encourages people to be resilient, skilful and independent.  The work of The Milkmaid CIC perfectly reflects these concepts and what they intend to achieve for their beneficiaries.  In reflecting The Milkmaid CIC’s vision, mission and goals, there are three key levels that define outcomes for beneficiaries.  These are:

 

·         Individual Level – providing support and opportunities for individuals to develop skills and resilience.

 

·         Community Level – providing a bridge to connecting with opportunities within communities.

 

 

·         Societal Level – providing a vehicle to tackle stigma, discrimination and inequalities encountered by people who possess disability or live at the margins of society.

These levels respond to the accessibility challenges faced by many vulnerable people with disabilities with regard to cultural and social events which can be highly beneficial for their mental and social wellbeing.  As an alternative to the currently offered disability specific services, The Milkmaid CIC aims to offer much broader functionalities for these individuals.  These entail offering first a ‘place to be’ followed by delivering services that respond to their needs and desires.  Additionally, they provide life opportunities which the beneficiaries would not consider themselves and also for those who may have considered them, but believed them to be out of their reach.

10          The Milkmaid CIC provides a wide range of services, activities and events which intend to empower vulnerable people, those with disabilities and/or socially excluded.  These include:

 

·         Milkmaid Thursday Folk Club, a monthly club for individuals with disabilities which has internationally and nationally known artists playing, commonly for either a reduced fee or sometimes free of charge.  There are regular attendances of 30-50 beneficiaries, other family members and family carers.  The club is held in a room provided by Suffolk County Council at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds;

 

·         Milkmaid Mindset, a weekly music group for people with mental health issues. A grant from Suffolk Foundation has helped The Milkmaid CIC in the hire of room space from the St John’s Centre for the group to have their weekly sessions.  This group of 36 members often performs at local events such as Thursday Folk Club, Milkmaid/Tourist Board and other public events.

 

 

·         Milkmaid Molly, a bi-monthly dance group for people with learning disabilities.  Learner dancers (known as Mollies) and experienced dancers (known as Buddies) regularly perform at events such as The Milkmaid Thursday Folk Club and they have also performed at Ely Folk Festival and on The Apex main stage, including in the Christmas Show;

 

·         Milkmaid Schools, a service which has placed professional folk musicians to deliver workshops in local schools such as River Walk School in Bury St Edmunds (a special needs school for 5-19 year olds who have severe learning disabilities);

 

 

·         Milkmaid Instrument Making and Music Project, an on-going weekly day event for people with learning disabilities, in which they are supported to both make and play three-stringed dulcimers and percussion instruments by a fully qualified Music Teacher with two support workers.  These three-stringed instruments are made from kit form, individually decorated and varnished by these music pupils with the support from the Tutor and support workers. The groups are taught tunes, including self-written ones, and to date, having completed the construction of over 25 instruments, they have performed in several concerts, including at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds to audiences of 500!

 

·         Milkmaid Folk Club, a twice-monthly concert folk club for the whole community held in Bury St Edmunds in which internationally and nationally known folk artists such as this organisation’s patrons Dave Pegg, Anthony John Clarke, Damien Barber, and previously John Renbourn (RIP), have performed along with other folk artists such as Brooks Williams, Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer, Nancy Kerr, James Fagan, Kevin Dempsey and Joe Broughton.  The audience pay an entrance fee and this event has been successful for over 19 years.  This event is also the genesis of all the other above activities.  

 

11          The Milkmaid CIC management team’s combination of skills are really impressive and are an important factor for the adequate delivery of services.  Their dedicated application of energies and sheer determination have ensured that this vast array of services are delivered to the general public and also vulnerable target groups.  This has also allowed for the creation and maintenance of fruitful partnerships with a wide range of other diverse organisations such as Business link, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Art Link, Folk Arts England, English Folk Dance and Song Society, SEEE (Social Enterprise East of England), East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and many others.

 

            The diversity of The Milkmaid CIC’s partners shows that services are delivered at a high quality and recognised as such; which can only be beneficial for the achievement of positive outcomes for vulnerable target groups.  In addition, by having such artists as listed above, artists who are mainstays of the folk music world and can use their networks and connections for these beneficiaries, demonstrates that The Milkmaid continues to punch above its weight and help ensure survivability in a tough climate for social enterprises and charities generally.

12          Many individuals who participate in these activities delivered by The Milkmaid CIC report having found great value in doing so.  Many have found that by attending the diverse activities offered, they have gained confidence, a sense of wellbeing and connectedness and, of course, skills that they would not have obtained if they had not accessed the services and support of The Milkmaid CIC.  Moreover, and very importantly, their participation contributes to creating a sense of belonging and inclusion, allied to a great degree of personal independence.

 

Evaluations: Case Studies

 

13          Here are four case studies collected by The Milkmaid CIC which offer insights into the impact that this organisation can have on their beneficiaries: (names have been changed for confidentiality)

 

Sally is a sensitive, shy young woman with Down’s syndrome who has flourished since joining us on the music course.  As well as designing and making an entire fleet (!) of meticulously executed and stunningly decorated dulcimers, Sally has a natural sense of rhythm and timing that has been honed during her time with us.

 

Her confidence has soared and she is now able to take a lead role in group performances.  Her skills on the chime bars are now particularly strong and she plays with excellent technique.  Sally has increased her range of dynamics and is now comfortable playing loudly as well as softly and she strives to the same with her singing.

 

Anthony has a genuine love of music and affinity with the folk world.  Despite only having the use of one hand, he has nevertheless assembled and decorated several dulcimers which he plays with great gusto.  Anthony approaches all musical activities with enthusiasm, sings in time and in tune and has developed his untuned percussion skills, often demonstrating to the group the way to play a guiro or tambour.

For some months, Anthony struggled to play in time and to play quietly but by linking his playing with his well-controlled singing, and with structured support, he has made enormous progress in these areas and can now maintain a steady beat and playing both quietly and loudly.  His pride in his achievements is immense – as is ours!

 

For some weeks, David was reluctant to join in any musical activity, although he enjoyed the coffee break and social interaction of the group. No amount of coaxing or encouraging would entice him even to hold an instrument.  From our chats with David, we were soon made aware that his interests included wrestling and one day, one of the team suggested he bounce a beater on a tambour pretending he was ‘bouncing someone out of the ring’.  This worked like a charm and although David still has days when he struggles to engage musically, he will join in to a much greater extent most weeks.  The big successes with David have been the spontaneous moments – we decided as a group to sing ‘Only fools and Horses’ one week because it was his favourite programme, or playing ‘Spiderman’ on the chime bars because he’d just been to see it at the cinema. 

According to David’s mother, he has never participated to this extent in any other group or activity, and in some ways he is our biggest success story.

 

Chris arrived a few months after the course had begun.  His difficulties include a tendency to interrupt and to exhibit other mildly inappropriate social behaviour.  During his time with the group, these tendencies have markedly diminished.  Chris is a very talented musician and one initial challenge was to ensure he was working at the appropriate level without appearing to ‘push him forward’ or in any way to underplay the attainment of the other students.

Several months on, Chris is happily integrated into the group and, with sensitively structured personalised learning, is working and progressing at his own pace, as are all the other students.

 

 

14          Furthermore, The Milkmaid CIC has received letters from family members of beneficiaries expressing appreciation for the services provided.  These family members comment on how valuable the services have been and report how the beneficiaries have become more confident, less anxious and more independent and have developed greater self-esteem and sense of belonging.

 

In reviewing these case studies and letters, it is clear that The Milkmaid CIC has a positive impact on the lives of all those who come into contact with it and subsequently a highly positive impact in the wider communities in which the beneficiaries live.

 

The Milkmaid Folk Arts Centre CIC

 

15          The Milkmaid CIC is an organisation that offers diverse services for different types of disabilities which are highly beneficial.  However, these services are not all held at the same venue; The Milkmaid CIC has to rely on St Edmundsbury Borough Council (one of this organisation’s key partners) to provide The Apex for certain services as well as hire other rooms at community facilities in and around Bury St Edmunds.  This is often less than ideal to run services such as unstructured time and space to simply ‘be’ with others, which can be extremely helpful to vulnerable adults and those on the margins of our society, to integrate with the community.

 

16          Having a fixed place (a Centre) from which to operate all services, activities or events, will enable beneficiaries to benefit from social interactions with a wider variety of different individuals.  A place like this can also enable and encourage individuality, inclusion, self-esteem and a more supportive community to be developed.  Hence The Milkmaid CIC is looking to acquire premises at Bury St Edmunds railway station known as Units 4 & 5, Downside Railway Buildings, as the new Centre for the organisation and all its activities.

 

However, as the buildings have been empty for 15 years, they are in a state of considerable disrepair, mainly through vandalism and pigeon infestation.  These buildings need an extensive renovation in order to offer a safe and exciting Centre for the organisation’s vulnerable target groups.  The major challenge is cost; but by having the premises refurbished, this would become an excellent base to use as a Centre for people with disabilities and other vulnerable adults.  As the buildings are spacious, with 2,500sq ft over two floors, they are an ideal venue.  Their location at the railway station also makes easy access for all including those using public transport.

 

Intern impressions of The Milkmaid CIC

 

17          By analysing this organisation, it is acknowledged that the team behind this project is greatly committed to delivering the services - with Directors, sessional staff and volunteers having provided their effort continuously for several years and making beneficiaries feel very welcomed, integrated and accepted.  It is an organisation in which people with disabilities and those without can meet on equal terms, leading to a therapeutic social interaction between individuals.  There is boundless enthusiasm and commitment which is combined with open-mindedness within the organisation.  Directors, staff and volunteers are always learning and striving to continually improve.  By having all these qualities embedded, it is almost certain that this social enterprise can only thrive further.

 

18          It is excellent that this organisation has these qualities within its everyday working culture.  This helps the activities, services and events to be run successfully and to raise enough funds to prolong their efforts and for beneficiaries to be highly satisfied with the services.  However, for the organisation to progress further into the future, it is important that The Milkmaid CIC obtains a fixed place (such as the railway buildings referred to above) where it can be based in a secure and structured way that will only further the benefits to all its users.

 

19          It is also important this organisation mitigates the risk of key personnel discontinuing to volunteer as this can have a serious impact on the delivery of services as a good deal of these services are delivered by volunteers.  Trying to secure some core funding for at least a few paid staff positions remains a significant and ongoing goal, needed to guarantee efficient delivery of services.  Core funding around the continuance of key services is urgently required.

 

Conclusion

 

20          To conclude, the management team of The Milkmaid CIC has over 30 years’ experience in the fields of social care; promotion and staging of music and arts events; and support and training of people with disabilities of various degrees and severities.  They are well-known and well-connected in all these fields, which leads to having a wide range of productive partnerships that enhances the delivery of diverse services.  In comparison to other organisations in Suffolk, the Milkmaid CIC possesses multiple services for people with differing disabilities, not just a specific service for a specific disability.  Also these partnerships can only be beneficial for the delivery of efficient services.

 

21          It can also be reported from this short review, that services are being delivered more than adequately, as case studies and beneficiary family members’ letters have shown.  This organisation has positively impacted upon the lives of vulnerable target group beneficiaries.   Beneficiaries have become more confident, more independent, more skilful and more resilient and display a greater sense of wellbeing.  This means that the commitment, dedication and effort that the members of this organisation put into their work are really paying off.

 

To date, the Milkmaid CIC’s operational goals have been surpassed because of its social inclusion ethos and positive culture. This culture, whilst difficult to obtain, has been achieved because of a socially driven ethos.  By delivering socially-inclusive activities that positively influence the lives of vulnerable people within Suffolk we hope that additional resources are made available to ensure that the vision of having a fully-functional and integrated Folk Arts Centre for Bury St. Edmunds and its surrounding areas comes to fruition.

 Marco Dos Santos (Intern)

June 2015