InHarmony NE

inharmonyWe’re getting towards Sproutology’s first Christmas, and it’s been a very satisfying first few months I must say. Nice to see traffic building and being able to share some of the material I’ve built up. There’s plenty more to come.

And so I was pondering what to post for Christmas. Very tempting to put up a spectacular lost treasure – there are some of these in the pipeline – but in the end there was only really one choice. And it’s not specifically about Prefab Sprout, even though in some senses it’s completely about Prefab Sprout. It is about the positive and often redemptive power of music in peoples’ lives, which after all is what underlies a lot of Paddy’s output. When you dig down into why people passionately love music that’s at the heart of it. It gives us something to attach ourselves to in a difficult world, and we build our sense of self around it.

In the last week, Wendy has linked via twitter to a couple of films about InHarmony NE, and this is by way of an amplified retweet of the second of those. I’ve spoken about this project a couple of times, and put up a couple of speculative links to a donation page, probably without a lot of impact if I’m honest. But it’s time to make a bit more of a fuss about it, because at a time when funding in general is under impossible stress, and the “Arts” seems a long way down everyone’s list of priorities, we do need to stand up and be counted. In the film, the Head Teacher explains that it would be “immoral” if the project was to cease having started to work, and I agree with her. That doesn’t mean we should get angry and demand the Government funds it – that is just to put the responsibility elsewhere – it means that we should get interested and engaged and help fund it ourselves on an ongoing basis, the best we can.

I’m going to leave most of the talking to the film. Get a drink and a slice of cake or something and watch it all the way through, it’s as inspiring and moving as anything you’ll see this Christmas. But I do have a couple of points to make from my own life experiences.

First of all, from my childhood. I was a privileged child, definitely, but always very shy. The one thing that really helped me and gave me a sense of self was the possibility of performing, mostly in drama productions. Being on stage allows a controlled interaction with a large group of people you’d otherwise hide from, and if you feel in control and appreciated, it builds you up massively.

So carry that thought with you; maybe some people reading this will identify with it. It links to my second experience which was my first job, a MSC placement in a Special School in a fairly rough part of Brighton. This was working with children who had been institutionally fed low self expectation, and were struggling to get beyond that. What I learned was that given just a small scent of achievement their self confidence started to build, and they would blossom and really open out. From my perspective, InHarmony is all about that process. Some children may think they’re poor at Maths or English because that’s what the combination of peer expectation and bad experiences tells them, and they can flounder; if they can’t figure something out they think it’s their fault and give up. Music is something different: it’s not academic in the same sense, it’s something you can take at face value, work through even if difficult and find you can do, and it really does build confidence. And then to perform and be appreciated consolidates the feellings of self worth. This works. It’s as simple as that.

The film is very realistic. This is not about nurturing the finest talent – although talent will certainly be discovered – which a top down Arts Excellence Policy might favour. It’s about taking children beyond their own self expectation. There really is nothing more important than that in changing outcomes for the better, lifting their eyes from what they see as their own shortcomings to a horizon of greater possibilities. Remove self doubt, and the road ahead is easier wherever it leads: this is true for all of us. And yet because it’s not going to produce a generation of top concert musicians, it’s maybe not felt to be in the first rank of priority for even Arts funding.

Wendy has been very gracious in being reasonably accessible as the ‘First lady of Sproutland’ over recent years. But for all those of us who have a close relationship with the Prefab Sprout mythos, it’s easy to forget that the active part of her career with the band was fairly short, and there’s much more to life than a few pinnacles of fame and celebrity. Of course, whenever some new material appears, there’s always a fan conversation around how her voice would improve how it sounds. Which is all very well, and I agree with it, it’s just that she’s doing something far more important these days.

So please do join me in supporting her, or similar projects running more locally to you. It really will help. Click here or on the logo above to  learn more about the project and get to a donation screen.

Hawthorn Primary School : The first two years from Amber Films on Vimeo.

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