2020 marked 20 years of continual JOS work in 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.
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 fas 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.
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 it’s first decade. Three of the JOS team visited Sarajevo to attend a conference and the award ceremony.
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 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.