2020 marked 20 years of continual JOS work, promoting and advocating for social equity and inclusion through music and combined art activities, public events and research in established and new community settings across Greater London, UK wide and internationally.
JOS was founded in January 2000 with a Millennium Champion’s Fellowship awarded to William Longden, who, as JOS founder and Creative Director, grounds and encourages JOS’s inclusive team, practices and reputation by steadfast commitment and volunteerism.
JOS aims to: Promote non-verbal communication; Encourage improved mental health and wellbeing; Build self confidence; Create a joyful, non-judgemental space for individual creativity and equal participation; Provide new opportunities for learning and career development.
The founding principles of JOS underpin William’s practice based research “Inclusive Creative Practices As Means Towards Personal And Social Wellbeing”, for which he was awarded a doctorate in January 2020.
The inspiration for Joy Of Sound came from a chance meeting between JOS founder, William Longden, and Derek, a young man with profound and multiple learning difficulties.
Derek was trying to play a very battered guitar that was not really functional. William offered Derek his own guitar, while he played a wooden flute. Suddenly there was an intense and joyful musical connection that happened without words. It was clear that Derek could share music given the opportunity and a viable instrument – he simply needed an instrument specially made to suit his unique requirements.
It was then that William realised that simply providing usable instruments and accessible workshops could create the opportunity for everybody and anybody to share in music making. This experience became the inspiration for this ground-breaking project that enables people with multiple disabilities, carers, volunteer musicians and artists, and all-comers, to make music together on an equal and inclusive basis, where there is a shared responsibility for success. This is fundamental to the JOS ethos.
JOS has since commissioned and had made a number of inclusively designed bespoke instruments, including Derek’s guitar and wheelchair presentable marimba and zither. These provide access for people whose participation in playing music would otherwise be limited.
JOS has facilitated thousands of individuals with differing needs over the last seven years and estimate 70% being from BME communities and over 30% being wheelchair users.
Typically the professionals around marginalised people are solely employed in care provision and family members who care are offered respite away from relatives. JOS workshops offer a different type of interaction and connection for co-learners and staff and a collective rest for family members and carers.
As we grow JOS are looking to pilot and roll-out workshops to other marginalised groups. Initially we see ‘the elderly’, ‘refugees’, ‘excluded / transitional children’ and ‘children with SEN’ as areas for potential group development, but we willing and able to undertake workshops with anybody.
Joy of Sound practices and promotes social inclusion through music and creative arts. We run weekly year-round participatory music sessions, and regular combined arts projects.
All aspects of JOS work seek to incorporate the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’
Participatory inclusive music workshops are generally 1hr duration unless otherwise stated. Using specially designed approaches, instruments and equipment that allow participants of all abilities to enter into co-creative music making. Sessions include group improvisations using voice and various instruments.
JOS Combined Arts approaches bring together practitioners and approaches from a broad variety of creative fields that include two and three dimensional arts, montage, painting, music, sculpture, photography, film making, set design, puppetry, theatre arts, dance and movement, installation, murals, voice-work, costume, etc; to share in devising fresh creative alignments towards the realisation of unique new works and the establishment of novel practitioner networks towards ongoing discovery.
Sensory Looping – is the name given to a JOS approach that uses multiple and combined arts to build interweaving creative forms that encourage and facilitate uninhibited creative flow. This technique has been developed by JOS as a consequence of working with many people of different abilities who together demonstrate a combined sensorium that transcends any limitation.
Workshops begin with acknowledging mutual awareness by, for example, the sharing of silence, encouraging a collective experience across all levels of ability. Everyone present chooses an instrument and comes together to form a circle. Sessions include a number of group improvisations.
Facilitators use a variety of techniques; listening, watching, mirroring, reacting and reflecting, searching for the slightest sound or gesture to be the seed of an improvisation. This may be a rhythm from someone blinking, dancing, or beating a drum, the sound of a voice, the squeak of a chair, or the plucking of a string. A group orchestration is built by amplifying and developing the initial seed, then introducing and interweaving new themes offered by other participants.
Each session culminates in an intimate harmony circle, participants with limited mobility become central, and the limitations of movement are dissolved in a resounding vocal finale. A participant is then invited to signal the end of the session.
The workshops present a novel and beneficial method of group interplay and can have an immediate cathartic effect on all; co-learners, staff, carers, musicians, facilitators and families. Empowerment, enablement, communication and integration through joyful and equal participation are at the root of our practice.
Following visits to Slovakia’s ‘Divaldo z Pasaze’ and sessions with music students from Bjelovar, Croatia, our work in Eastern Europe has continued with a week of workshops in Poland in 2009, and work in Sarajevo.
A team of 6 made the trip to Warsaw to facilitate a week of workshops as part of an arts event ‘Strefa Otwarta’ (‘Open Zone’). A series of workshops were hosted by a local day centre and Dom Kultury Rakoviec.
In Sarajevo a team of three ran a workshop for local disability groups, with students from the Sarajevo Academy Design department, Musicians Without Borders and others attending.
We have just run our tenth training course, recently including a combined arts approach, and extended our work to more centres – working with RBKC Scope Centre in Notting Hill, and with MIND in Bexley.
Our innovative portfolio of instruments, funded by the Millennium Awards Scheme, are designed and manufactured through developing and facilitating relationships between co-learners, their families and key-workers, and instrument makers (postgraduate students in Design Research for Disability at London Metropolitan University as well as master instrument makers).
Commissions for new bespoke instruments from the Kensington and Chelsea Day Centre, and Lambeth centres funded by Arts Council England are now coming to a conclusion.
JOS volunteer team is open to people of all abilities and encourages anyone who wishes to develop new practical and experiential skills to join us. Volunteer duties include the undertaking of various tasks in support of workshop set up, delivery and management. Commitment and duties are person centred and tailored to individual preferences and needs.
Any Old Instruments or Equipment? We are always on the lookout for instruments – perhaps you have an old guitar or fiddle stored in an attic or garage? If so, please contact us – any type, age or condition considered! To maintain JOS project activities we are looking for musical instruments, of any kind new or old, in any condition. Also, any music related items such as scores, accessories, strings, bows and cases, recordings etc. Whatever you have to offer, JOS will put it to good use towards the continuation and development of our activities.
JOS blurs the boundaries between volunteer, co-learner, and carer, facilitating access to the communicative,
cathartic and transformative possibilities of the arts. We have been growing exponentially and hope to reach thousands more individuals through hundreds of workshops and events over the next three years.
Applications are in progress for new funding for instruments and research from the Arts Council and further funding from Awards for all expand international work.
JOS won the 2008 London Health Commission award for Mental-Health and Well-Being, and used some of that funding for staff and volunteer development
In 2009 JOS won the VolontEurope ‘Active Citizens of Europe’ Award, recognising the outstanding input that JOS has had from over 700 volunteers during its first decade. Three of the JOS team visited Sarajevo to attend a conference and the award ceremony.