Roughly his time last year I was writing about Gratitude here in the Rhythmbridge ‘annual’ blog ( Oh come on! I have a poetry blog and moderation to do, a photography blog, three websites to look after, programs to manage, workshops to run, a cat, four dogs and bats in the belfry.)
But seriously, at this time last year I had a lot to be grateful for. So here we are 12 months on and I could call this the ‘More Gratitude’ blog. Really. What a momentous year. Where to begin?
As I wrote last year I was mid way through my second ERS (Expressive Rhythm Stories) project in Dumfries. One of my goals was to produce two high quality training videos for my training program which I am happy to say I did, with the help of the fantastic Clare McIntyre. These are now online in a password protected blog for folk who have taken a training with me. What’s that I hear you say? You want to see them? Well I am hoping to run my first UK ERS training in 2o18 so keep your eyes peeled or better still subscribe to the mailing list so you miss nothing.
And…just to show what a nice guy I really am here’s a wee taster for you.
The project was once again a huge success and on the back of it I have been invited to run ERS sessions at the SAME conference in Jan 2018. Can’t wait for this. Check out the program schedule here and tell your Scottish Primary Teacher pals to give it a go.
Upon completion of the project I flew out to Barcelona in early March to run a few sessions and spend some time with the wonderful Pau Gimeno and his family. (Pau has since lost his Mother who was so kind and welcoming to me. My deepest gratitude for meeting her and profound sorrow at her loss) Pau is at the heart of the wonderful drumming community there. I got to work with a wide variety of populations, deepen my own practice and even learn a Catalonian phrase or two.
I loved Barcelona and took hundreds of photographs, some of which found their way to my photo page at Facebook.
One of the highlights was performing on stage with one of Pau’s regular Mental Health groups at the end of the Magic Line Sant Joan de Deu. You can catch a brief glimpse of them with their boomwhackers at the end of this short video about the walk. I can’t wait to visit Pau and Barcelona again in 2018.
My return saw me dig in a wee bit at Wiston Lodge and focus my attention on an amazing new project we are calling The Path of The Little People.
Essentially it is an interactive story trail aimed at children with ASN (additional special needs), with a particular focus on Autism. Along the trail will be stories based on our core Wiston myth, connecting the children to History ( primarily through Viking myth and Legend), The environment ( through a range of hands on activities) and Music through a wonderful outdoor play area which includes a drum circle and a range of Pentatonic chimes, Marimbas and Xylophones supplied by the fabulous Percussion Play.
At the time of writing the trail and all the magic that surrounds it is well under way.
Next up was a first for Tinto Music and Arts, for whom I manage a couple of events every year. We welcomed the wonderful Christine Stevens, author of ‘Music Medicine: The science and spirit of healing yourself with sound’, to run a professional training retreat. We had a wonderfully diverse group attend from all over Europe who together went on a deep and profound journey both individually and collectively. It was incredible and we will be running the retreat again in May 2018. I cannot recommend this gathering highly enough. Christine is a warm and open facilitator and she will guide you to a place where you will connect with your own Music Medicine.
I managed to grab some precious time with Mrs Dear at The Old Croft House in the Scottish highlands before heading off to Kuala Lumpur for a trip to delver my ERS Training and attend the VMC co-facilitated training with my friends John J Hagedorn and Arthur Hull. Of course this would see the movement of some very fine single malt whiskies across the globe and a wee bit of tasting here and there.
Each time I run the ERS training it gets better. I am more comfortable in the model and the calibre of participants always brings out the best in me. We had a wonderful time in a new venue at Mind Space. The group bonded quickly and from there on in it was plain sailing.
Observing ( mostly) my good friend John Hagedorn co-facilitate a drum circle training with Arthur Hull was a huge learning opportunity and one that would stand me in good stead later in the year. They both taught me huge lessons.
My return to the UK saw me land jet lagged for a wedding day ( My friend and life coach Rachel tied the knot) which was an experience in the realms of slightly surreal as I was definitely in another time zone.
Summer unfolded through the now regular rhythm of festivals and downtime. Stainsby was, as always, a place of sanctuary and this year I returned to the Tribe of Doris Festival ( As my Tribe at Wasinga were taking a year off) Doris was good fun and I loved hanging for the most part with the Caribbean crew and getting into some deep nyabingi vibes as well as some fascinating conversation around ancestors facilitated by the lovely Rachel
Downtime was found in an old travelers caravan outside York and of course in the wilds of West Penwith.
Summer over and a return to Wiston to prepare for the upcoming gathering of facilitators and to be a guest at the Buddy Beat Birthday. A wonderful time spent together in the Spiegel tent.
Before I knew it the annual DCF training, hosted as always by UK Playshop, was upon us. Over 60 participants from 18 countries attended this year including the participant for TTT (Train The Trainer) which would follow the DCF course. Dr Jane Bentley and myself co-facilitated the training with Arthur Hull and it was a momentous weekend on so many levels and I could probably write a whole blog just about it…but not just yet.
For me personally this was a step up to another level and one I have been wondering if I would ever take for a long time. Skins were shed on the way in and n the way out.
A huge acknowledgement of Arthur Hull in his role as teacher, Mentor and friend. This has been some journey and I look forward to how it will continue to unfold.
To the Dr I can only say that it was my pleasure to work alongside you and I think we will make a wonderful team moving forward. UK Playshop is in good hands.
Following the DCF training we held 4 days of TTT which I had project managed over the previous 12 months. The top Arthurian facilitator’s from across the globe gathered together in our lovely old hunting lodge to set up a platform for a new global team of trainers to take Arthur’s work and push onwards and upwards. This was an immense gathering of like minded facilitators who have put community at the heart of what they do for many many years and who are now bound together by service to the community of drum circles across planet Earth. There are simply not the words to describe the sense of soul that pervaded this 4 days. It was in all ways a deep and profound blessing.
A short break on Isaly with Arthur followed doing…guess what? Another set of treasured memories to keep.
Post playshop it all went a bit dark. Outer and inner. The heights of my own personal achievement underpinned by the reality of little or no work. Ironic no? King of the World and a pauper.Such is life and it is not a new thing for me to find that the well has dried up. It has perhaps enabled me to become flexible and I managed to skip from stone to stone and eek out enough to get by. I am still doing the same. The big ERS contract of the previous two years did not return and my assumption that it would was a lesson. There are jobs on the horizon and training’s to develop and run and…it all unfolds as it does.
If there were days when it felt overwhelming then I let that be. This I have learned.
Just before Christmas this year I received news that my old friend and fellow drummer Ianto Thornber of Knock On Wood has passed away. I’d heard he was unwell in late Sept. It all happened too fast. Ianto was teaching West African classes via the shop in Leeds at the time that I was doing the same in Hebden Bridge. Of course drummers connect. He told me about a visiting drummer who was going to run a workshop in Leeds. I went along. It was Arthur Hull. The rest as they say is history.
Over the years I met Ianto at festivals and also here in Scotland at a drum circle training. He was the real deal. A solid, honest, big hearted human being. I was delighted to be asked to bring my facilitation skills to his memorial service. One of my biggest lessons from working with Arthur over the years is how to hold a plan as if it were sand in your palm. In other words be able to let it go. So for the memorial Demitri, our organiser, has asked if I would bring proceedings to a close with a community drum circle. I agreed this would work well.
The day unfolded and one artist after another shared their spirit beautifully. The last act before the drum circle was a drum ensemble. Their gig turned into an almighty jam. Seriously off the scale good. Time was running out and we needed to clear the venue. As Demitri approached me I saw the sand slipping through my fingers, smiled inwardly and before he had a chance to say anything said, ‘I think we should close with a song’
So we did. It was breath-takingly beautiful and the perfect way to bring us all to an emotional close.
So here we are in 2018. Lots to look forward to and yet the start of the year for me is a tough one. This blog is not the place to explore why suffice to say the last two months have been emotional heart surgery of the deepest kind. It is what it is.
I look forward to weaving a rhythmical path through the coming seasons.
See you on the bridge.