Mike’s story

Mike’s story

I never imagined my mental health would lead me to be incarcerated, but that’s the hand I was dealt. It was there that I first encountered Good Vibrations. I saw the poster and signed up straight away not really knowing what I’d experience. At this point I saw it simply as an excuse to get out of my cell and do something different to break up the monotonous prison life.

Even though I’d been an avid music collector with an ear for world music, I knew nothing of gamelan. The array of different instruments was impressive and I felt spoilt for choice as to which one I’d like to try first. I didn’t play any musical instruments but had dabbled in digital music production so had an understanding of rhythm and structure, which helped.

I had very little experience of working together as a collective of musicians – this was a challenge but also a blessing. One thing prison does is knock your confidence and mine was at an all-time low. The gamelan sessions helped raise this again in a whole new experience from conducting and working as a team to (frighteningly) doing a solo piece. The music was very hypnotic and meditative and sat nicely with my new found faith in Buddhism. Completion of the course gave me a real sense of achievement. Just what you need when you feel like you are losing at life.

Prior to prison I was an arts workshop facilitator for 25 years and I remember thinking in those sessions ‘I’d love to do this job’. Fast forward a handful of years and here I am volunteering with Good Vibrations in the community with the hope to learn more and possibly become a facilitator myself, helping others like it helped me.

Tony’s story

Tony’s story

I first joined Good Vibrations’ Loophole Music project in 2018, when I was a patient in Bethlem Royal Hospital in Bromley. I was so happy to be creative again. It reawakened something in me that had been lying dormant for a long time.

In the 80’s and early 90’s I sang with a band in pubs and clubs in South London. I really loved it, but then in the late 90’s, due to mental health problems, I found myself in hospital for the first time. When I came out, I joined another band playing covers and writing some of our own songs too. It was going really well, but, you know, sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. I was admitted to hospital again. Taking part in Loophole Music definitely helped me with my recovery. I think music is a truly international language and it’s very therapeutic – I find it very soothing, comforting and relaxing.

I take care of my mental health now by making sure I get plenty of fresh air and exercise, and by getting involved in positive activities. I work in Bethlem Hospital through a charity called Hear Us, giving peer support to patients. One day in 2020 when I was working, I saw a notice about Loophole Music and I asked if I could join again. Kieran and Bison, who run the project, encouraged me to focus on writing my own music and lyrics. So I started working on some songs I’d begun a long time ago and never got a chance to finish. It’s really exciting to be able to make music again. I’ve got plenty more songs inside me. I mainly sing and I’m learning to play a bit of bass and keyboard too – just a few chords. I even played violin using an ipad the other day. Music technology is all new to me!

I find the Loophole Music project inspiring. It has really helped me and has become an important part of my life, so much so that I volunteer at Loophole now. I get a lot out of helping others who are going through something similar to what I’ve been through myself. Between sessions I can still work on my own songs, which means I can keep my own creativity going too.

One thing I loved doing was helping Kieran and Bison run an online workshop from a pub in Stockwell as part of the Maudsley Charity festival to mark World Mental Health Day 2020. I learned a great deal from the experience, and it gave me a lot of confidence too. I hope I’ll be able to stay volunteering with Loophole for a long while – I’m here as long as they’ll have me!

You can watch Tony creating a track called Time at Loophole Music here

Linda’s story

Linda’s story

Linda is a joy to have on our Resonate gamelan project in Glasgow. She first joined in 2016 and is now one of our most committed members.

Playing gamelan for the first time, Linda says, she could finally do something and be appreciated for her ability, not judged for her disability. A long time resident of Glasgow, Linda has a physical disability, some learning difficulties and mental health needs, but despite using a wheelchair, will always take part in activities if she can.

Linda has contributed a lot to Resonate Glasgow, and to Good Vibrations as a whole. She suggested we set up Exploring Performance, an extension group for people like her who really want to improve and work towards public performances. She linked us to The Advisory Group (TAG), who she is an advisor for, a national organisation that promotes inclusion. As a result, Good Vibrations has set up a gamelan project with TAG and two of its partner organisations, Community Lifestyles and KEY Community Support.

In 2019, through Good Vibrations, Linda gained a nationally-recognised Level 1 Music Ensemble Skills OCNL qualification award:

“I’m so happy. I got my OCN certificate today. It’s so cool. That’s made my day. It’s my very first qualification of any kind. It’s absolutely fantastical.”                               

We, in turn, support Linda. We advocated for her to improve her care support and transport. We linked her up with Common Wheel, a group supporting people with mental illness. We told Linda about concerts with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Gamelan Naga Mas so she could hear gamelan played at a professional level, and introduced her to inclusive music ensemble, Sonic Bothy, whose workshop she attended.

This has been one of the biggest benefits for Linda – getting to hear about activities. During Resonate sessions we talk about what’s on, how to get to venues, accessibility, and the type of music it will be. Afterwards we discuss the experience and think about things like the difference between a grand piano and an upright piano, traditional and improvised music.

Linda loves being part of Resonate: “I find it very, very therapeutic and unique because it’s Indonesian music. I love the whole group. They’re so good to me. It’s the only group I’ve been to that has treated me as a person, as a human being, and ignored the wheelchair.

Linda is enthusiastic, a great team player, and an inspiration to those around her. We hope she will carry on being part of Resonate for years to come.

You can see Linda talking about her experience at Resonate Glasgow here: Watch a video

Free Effective Facilitation Workshop In York

Free Effective Facilitation Workshop In York

Youth Music is funding Good Vibrations to run a series of immersive, day-long effective facilitation workshops for music and arts practitioners working with people in challenging circumstances. Our next one is on the 29th November 2017, and it’s a free workshop at York University.

In the training, practitioners will:

  • Immerse themselves in the experience of being a participant in a condensed, typical Good Vibrations course.
  • Observe an experienced facilitator modelling a range of facilitation techniques and experience the impact on group dynamics and musical outcomes.
  • Have fun and get the opportunity to get to know other practitioners working in challenging circumstances.
  • Put on a performance and get to keep a CD of the music created on the day.
  • Learn a new skill – to play the Javanese gamelan orchestra!
  • Be given new Royal College of Music research on Good Vibrations’ facilitative approach – the theory behind the experience.
  • Come out feeling inspired about the potential of incorporating new facilitation techniques into their practice.

Anyone wishing to register their interest should email malcolm@good-vibrations.org.uk  ASAP, as places are limited to 20.

Many thanks to the Northern Gamelan Network and Music4U for supporting and partnering with Good Vibrations on this project.