A Junior Fish Tale

This week I’ve been working in local primary schools giving workshops in readiness for the MAPAS (music and performing arts service) Key Stage 2 Singing Festival in July.  As part of our Arts Council funded jazz and poetry project we’ve written a junior version of A Fish Tale. It features a narrative set across three time zones and eight original songs telling stories about Grimsby’s fishing heritage.

Pat McCarthy and I wrote the songs together using different genres to make the piece as varied and dynamic for the children as possible and to introduce them to styles they might not have come across before. We’ve got rock and reggae, folk, gospel, a sea shanty, a lullaby, a nursery rhyme and a hymn. This week we’ve delivered 9 workshops in 8 schools working with about 30 children at a time and next week we have a further 7 workshops in 7 schools.

Working with children in this way is exhausting and exciting in equal measure. All schools are different in terms of atmosphere and of course all children are different because they’re all unique little humans. We’ve heard some gorgeous singing this week and seen such enthusiasm for the songs and the story. It’s been a lovely experience.

Music education is vital to children’s artistic and emotional growth. I’ve said before and I’ll keep saying it, singing is a birthright and we each carry our own unique instrument, our voice with us. Singing with children is uplifting and energising. Watching them grow in joy and confidence over these two-hour workshops has been extraordinary; gratifying and moving.

The cuts to arts education have been devastating over recent years and are set to continue if a Tory majority is returned on June 8th. It really isn’t party political to fear the impact of further cuts in arts education, simply realistic; fewer music teachers, less music in school, fewer musicians for the future. Ultimately, fewer projects like these that inspire children not just to learn about music but also about history, stories and superstitions. The kids have loved hearing about witches stealing egg shells to sail away in and cause havoc in the Arctic.

There have been many moments of joy and fun this week – kids say lovely things that charm, disarm and frankly stun you sometimes. We’ve had all of that this week. For me, a truly profound moment was reading the school creed for Western Primary School, shared here with kind permission of the head and staff. What a beautiful, inclusive and humane message the creed conveys. I stood and read it over and over before the children arrived to do the workshop and I thought, yes, if we all took this on and applied it to our communities, we’d change the world beyond recognition.

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