Sunday, 11 November 2012

Four Months On ...

Gemma was with me bravely until 8 August, when i had to let her go before she suffered too much ... many of you will know I've hardly spent a year of my life without a dog or two around, and I have no doubt Gemma will be keeping an eye out, from the great seaside in the sky, and when the time's right, a new friend will find me ... meanwhile ...

Phil Riley and Julie Wright

To help distract from my sadness, Phil and I have been recording our first cd together, which will be released after christmas ... it was our plan to have it ready for our support gig at The Musician in Leicester on 16 October, our warm up before headlining at Banbury Folk Club on 24 October, but unfortunately John Montague, who's recording for us, had another heart attack and is currently recuperating!  Thankfully, with a couple more stents in place, he's gradually getting back into gigging and recording, and we're all pleased to have him back in more or less one piece.

The Sileby Slappers

Following a summer dotted with gigs at community events (where luckily we mainly managed to avoid rain and mud!) we're now working on our performance programme, and have welcomed one or two newcomers to the group ... watch this space!


I'd been invited to drum with the musicians who play for the annual Circle Dance picnic at Swithland Woods, which was put back to a date in September due to waterlogged fields!  We had a beautiful, sunny day, and a band of about 14 musicians!  So lovely to play music and songs and rhythms from around the world.


We had a couple of great gigs at The Boathouse, Barrow Upon Soar, on sunny summer days by the canal, and our next is on Saturday 8 December at The George and Dragon in Broughton Astley, if you're looking for a pre-christmas nite out listening to some of your favourite tunes!


As we all know, with the recession and funding cuts across all the areas in which artists can make a great and positive difference to people's lives, school and community workshops have taken a great battering, many of us are struggling to keep working and doing what we do best.

I'm pleased to say I now have four schools where I have pupils taking weekly lessons, it's quite a new experience for me to see this progression, and very rewarding that some have continued with lessons in high school.  I also have projects at Corby Glen and Buckminster Primary Schools.  Corby Glen had me in for a teacher inset, and I'm now visiting once a week to spend an afternoon with the year 5/6 class - they have their own djembes, which is always a bonus!  At Buckminster I spent a day working with all classes (reception to year 6) and then we had an end of day assembly, singing and clapping and drumming with teachers and parents.  I'm now running an after school drum club for KS2 children, and Buckminster are using the djembes that their family of schools bought with Extended Services funds a couple of years ago, another project I was involved in.

I've also had some great "one-offs" this term - a re-visit to Wilds Lodge School music festival in Rutland; a day at Bishop Stopford School in Kettering with Year 7 - two groups of 50, culminating in a performance at the end of the day; a day at St Denys Infant School in Ibstock (where one of the young staff members told me she'd never seen such a well-structured drumming workshop); three days in Solihull at Widney Junior School with year 4/5 classes (and an invitation to return next term) and two days at Robert Smyth Upper School in Market Harborough, where I had the sheer joy of working with GCSE and A Level music students, as well as children from 4 feeder primary/high schools, all of whom took my leaflets and said they'd be in touch ...

So - I'm still here, I'm still working well, and I'm happy to discuss any project that you think we could put together to make a difference ... you know where I am ...

Meanwhile, in case I don't blog again until 2013, may I wish you a very Happy Christmas!

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Sun's Shining on my Blog!

The problem with being busy is that I've not had time to update the blog, and now there's so much to write I don't know where to start!  I'll try and give you a little flavour of all that's been happening the past 3 months ...

Juliya  (formerly Jujumaa)

Work with the piano, Jude and the Kora continues to develop, and we went down well at Hosenbury Festival.  We've changed our name to Juliya, as there is another group in the world music field with "Juju" in the title, and we decided that might be just too confusing.  Juliya originates from "Jaliya", a word for all cultural tools (like singing, music, storytelling etc) which we've adapted to include the Ju of Jude and Julie :)  Not just pretty faces, as my dad would have said :)

The Sileby Slappers

What a great summer we've had, despite the inclement weather, managing to avoid playing in the rain, and mostly the mud too!  We wowed the crowds at Loughborough's Picnic in the Park during the Diamond Jubilee week celebrations; we were part of a lovely charity fundraising afternoon with cream teas and other musicians, organised by Christine Coole and hosted by some elderly folks in Cosby; Paula McKillop invited us to play at Oakfest and joined us onstage to play for a very appreciative crowd in the grounds of Oakham Castle, and we rocked at Hosenbury Festival, where we're already booked for next year!   We're looking forward to working on some new pieces in the coming months.

Julie Wright, Phil Riley and Backwater

We've played a few gigs these last few months, particularly enjoying a return to the Criterion in Leicester, and slots at festivals in Seagrave and Tilton on the Hill.  Our next venture is in the recording studio with the piano - very exciting for me!  There are gigs coming in for later in the year, and I'll let you have the dates in due course.  Meanwhile, you can catch Backwater at The Boathouse in Barrow upon Soar on Sunday afternoons 29 July, and 5 and 26 August.  A really enjoyable venue right by the edge of the canal (or is it a the river?  I'm never sure!)  Always a good atmosphere, and they do good food too!


Well, where haven't I been this term!  Special Needs at Birchwood in Melton Mowbray, Key Stage 1 in London, Key Stage 2 in Huntingdon, Key Stage 3 in Retford and Ibstock, Key Stage 4 in Leicester and Teacher Training at Northampton University - I'm nothing if not versatile!

My regular students at Highcliffe Primary in Birstall and Glenfield Primary all did fabulous end of term performances, and the Year 6s are hoping to continue lessons at their respective high schools from September.  I also played percussion at the end of term concert with Highcliffe school choir and two other community choirs led by the wonderful Carolyn Necklen, who retired from her post at the school this year, but she will be continuing her freelance work in the county.

Eastfield School bought 16 djembes and invited me in to run several sessions with KS2 pupils.  Year 6 performed their pieces to the rest of the school, and by the end of the afternoon the whole school were singing and playing rhythms together in the hall.  Yet another example of how music can bring people together and make positive and uplifting vibes within the school and other communities.

Rothley Primary School PTFA paid for me to work with all the children, and then half of years 5 and 6 chose to have extra sessions and perform at the School Fete.  I made an executive decision to squash us into the school hall, as the clouds didn't look too promising, but we went down a storm (see what I did there?) and are hoping to continue drumming at the school in September.  Soar Valley Music (whose amazing percussion warehouse is in Rothley) and I then went back into school in the last week of term, using some of SVM's traditional West African and Samba instruments - let's see if I can upload a couple of pictures from this 3 way partnership ...

It was a great afternoon. The Year 6 teacher said it was just brilliant to see the children having fun after all those exams and tests and the pressure that has become the way of life for children in primary schools.  It's such a shame the powers-that-be don't seem to realise that productive learning isn't always about the 3 Rs, and that the arts can enrich the lives of children and adults alike!

What's Coming Up?

Well, rehearsals with Jude, Phil, Backwater and The Slappers continue, interspersed with a few summer workshops and gigs, but also some free time to spend in the garden, peacefully enjoying the sunshine and my gorgeous dog, Gemma, who is sadly suffering with cancer, and we're now on borrowed time ...

... no, this isn't my garden, just my dog!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Time Flies!

I can't believe it's nearly 4 weeks since I last wrote ... what's been happening ... too much to list everything now, but here's a little taster ...

Had a really good time with Cantamus girls choir, and received the following write up:
"Julie ran a great drumming workshop for Cantamus Training Choir in March. They are working towards a performance of Lin Marsh’s Drum Songs in May, an inspirational set of four songs celebrating the power of rhythms in our lives – the turning earth giving us day and night and changing seasons, the gentle heartbeat linking a mother and her child.
The girls aged between 9 and 14 explored basic hand drumming techniques and rhythm patterns, gaining confidence as the workshop progressed.  Julie’s inclusive approach and sense of fun engaged all thirty five of them for more than two hours, and a number found a talent they didn’t know they had. Two drummers are needed for the performances - one to play the doundoun, the other the djembe – there was no shortage of volunteers!
A thoroughly enjoyable workshop for all. Thanks Julie – please come again."

Ran djembe and cajon taster sessions at Sheehan's Learn to Play Day, 31st March - on the same bill as Whitesnake, very exciting!  Miss Wright and The Toff also had a performance slot, an exciting new venture that I'll keep for another time ...

A successful weekend in Yellow Bean Studios recording ... please make a note in your diary of Sunday 24 June at The Musician, Leicester, 2-5pm for the cd launch gig!  Between now and then we're playing The Old Thatch Inn at Stanton Under Bardon on Friday 27 April, Joules Yard, Market Harborough on Sunday 6 May, a venue in Brixworth, Northants, Wednesday 23 May and Syston Jubilee event on Saturday 2 June...

Gigs, feature spots and open mics continue.  Upcoming is the George and Dragon at Broughton Astley (postponed from yesterday, when we played The Tom Thumb in Blaby instead) on Saturday 14 April.  Phil and I are working on some new duo material.

And now, I'm out of time!  But I must just leave you with an image taken at the Cantamus workshop - it epitomises my teaching style, and is a great time keeper!


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

So Much to Say ...

Hey!  I have, of course, been teaching my regular students, as well as an infant school in Daventry, a youth club in Sutton on Trent, and will be returning to work with the highly successful and award winning Cantamus girls choir next weekend, but this post is very much about the recent gigs that have kept me busy rehearsing, rather than updating the blog!  Enjoy! 
Well, Jude and I (Jujumaa) took to the stage on Monday 5 March at Monty's Acoustic Night for our debut performance on kora and piano.  As ever, the listening crowd was supportive and appreciative, and John Montague, who runs the club, said it was a great sound and would be good to record!  I also received the following feedback, which I just have to share with you! (Not sure whether the writer had had one too many cokes, or just has a very vivid imagination, but I love the review!)
'I was thoroughly entertained and enchanted by an unusual musical duo called Jujumaa. Jujumaa are Julie Wright on piano and Jude Winwood on Kora - a unique combination (at least to me). They played two delightful original pieces. I missed the title of the first which started with a catchy arhythmical section, the two instrumental lines winding around each other before resolving into a structured second section as the two lines connected and combined. Images came readily to mind for both pieces, for this one I saw streams of bubbles from a deep ocean rising past a bustling coral reef!

The second piece, 'Lost in A Minor', was written around recurring themes which one or both instruments would pick up extremely effectively at different points. As I sat and listened this time, the picture the piece evoked was of a vast subterranean cavern where the forest bats roosted before flying out into the fading evening light. All this in a golf club in East Goscote! Wonderful!'
The Sileby Slappers
On Saturday 3 March we had a great gig at Sage Cross Church in Melton Mowbray, as part of a mixed musical programme.  I have a great mp3 recording of us playing, but as you know, I'm not very good at all things technological, and have tried to upload it to this blog, with no success ... if anyone can tell me how, please get in touch!  Otherwise you'll just have to email and ask me to send it to you as an attachment, if you'd like to hear some really funky beats!!!  Our next confirmed gig will be at Oakham Festival, Saturday 23 June.
We're rehearsing hard at the moment and will be back in the recording studios  at the end of the month.  Fabulous photographer Yvonne Lishman came to take some more photographs of a rehearsal last week, which was recorded live at Groby College for a student assessment, and you can see some footage of that if you go to my youtube page.  Our next gig will be at Olives Bar, Leicester, Thursday 22 March. 

Saturday 10 March saw me playing with Phil and Coops (Backwater) at The Old Crown Inn in Fleckney, Leicester.  A great country pub atmosphere with a mixed crowd, who enjoyed the wide range of covers that the guys keep updating, which keeps me on my toes (or should I say fingers, as a percussionist?)  Thanks to all our mates who came along to hear us play and boost the crowd.  Our next gig will be at The George and Dragon, Broughton Astley, Saturday 7 April.

The Harley Staples Trust
I was asked to sponsor my dear friend, Ian Morris of Willow Finance, who was raising money for the Harley Staples Trust through his Decembeard efforts.  Harley was a local child who lost his life to cancer (like my Mum), and the trust was set up by his family to help other children and families in similar circumstances.  Instead of donating cash, I offered my services as a drummer, as Harley had been a keen drummer himself.  On Wednesday 7 March I had the most rewarding morning on the Children's Cancer Ward at Leicester Royal Infirmary, lots of noise and lots of smiles with children, hospital staff and family members from the Trust.  What a great way to remember both Harley and my Mum, who was a great supporter of cancer charities all her life.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


You'd think a percussionist would have a finger on the pulse and know exactly how time flies, wouldn't you! GRIN.  I can't believe so much has happened since my last post ... to be fair, quite a lot of it's been organising and rehearsing for upcoming gigs - and Dream will be recording the rest of our album in March, so there's a lot of hard work going on here behind the scenes!

DATES FOR YOUR DIARIES!* please contact me if you need any further information about any of these gigs, I know I haven't given much detail, but time's running out again!

DREAM - please check for full details
Thursday 22 March                Olive's Bar, Leicester
Sunday 6 May                          Joule's Yard, Market Harborough
Wednesday 23 May                  Brixworth, Northants
Sunday 24 June                        The Musician, Leicester
Saturday 30 June                      The Green Place, Sileby
Monday 2 July                          Monty's Acoustic Club, East Goscote
Tuesday 4 September              Acoustic Knights, Sutton Cheney

Saturday 10 March                   The Old Crown Inn, Fleckney
Saturday 7 April                        (oooh, i don't know where!)
Monday 7 May                           Castle Donington 
Saturday 3 March                     Sage Cross Church, Melton Mowbray
Saturday 7 July                          Hosenbury Festival, Hose

An exciting new project with Jude Winwood ... kora piano balafon percussion ...
Monday 5 March                      Monty's Acoustic Club, East Goscote
Saturday 7 July                         Hosenbury Festival, Hose

To be fair, I have also been teaching djembe students in local primary schools, and running the odd full day workshop here and there across the region, as well as meetings with longstanding clients and some new ones, but I guess the most unusual job has been with the puppeteers!

A long drive up to Caroline Astell Burt's Yorkshire base, Grassington, for another project with her fantastically creative puppetry students.  Every percussion instrument in my vast collection was available for use in "The Marionettes Ball!"  An improvised performance, operators were either on stage with their marionettes, or at the percussion station, improvising a sound score for the action on stage.  Wendy Cook had already given the students an insight into improvised performance (in the style of Merce Cunningham, one of my choreographic idols), and it was a chance to play with music, movement and puppets in a beautiful part of the country.  I look forward to more projects later this year, so much creativity and craftmanship in one place ...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


I must just tell you, I had a fantastic day at Highcliffe Primary School in Birstall, Leicestershire, yesterday! 

Year 6 have been working on a project about Ghana in West Africa, and both classes of 35 children had two one hour sessions with me.  They then performed their pieces on djembe, doun douns and a variety of hand percussion to the rest of KS2 at the end of the day.  We all learned a new chant together, and within 24 hours I already have 8 new children signed up for private drumming lessons!

It's always so rewarding to find children so interested and engaged, not only in the rhythms and instruments, but wanting to find out about how the instruments are made, and what life is like where they come from.  The brilliant thing about returning each year to a school is that children remember what they learned the previous year, teachers have the opportunity to enjoy seeing their pupils so enthused and on task with a visiting artist, and I know where find the teabags and biscuits!!!

I rushed home and after walking the dog and a snooze in the armchair, made it to Acoustic Knights for a headline performance with Phil Riley - what a great evening!  First Tuesday of every month, and Bob Spencer manages to attract a different line up each time, from solo singer/songwriters, to younger more contemporary performers, blues officionados (how on earth do you spell that word!?!) ... beginners to more seasoned performers, the club has a great cabaret atmosphere, stage and lighting, and everyone is respectful and supportive of all the different kinds of music.  Within a few days Bob has photographs and a few words on his website about the evening, so do check it out!

The trouble with days like yesterday, when I got up at 05.30am and went to bed at 01.30am some 20 hours later, it takes me a day to recover!

Monday, 30 January 2012

What's Coming Up?

Well, last week's gigs were worth all the rehearsals GRIN ... Dream headlined at The Priory - I'm hoping the recording Howard made on the night might be uploadable to our YouTube channels, watch this space ... and Saturday afternoon at The Criterion was a very mellow affair with Phil Riley and piano ... thanks to audiences at both venues, who were very appreciative.

Thanks also to Philip Herbert and The Tiffin in Leicester, for a most fun and informative meeting on Wednesday, and most delicious curry! 

Apart from the usual rehearsals with Phil, Dream and the Slappers, and regular school djembe pupils, I have workshop days coming up at Grantham National and Highcliffe Primary, as well as the start of a new project at Abington High.

During half term I'll be returning to work with The London School of Puppetry on a performance project with marionettes and a percussion orchestra (that's me!)  The piece is a Merce Cunningham style improvised performance, relying on the music score to lead the action ... never a dull moment working with Caroline Astell-Burt and her immensely diverse and creative students!

Meanwhile, a very new and very exciting music project has begun this evening with my dear friend and colleague, Jude Winwood ... kora and piano ... another space to watch ...

Have fun!

Jools x

Monday, 23 January 2012

This Week's News ...

Upcoming Gigs

Dream will be playing at The Priory, Loughborough tomorrow night Tuesday 24 January 2012 around 9pm

Phil Riley will be playing at The Criterion, Leicester on Saturday 28 January 2012 at about 3.00pm, if you're thinking of coming, i think my part of the set will be about 4.00pm ...

... and obviously, I'll be playing too!  Lots of percussion, and 5 songs with piano and Phil ... hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, the website has been officially launched, and I'm enjoying joining you in the second decade of technology in the 21st century ... I think ...

Jools x

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Latest News

Here I am in the 21st Century! 
Watch this space for some real news soon ...