Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Three years on .....

Happy New Year 2018!

So much has happened since my last blog, not least losing the lovely Maurice to a heart tumor in 2016.  He's been greatly missed at workshops and gigs and, of course, at home, but is no doubt enjoying our drumming from afar ...

These days my work tends to be more locally based and regular, slotting in workshops and shorter projects when they arise.  This includes:

Peripatetic Schools
Children at Highcliffe and Glenfield primary schools have regular weekly lessons, some continuing when they move up to Brook Vale, Cedars and Humphrey Perkins academies.  All children have the opportunity to take part in school concerts and other community events.

Whole Class Ensemble Tuition (WCET)
I travel cross country to Kibworth Primary once a week to work with three Year 5 classes. 

Last term I had an exciting project at Rolleston Primary, Leicester, training the Music Coordinator to work with all children across the school, using their enviable stash of 32 djembes!  Dan James shadowed me working with Year 3 children, and we had a fantastic performance at the end of the project, when teachers and parents and children all played and sang together.

This term's additional project is at Sherard Primary in Melton, working with a KS2 class during PPA time, and I'm looking at the possiblity of starting peripatetic lessons at Riverside Primary.

Community Projects

Woodgate Centre Leicester
Wednesdays 19.30-20.30
£5 per session
An open workshop for adult beginners/improvers.  Everyone welcome, drums provided but please let me know if you need one: 07904 541520

WEA - Evington
As part of the Leicester Ageing Together Project I was invited to work as Consultant with a group whose tutor had moved away from the area.  The group ended with a performance at the Friends of Evington House Christmas Party in December, and some members may join the Woodgate group to continue drumming.  There were 18 performers, including some drummers from Woodgate and a few Sileby Slappers.

We continue to enjoy performing at a range of diverse events - in 2017 we played at a traditional Bosnian celebration in Birstall, and our drumming drew comments on facebook from people wanting to know where the party was and could they come along!  It was a beautiful summer day with an inspirational family making us very welcome.

The Slappers can often be found at school fetes and fundraising events, sessions with Rainbows and Brownies and other children's activities, we always have lots of fun and laughter together.  It's also great for me to have extra roadies on board :)

 Typical set-up for a school concert - this one was Alderman Richard Hallam
Primary School in 2016


East of Reason
When Phil Riley retired from his regular band commitments in 2016 it was, of course, the end of East of Reason.  I was tempted by a couple of other bands, but was struggling to burn the candle both ends, and not enjoying loud, busy gigging environments, so decided to have a little freedom to travel while I was without the ties of a dog.   

I took the sunset photo in August 2017 in Herne Bay, where I grew up.  My passport has taken me to Belfast, Dublin, Sweden and South Africa, and I'm still waiting for a new furry friend to find me ... who knows where I'm headed next ... 

I stayed in Sweden with an old friend and colleague from Middlesex, Anya Ison-Wallace.  The countryside was awash with cornflowers and daisies, and we had a peaceful week relaxing and discussing possible future projects together.

Cape Town
I had the opportunity to travel with a friend to Cape Town and spend ten days with her family, who were amazing hosts and took us to many beautiful places during our stay.  What a fantastic place, I'd recommend to everyone! 

 Slappers raising money for African children ...

If you would like to discuss the possibility of a project or gig with your school or group, please get in touch!

Julie Wright
01509 814569
07904 541520


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

I'm So Rubbish!!!

Happy New Year!

I'm so ashamed that my blog seems to have run out of steam - although I guess that's because I've been so busy out there doing so many diverse and different things with music!

For now, just while I remember, if you go to either of the following links, you'll be able to find out a little more about those musical things by reading and listening!



In addition to my peripatetic sessions, NMPAT Musical Inclusion Projects and gigs and recordings with East of Reason, the Sileby Slappers have enjoyed a couple of brilliant gigs - one in Northampton at a fundraising gala for "The Kurari Project" (a school in Africa) and one at a Muslim Bridal Shower in Loughborough.  There's nothing like a bit of variety!

Maurice likes to be part of as many gigs as possible, and could be seen strutting his stuff with The Sileby Slappers at HoseFest in July, and with East of Reason at Joules Yard, a popular music venue in Market Harborough.

Right, off to a meeting, but good to touch base and hope not to leave it too long before a more informative post!


Monday, 21 April 2014

Where did the last six months go?!!!!

It's almost a year since Maurice moved in, and he soon became everyone's favourite dog!  He settles down at Sileby Slappers sessions every Tuesday night, and thoroughly enjoys the open workshops at Sage Cross Church in Melton Mowbray every few weeks.  He even joined me and Backwater on stage at The Boathouse in Barrow one sunny summer evening.  It's such a shame I can't take him to work everywhere, but I'm not sure how much work would get done if he came to school, and what would Health and Safety say!  Maurice continues to need time and attention, and it's a good job we live only a minute's walk from the vet.  But it has to be said, he's the talk of the village, stops for a kebab each evening on his way home from the park (they call him Pepperoni Boy), and everyone knows this adorable, gentle, happy dog, and can see the change in him since he left the evils of the Puppy Farm where he worked as a stud for 5 years before being rescued by Sandy at East Midlands Dog Rescue.

Work News

I'm still enjoying playing with Phil Riley, and we've joined up with Helen Butterfield and Kev Lee, making new arrangements of Phil and Kev's songs, with mandolin, fiddle and harp (that's my new instrument, but I won't dwell on it, in case it doesn't go anywhere!  No doubt my next blog will reveal all!)  We're planning a few gigs for the summer, so watch this space (or give me a call, given that my blogging isn't exactly prolific!)

The Sileby Slappers continue to develop our performance programme, and are also looking forward to some summer gigs, including Sileby Gala on Saturday 21 June 2014, when I'm inviting all my students to join us for a grand finale piece - that should knock a few cobwebs off the Memorial Park!

Peripatetic Work continues in several local schools, which will increase in September when some of my Year 6 students move up to High School. 

NMPAT Musical Inclusion Development
The last few months have focused on developing this work in Northamptonshire.  We have worked with children and young people who are young carers, in the care system, in hospital school, in hospital and high security mental health wards, and in Pupil Referral Units, to mention a few.  Some of these projects are ongoing, and we are introducing Arts Award programmes as part of the musical provision we can offer.  There are many training opportunities for the team, which continue to broaden my skills base and widen opportunities for more diverse projects.  It's also brilliant to be working with a great team.  I'm adding below the latest blogs that I've written on the Youth Music Network site, which can be accessed there, along with blogs from my team and many other musicians working in this field

Youth Music Network Blog Posts


We should surely be thankful that in music education we must at all times adhere to the vast array of government dictates that will make us the best teachers we can be, and pass on this excellence to our students. 

With Ofsted, mock ofsted and peer observations, we can be absolutely sure that our perceived failings can be rooted out, commented upon, and held up as examples of bad practice. This is beneficial, enabling us to reflect on our work and make all the improvements required, according to the magnificent guidelines written and passed down to us by the government and its revered education department.

Just one word of advice, fellow music makers.  If, in your planning, you haven't mentioned that at any time you reserve the right to stop and plug in a microphone to capture an amazing, creative, experiential, musical moment that has unexpectedly evolved, which your students will benefit from recording and listening back to, you may be seen as straying from the session plan, and marked down accordingly.  This happened to a colleague of mine recently, working in a Leicestershire special school, which had employed an organisation to train all the teachers in the art of observing each other at work.
Observing other artists, teachers and facilitators is a highly useful tool to see how others make things work well, and how you might include this in your own practice.  Feedback from being observed is also useful, often giving us a different viewpoint and food for thought.  However, focusing only on the negative can leave us feeling dejected, unappreciated and questioning whether we're in the right job.
There are many boxes to be ticked, and thankfully in my own practice I mostly adhere to my own standards of good practice within the world of music facilitation, where "reacting responsively and creatively to the needs of the group, with sensitivity and humour" is possibly the top box on my list. 
If this makes me a maverick, so be it.  This blog is for all the other mavericks out there - don't let the Bs grind you down :)

For a long time, the old lady had been working as a freelance artist, leading percussion workshops and projects in a wide range of educational and community settings, comfortable in her ability to enthuse, entertain and engage students of every age and ability.

Some time later, the old lady found herself working with a team comprising considerably younger musicians, who seemed far more current in their musical abilities and interests.  She began to wonder whether the skills and experience she had been developing over the decades had much relevance to the young people in challenging circumstances that her team were engaging with.  She really didn't know what "Dub Step" was, and when a colleague played "Skrillex" in a session with behaviourally challenged teenagers, the old lady went home with a headache.

She called the leader of the team to discuss the dilemma in which she found herself.  Tongue in cheek, he suggested that perhaps some of the young people might benefit from a "grandmother figure".  That got her thinking.  After all, one of the most dear and inspirational people in her life had been her own grandmother.

At the next workshop, as the young people entered the room, the old lady's mindset was no longer "I don't know how to engage with these young people" ... it was "I'm going to find a way to engage with these young people and enhance their enjoyment and learning today."

And so began a new chapter in the old lady's life.  Nicola, who had refused to play a drum in the previous session, tentatively asked if she could try the doun douns.  The old lady spent some very patient time going over and over a pattern until Nicola found the confidence to play it independently, and by the end of the session was playing along proudly with the group.  The old lady had also been observing Josh for a couple of sessions, noticing that he didn't seem to make much attempt to be part of the music-making with his group.  So she went and sat with him, asking if he could play the guitar.  He said no, with a shy smile.  Well, the old lady couldn't either, so they both got guitars, and were soon playing two chords with the rest of the group.

Small steps, thought the old lady, who had had the courage to change her mindset and embrace her age and experience, instead of seeing it as an obstacle.  This in turn had helped two vulnerable young people to begin to see the power of music, and their ability to play and engage in it.  Which, after all, was why the old lady was there.

Roll on my next birthday, she thought :)


Recently, on a totally brilliant in-house training day with the Musical Inclusion Team at NMPAT (www.NMPAT.co.uk) led by the inspirational Isabel Jones, my head was exploding with new ideas and experiences – a really rewarding session. I'm sure we've all experienced training when we've come away feeling that we haven't learned or experienced much that's new, but Isabel's session was refreshingly stimulating and challenging.

We had half an hour left, and Isabel offered us two activity options during this time. I can now be honest and say that I was “full up” and would really have liked not to tackle anything else new at the end of the day – but it's often me that's outspoken, so I decided to go with the flow.

The outcome was that we covered another fascinating and insightful practical exercise in music-making, which really deserved far more time than we had – we could have spent much longer developing our ideas. However, within this activity there was an incident which triggered many insecurities for me, and at the end of the long day I was not equipped, emotionally or mentally, to deal with it very well.

My ongoing reflection about this has several aspects, and I may share some of them at another time. For today though, I think as a practitioner I'm going to be far easier on myself if I have a group for longer than an hour or two in future. There's no great Rule Book in the Sky that says I haven't earned my fee unless I fill every single minute to the end of the session, or that people will feel short-changed, which I think is what usually drives my work. I shall endeavour to read the energy of the group, and know that I can always save my next great idea for another time. After all, smiling faces on the way out are going to remember all the good things, and sign up for the next time :)

(Another Note to Self:  don't miss any of Isabel's training sessions, they're amazing!)


I've been teaching traditional West African drumming to five Year 5 children on a weekly basis since last September in a local primary school, and have two dyslexic students in the group, Charlie and Maya. I'm fascinated by the way they learn, and the idiosyncrasies in their approach to remembering rhythms. After the Christmas break, I was disappointed to see that they had both, apparently, forgotten the rhythm that we'd been playing at the end of last term. It didn't take the other children long to recall the hand patterns and the words we use as an aide memoire. But for Maya and Charlie, it didn't matter how patiently and clearly I went over and over the patterns, chanting “can of coke and a bag of crisps” (yes, I know, it should be “Evian and some sprouting beans”) I didn't seem to be able to help. Maya said please, please please could she start the rhythm on the bass, and I said no, because the sounds would be wrong.

I then asked the group to close their eyes, and listen to me playing the rhythm twice, and tell me if they were the same, or different. Each time, Maya and Charlie could hear no difference between the bass and tone sounds. In 14 years of teaching, this was a major revelation to me! It's never occurred to me that my students can't make that differentiation, and so would need to learn some other way.

Maya eventually said “I can't, I can't, I can't!” to which, naturally, I said “you can, you can, you can!” and we all started talking about what we had for Christmas, while out of the corner of my eye, I could see and hear Maya playing the rhythm totally correctly with a good hand pattern. As soon as the whole group started again, with me chanting “can of coke etc” Maya lost it again. Finally, I said to Maya, “does it help, me chanting those words at you all the time?” “No.” “Does it help you Charlie?” “No.” “Does it help if I say right, right left, right left right, left right?” “No.” “No.” . . . . “Can you tell me how you do remember then? Can you tell me what does help?”

And so began a fascinating revelation to us all about how Maya and Charlie see the bass and tone sounds on their drums as two different colours. Depending on which drum she's playing, Maya's colours are those of the two rings around the rim which hold the skin on the djembe. So, if I chanted “red, red red white white white, red red” it was helpful! And even if we were playing a different rhythm, “red, white white white white red, red, red” would still work! The whole group (including me) left the lesson beaming.

I've since had a long chat with my friend Helen, SENCO and Assistant Headteacher at an inner London primary school, who's studying for an MA in Education and Dyslexia, who tells me that current research points to dyslexia being a phonological problem. She was unsurprised that Maya and Charlie had “forgotten” the rhythm over the holiday period, and that they couldn't hear the difference between bass and tone. She was also unsurprised that colours and visual symbols were helpful for the children to process the rhythms. Most of all, Maya's ability to understand her own difficulties and explain to me how she learns is invaluable, because I can now do my best to try and help, not hinder. When focused and relaxed, Maya and Charlie are great drummers, and I'm so glad to have them in my group. An insight into Maya's world can only help me as a teacher and facilitator – and maybe it can help you too.  Never be blind to what your students can teach you, if only you ask the right questions ...

I have no doubt this will have an invaluable impact on my work with colleagues on the Musical Inclusion Team for NMPAT (www.NMPAT.co.uk).

Finally ... I still offer freelance workshops for schools and anyone else who'd like some Africa drumming to enhance their curriculum/workplace, which I manage to fit in around the more regular work that I find myself doing these days.  I'm looking forward to having a couple of weeks off in the summer, projects permitting, and seeing some of you down in Kent, where Maurice will be rediscovering the delights of whippy ice creams (with a little help from me!)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

It's Been So Long!

In my role as a member of the Northamptonshire Musical Inclusion Development Team I've recently been working on some amazing projects with young people attending hospital schools (both residential and day); young carers; young people not in education, employment or training, and children in care.  As part of a strong team with a wide range of music and teaching skills and experience, we have an amazing opportunity to develop our work together in Northamptonshire.   Simon Steptoe does an excellent job in finding cold spots where we, as a team, can make a difference, and has provided thought-provoking and practice-changing training opportunities for us all.  I am SO GLAD to have been invited to be part of this team, what a great challenge and enhancement to my already diverse career in music.

I've also been contributing blog entries to the Youth Music Network ( http://network.youthmusic.org.uk ) - and have decided to keep a record of them here on my own site - so here they are so far:


I was looking through my phone at the end of a very busy week, checking to see if I'd missed any important messages that needed a response. Thankfully I hadn't, but while I was reflecting on all the different projects and children I'd been working with, I was moved to send a message to the mother of a child I've been teaching regularly for the last year, once a week, in small group African drumming sessions at his primary school.

"Just thought I'd like to tell you what a great student Liam has become in African drumming this year.  His attitude to learning has vastly improved, he's not so hard on himself, and is absolutely a STAR supporting young Isaac in the group.  I'm very proud of him."

Shortly after sending the text, the response came back.

"Ah, thank you.  He is so chuffed.  He is struggling with his own self belief at the moment, as he is below his friends academically, and being tested for dyslexia.  Your text has made my day.  I've just told Liam, and he now has a big smile on his face getting into bed."

The back-story is that Liam first came to me in Year 5 as an enthusiastic, lively boy, who got extremely angry and sometimes upset if he didn't grasp a rhythm immediately, especially as there was another boy in his group who was very quick at picking up new rhythms.  Initially I struggled with Liam, not knowing anything of his background.  I was frustrated that such a young child could be so angry.

A clue came one day, when I asked who would be coming to watch their performance in Celebration Assembly.  Proudly they all listed Mums, Dads, siblings, grandparents.  Liam became more withdrawn, angry and tearful.  It became clear that his Dad had abandoned him, he never sees him, and it is obviously a great problem for him emotionally, and has a great effect on how he sees his own self-worth.

In my role as a peripatetic teacher (which only takes up one day a week) I realised there is so much I don't know about the children with whom I work, and this incident was a real eye-opener for me.  I was empowered to change the way I work, focusing as much on the emotional development of my students as on making brilliant drumming music.  As a freelancer I'm not bound by syllabus, exam results, or other constant pressures that teachers are under.  My lessons are often student-led, and we have a great deal of fun, which, to quote the mother of another pupil recently:

"It is so uplifting to imagine Callum and Jacob in their drum lesson with you.  I so agree with having fun - you absorb the learning before you realise.  I'm so glad you're able to continue teaching them at High School.  I feel it's amazing expression, and exercise of Callum's energy and twinkle, that I hope he keeps as he grows up and his routine schooling becomes more rigid and less expressive."

I guess the main point of this blog, for me, is to remind myself, and hopefully encourage others, to keep our own energy and twinkle, to have fun making music, to change the world for our students, and never lose sight of why we do what we do.  What a brilliant way to live and work!


I recently attended a training day in Leicestershire, facilitated by Phil Mullen, focusing on working with Children in Challenging Circumstances.  Delegates were asked to present questions for discussion, and one of my questions was "Is there a place for instrumental or culturally specific music delivery within the context of working with CCC?"

You might wonder why I asked this question, as surely all music has its place?

The reason for my question was that there seems to be a great deal of focus on songs and songwriting for young people who face major challenges in their lives. As a facilitator whose work includes leading a great deal of traditional African drumming, I was beginning to feel that perhaps my skills were not as valuable as those of the rest of the Musical Inclusion Development Team (MIDT) at NMPAT (www.nmpat.co.uk) who all offer songwriting options in their portfolios.  Songwriting is, after all, a very personal way to explore and express some of the deep issues that the young people are dealing with.  Can learning traditional rhythms from West Africa be equally relevant?

Several days later our MIDT arrived at a residential secure hospital unit in Northamptonshire, to deliver taster sessions for 14-18 year olds with chronic mental health issues, including PTSD and conduct disorders, leading to behavioural and educational challenges.

During planning meetings with staff at the unit, we had learned that they have a Djembe Drum Circle run by staff each week, and a range of other music activities, including guitar, drum kit and piano lessons, for which there is a waiting list.  I suggested opening our tasters with some traditional African drumming, which would be an immediate link between the young people and our team.  We then travelled to Brazil (not literally!) for a Samba Reggae session, and culminated with improvisation-based composition, with students and staff playing a range of tuned and untuned instruments.

This day's work answered my question in a way that discussion at a training session had not.  Perhaps I had forgotten what happens each time a group of people of any age, ability, gender or ethnicity enters a space that is full of drums, surrounded by a circle of chairs.  In that circle we all have our place.  We can be as visible or invisible as we want.  There is a leader whose job is to create a safe and supportive space where rhythms can be learned, absorbed, played, heard and shared.  Those rhythms and drums can stay in their traditional place musically, but they can also be used to play and create music that crosses all boundaries, working with any other instruments or voices in any genre.  I absolutely learned that my place in the team is equally valuable, and the improvisation at the end of the day was absolutely awesome ... particularly the drumming, I thought :)


I'm sure we all have memories of just one small, throw-away comment from a teacher or mentor in our past, that has stayed with us and shaped our development as people and musicians.

I was recently leading a West African drumming session with a group of NIEETs teenagers in Corby for the Northamptonshire Musical Inclusion Development Programme http://www.nmpat.co.uk.

At the beginning of the session I asked the young people what, if any, musical instruments they already played.  One girl said she loved music and had tried guitar and clarinet and piano, but "wasn't any good at them."  I told her that I had an adult student who had come to me with the same story, saying he hadn't yet found his instrument, and that now he is successfully playing djembe with my own group, The Sileby Slappers, and with other groups in the East Midlands.

At the end of the session we asked the young people for any feedback they would like to give us ... and one comment was "I think I've found my instrument ..."

Never underestimate what difference you are making.  You may feel like a drop in the ocean, but the ripples you make may become gigantic waves ...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sunshine and Smiles!

 Magnificent Maurice!!!

Sunday 10 March 2013 ... Mother's Day ... and a trip to East Midlands Dog Rescue to help some of the dogs recently brought in from a Puppy Farm in Lincolnshire.

Maurice was in a truly terrible state.  He was very underweight, covered in sores and scars, mouth full of ulcers and abcesses so unable to eat or yawn because of so much pain, ears so badly infected that the vet was sick when he saw them. Having spent his whole life there, working as a stud, his useful days were over.  He was discarded with the others without any care or thanks from those that had no doubt made a great deal of money from breeding him, and he was rescued by the incredible Sandy at EMDR.

Following 6 weeks in the wonderful foster care of Suzanne and her family, I officially adopted Maurice on Tuesday 7 May, and we haven't looked back ... which is why my blog is so late in arriving!!!  Having never lived in a house, gone for a walk, learned to play, or experienced much kindness or love, it is unbelievable that he has become such a wonderful, intelligent, cheeky and good-tempered dog, who, to quote my friend Kate, "brings a smile to everyone's face!"

Musical Inclusion Programme
Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT) 

Always on the lookout for new and interesting musical ventures, I applied to be on a database for musicians providing input to the NMPAT Musical Inclusion Programme.  Instead of a formal interview, successful applicants were invited to lead a session at Rowan Gate Primary School in Wellingborough, working with a class of children with diverse special needs.  

The outcome was to be invited to be part of the Development Team for Musical Inclusion in Northamptonshire, led by Simon Steptoe, and working with several other brilliant practitioners to develop a programme across the county, working with a range of groups with very different needs.  We are in the early stages, and I'm so excited to have my work valued in this way.  From performing an improvised score for partially-sighted dancers from Salamander Tandem at the new Corby Cube building, to spending a day co-leading a music workshop for Young Carers with Kate Rounding, I look forward to building on and extending this area of my work.

We continue to play together regularly, and have one or two promising new members!  We all enjoyed performing at a fabulous charity event in Littlethorpe, plus a return to Oakfest on a glorious sunny afternoon in June, both events that Paula and Reid McKillop had a big hand in organising.  If your event needs a little "ooomph" - get in touch!

Phil Riley and Julie Wright
Phil and I continue to play and work on new songs.  A particularly enjoyable gig was at the new music venue run by Pete James in Melton Mowbray, Melton Cafe, a great evening and fabulous place to spend an evening (even if we're not playing!)  We also returned to Worksop for an evening with The Valley Social Club - adults with learning difficulties who meet on Mondays for a variety of social activities.  I've been running sessions with them for years, it's great to see familiar faces, and Phil adds an extra dimension with his guitar and songs for us to drum along to!!!   

Silva's Party!
Possibly one of the most unusual and most fun bookings I've ever had!  Silva works at Wessex Gardens Primary School in London, where I had been earlier in the year to work with KS1 children - you may recall I've returned many times over the years.  Silva invited me to a celebration she was having for family and friends, who were mostly Armenians, gathered from all corners of the world.  As well as running a "have-a-go" session later in the evening (after some totally amazing food!) I found myself playing, with the Headteacher of the Armenian School in Paris at the piano, while guests sang and danced and smashed plates!  I'm now an honorary Armenian!   

Meanwhile ... regular teaching will continue at various local schools when term begins in September, as well as other one-off workshops and performances in the East Midlands and beyond.  For now, though, Maurice and I are continuing getting to know each other, and enjoying the sunshine  :)  we hope you are too  :)  

Monday, 25 February 2013

Great Start to the Year!

Photography: Andy Melbourne

Pandas in the Sugar Cane … Phil Riley with Julie Wright

Phil and I trialled our set at “On the Verge” in Nottingham on 7 February, which was great preparation for our long awaited cd launch on Monday 18 February at Monty's Acoustic Club, hosted by John Montague who, we're delighted to say, is well enough to be playing and singing again! Following the initial gig at our local venue, with a fantastic crowd in to support us, we had our next tour date at The Old George Inn in Stony Stratford on 20th, where again we were met with an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. Local poet and singer, Theresa Kelleher said, “I enjoyed the diversity of your music; South American rhythms, eastern european influences, roots music . . . Phil has a really warm, rich voice. The dynamics of each song really brought out the emotion in the music, and the mix of solo songs, whole band, piano and range of percussion made for an evening of contrast and cohesion.”

Photography:  Andy Melbourne

On Monday Neil Mercer joined us on mandola, mandolin and whistle, Neil Segrott on fretless bass, John on sound, guitars and backing vocals, and of course Phil and I, with our blend of voice, guitar, piano and percussion. Heidi and Jodie joined us on Wednesday, and we look forward to many more dates on the tour. Next date is Thursday 14 March at The Criterion in Leicester.

The Pandas in the Sugar Cane cd also has Bob Dayfield on electric slide guitar, Chris Conway on Irish whistle, and Jodie McCarthy and Heidi Carascon backing vocals. It was mainly recorded and produced by John Montague at Montysmusic, Fieldview Studio, Leicestershire and on location, except “Northern Star” and “Leaf upon the Wind,” recorded and produced by Greg Tempest at Greg's Music Room, Quorn. All songs written by Phil Riley except “Sally Free and Easy”, written by Cyril Tawney. Sleeve design by Noodle Doodle, Leicester.
Copies can be bought through me or Phil, £9 inc pp – and hopefully online once we've mastered how to make that available :) Call Phil on 07517 401221 for information.

Teaching and Schools
My regular weekly students at Anstey Martin High, Glenfield and Highcliffe Primaries and Stonehill High, continue to make steady progress with their West African drumming. In addition this term I've returned to Hind Leys Academy to work with GCSE music students, and am delivering a CPD Transition Drumming Project on behalf of LSMS and The Leicester Music Hub. This involves two clusters of schools, working with years 6 and 7, training teachers and bringing all the classes together to share their work. All drums have been supplied by LSMS and bought from local world percussion importer Soar Valley Music in Rothley. My annual day with Year 6 for their “Africa Project” at Highcliffe Primary approaches, and with hardly a day off before Easter, things are really busy!

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!