Sharing good vibrations

Due to covid-19 most of our music projects in prisons, secure hospitals and the community are on hold. Instead, we’ve been working with participants, our team and supporters to create innovative, thought-provoking and entertaining online activities, radio and TV, to help people stay well and creative. We are also starting small scale face-to-face work again in three locations. 

Online activities and resources created by our team:

    • Kitchen Gamelan – an amazing lockdown performance of a traditional gamelan piece using pans, glasses and a bucket!
    • Village Vegetable Gamelan – a video to encourage gamelan-inspired creativity. A gamelan set made entirely of vegetables – fun to make and delicious to eat afterwards!
    • Gamelan Playground – a fun, interactive way of creating your own gamelan music by using a set of 16 pre-recorded sounds that you can play together and stop and start individually.
    • Four online, interactive music-making workshops, inspired by gamelan and samba.
    • Javanese Wayang Puppetry  – a short film introducing Indonesian shadow puppetry and showing how it has been used in Good Vibrations projects.
    • Gamelan: an introduction – a short video giving a lovely, simple introduction to these fabulous instruments
    • ‘Locked Down’ – exploring the experience of lockdown through a remix of a Good Vibrations’ Resonate project piece, ‘Round The Corner’.
    • A series of ‘Musical Consequences’ where participants, team members and the public, contribute musical layers over a base track, to be remixed by our resident music tech expert Malcolm Milner. You can join in here or here.
    • ‘A Good Vibration’ – past participant, Errol McGlashan, performs his poem inspired by gamelan.

We are supporting participants and past-participants through:

  • Being a friendly, familiar voice, checking in on how they are doing, through calls/letters as appropriate.
  • Offering support through our Keep in Touch programme, identifying any help we can give in relation to progression or practical barriers in their way.
  • Letting them know about a wide range of support that Good Vibrations and other organisations offer, with help to access it if needed.

 

We are also using this time to

  • Work collaboratively with peer organisations learning from each other, sharing best practice, initiating exciting new projects, and supporting each other.
  • Develop engaging communications materials that help people better understand what we do, what gamelan is, and which engage participants’ family in our work.

 

We’re very pleased to be working face-to-face again with very small groups/individuals at three locations:

  • Bethlem Royal Hospital, London
  • HMP Wormwood Scrubs Inpatient Unit
  • With a community group in Nottingham as part of our Resonate project

These are very small steps, but very important for those taking part, many of whom have been extremely isolated for many weeks. We look forward to increasing our face-to-face work as conditions and safety allow, and supporting more vulnerable people in person.

Each month, we’re compiling a list of some of the most interesting and useful activities and support services we’ve seen during the pandemic. Here’s our August list. From money advice, to gong baths, to helplines, to online arts courses, we hope there’s something for everyone.

And here are our recommendations from April,  May,  June and July too!!

Design and build a new digital gamelan

Design and build a new digital gamelan

Author: Good Vibrations

National charity, Good Vibrations is calling for developers to submit proposals to design and build a new digital gamelan. Organisations and individuals who are interested should view and download the full brief here. Deadline for expressions of interest is the 9th December 2020. We plan to invite shortlisted people to present their initial proposals to us and discuss the project further on the week of the 14th December. This will be done virtually on Zoom.

Some of our aims, in commissioning this new digital gamelan, are to:

  • Enable novices, professionals and those in between to create and practise music on their own and with others using an accurate and authentic sounding digital gamelan orchestra
  • Help Good Vibrations continue generating positive personal, social and musical impacts for its target beneficiaries when our usual group gamelan projects can’t run
  • Help Good Vibrations continue generating positive impacts with participants post-project through a non-formal learning progression option that reinforces skills they developed and memories they experienced during their project with us
  • Enhance the experience for those already using digital gamelan, by improving the functionality offered, and maintaining the product robustly so its benefits are long-term
  • Generate another potentially impactful product and approach to add to Good Vibrations’ offer, to benefit a wider range of people in more ways in the future
  • Further widen access to the gamelan – enabling people to experience gamelan who can’t access a real gamelan orchestra or who are disinclined to give it a go

Good Vibrations remains committed to human, in person, group gamelan work remaining at the heart of what we do as a charity. We want to develop a virtual, technology-enabled strand using a digital gamelan to enhance our current offer, rather than replace it.

Date: 30 November 2020

Questions and answers about the commission: last updated 30 November 2020

Here is a list of questions people have put to us about this commission since advertising it, and our answers:

Q: “It has to *at least as good as* the one Wells Music School did a few years ago (Virtual Gamelan, sadly now – I think – unavailable) …”

A: “Yes, the, @UniOfYork R&D report and our feasibility study reached a similar conclusion! The brief we’ve put together name checks several highly rated past/existing digital gamelan and we are very keen for their developers to consider submitting a proposal for this new commission. We are in conversation with the developers of previous/existing digital gamelan to explore this option further.”

Q: “I was assuming this digital gamelan was just meant for gamelan musicians, and given the partnership with The University of York, they would develop the app. Is that not correct?”

A. “No, we want this digital gamelan to be both 1) Accessible for complete beginners and 2) Able to provide quite advanced functionality and features to experienced gamelan musicians. We know this is a huge ask! We recognise that our desired functionality, as set out in the brief, will only be able to be achieved in phased developments over time. We want prospective developers to have the confidence to present their proposals for that phasing to us. This is a project we value and want to support and develop long-term. We see the multitude of benefits it could bring – see the brief for full details of these. And, yes, this is a partnership project with The University of York, but we are opening out this commission to everyone to be fair and to increase the chances of us gaining more diverse proposals from a wide variety of developers. We are also keen for people who have already developed a digital gamelan to consider joining forces with us on this commission, to develop something even more accessible, with more functionality as per what the research says users want, and what Good Vibrations anticipates its target audiences will benefit from.”

Q: “Is this opportunity only open to UK developers?”

A: “No, it is open to everyone.”

Q. “Is Good Vibrations expecting all the desired features and functionality in the brief to be delivered in one phase, before April 2021?”

A. “No, we appreciate this this is an extremely ambitious brief, and at this point in time, we want developers to tell us how they would deliver phase 1 – but future-proofing it ready for the later phases.”

Remembering our patron Rahayu Supanggah

Remembering our patron Rahayu Supanggah

We are very saddened that our wonderful patron, Rahayu Supanggah, has passed away. He supported Good Vibrations for many years and was an incredibly talented composer and musician. He lived a long and full life, with over fifty years performing, composing and teaching gamelan in Indonesia and around the world. He was well known for writing music for theatre and films, won many awards for his compositions and was passionate about showcasing gamelan on an international stage. We were very privileged to have him as our patron.

Rahayu Supanggah had a close working relationship with many UK gamelan musicians, including several of the Good Vibrations team, dating back to the 1990s. He spent an afternoon in HMP Peterborough with one of our facilitators in 2008, and subsequently wrote of his experience in Indonesian newspapers. Our current Executive Director, Katy Haigh, had the good fortune to meet Rahayu Supanggah in 2017 at Cadogan Hall, London where his music for the film “Setan Jawa” was performed live on stage alongside the film. The music was haunting and beautiful, and incredibly exciting and innovative. Good Vibrations’ team members supported the production and the accompanying workshops and seminars as part of a 5-day London International Gamelan Festival.

As a person Rahayu Supanggah was always warm, friendly and welcoming to everyone, no matter how much experience or confidence they brought to his sessions. Talent and charisma shone through him and he inspired a new generation of gamelan players around the world. He will be missed very much and remembered with much affection.

Author: Good Vibrations

Self soothing practice

Self soothing practice

(Guest author: Elma Chapman)

Self Soothing Practice Finger Holds

The Ancient Art of Harmonising life energy in the body

My destiny is in my own hands – Mary Burmeister

The truth is that within each of us lies the power to cast all misery aside and to KNOW complete Peace and Oneness to BE that beautiful creation of perfect harmony to truly KNOW (Help) MYSELF – Mary Burmeister

This practice is the simplest form of maintaining good health – all illness begins with a slight imbalance of energy within the body systems – therefore let go the idea of how and why it works and just soothe yourself with the practice.

There is no cost involved, no equipment, it can be carried out anywhere, anytime – even on a busy bus, waiting in a traffic jam, watching telly – anywhere!

A good habit to get into is probably as you wind down to sleep and if you have the time, then first thing in the morning as you wake up in bed – nice start to the day.

To start with all you need is presence with yourself and of course your hands.

This practice will calm you and help you respond, rather than react to challenges life presents – will not take away the reality of the situation you find yourself in, but it will support you in how to deal with it.

The Practice:

    • Choose a finger
    • Wrap the opposite hand around it
    • Whilst holding it as long as you wish
    • Focus on your breath coming in and out
    • Give yourself permission to be present with yourself and relax
    • For the palm hold – you just place your thumb in the palm of the opposite hand – bit like holding your own hand – we all need someone to hold our hand – so why not yourself?

That is it – simple but effective – and available even as you chat/interview/meet your fears……………Happy Holding!

Restarting Covid-safe frontline delivery

Restarting Covid-safe frontline delivery

“Enjoying it so much they didn’t want to stop“
Good Vibrations’ experience of returning to front-line delivery post Covid

Six months ago, to protect participants and team members from the pandemic, Good Vibrations made the heart-breaking decision to stop front line delivery.

Two months ago, however, with virus rates decreasing, and after having worked with partner organisations to assess and put in place careful plans to manage the risks, we restarted three projects in a socially-distanced way. We are now delivering weekly music-making sessions at Wormwood Scrubs Prison and Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, and the Middle Street Resource Centre in Nottingham, and are confident that these sessions are bringing considerable benefits to people’s mental health.

HMP Wormwood Scrubs

Since the beginning of July, we have been running weekly, small group gamelan sessions in HMP Wormwood Scrubs’ Inpatient Unit. This unit houses about 20 people with mental health issues. This area has been deemed a ‘bubble’ as the patients on the wing remain on the wing, and do not have interaction with prisoners from the rest of the prison. Furthermore, there are protocols in place to ensure the physical health safety of all group participants. Each week our facilitator, John, works with two to five participants.

Lockdown measures in UK prisons from March have had, unsurprisingly, a negative effect on people’s mental well-being, with extra hours locked away in cell and all activities – e.g. education and arts projects – being cancelled. As far as we’re aware, Good Vibrations’ weekly sessions on the Inpatient Unit were one of the first activities to restart at this prison.

As usual on a Good Vibrations project or course, participants don’t need any musical experience to join in. Some will be musicians, but it’s not a requirement for playing the gamelan. When the group starts to play, it can be ‘all over the place’ musically for a while, with no beat or anything to latch onto, but gradually more musical sense emerges and interesting improvisations develop.

In some of the sessions, there is a real delicacy to the music-making. Sometimes the space feels safe but the music is fairly non-exploratory. At other times things are livelier, with dancing and individuals improvising solos that take the whole group off in a completely new direction. In between pieces, the group chat and open up a bit about their lives. The experience seems to help patients relax and smile more, which John says makes it feel very worthwhile.

“Overall, musically, it was a continuous stream of consciousness; some remarkable improvs, each one unrelated to what had gone before. They very definitely were enjoying it so much they didn’t want to stop.” (Good Vibrations Facilitator, John)

Sometimes nurses, officers, and cleaners join in. The mental health team, are especially sensitive to what is going on, and adept at giving space and supporting the process on a musical level. Good Vibrations has now become part of the routine on this ward, with staff there understanding the benefits of patients participating, referring them to sessions, and supporting them to attend.

The venue is ideal as music gently seeps out into the whole unit, giving it a lovely atmosphere. Sometimes John also plays and sings alone outside the rooms of older patients who don’t get out much, and they have told him how much they enjoy it.

As an organisation, we are delighted to have been allowed back into the prison after lockdown to help this group. Our initial impressions are that they seem to be benefiting from the experience in so many ways: from becoming better at listening and working with others; to being more flexible; to persevering with overcoming challenges; to growing in confidence in how they communicate with their peers.

Middle Street Resource Centre                                                         

We have also started running weekly gamelan sessions again at a community centre in Nottingham as part of our Resonate programme. These sessions are open to all, but targeted particularly at people experiencing mental illness. The sessions take place every Monday at Middle Street Resource Centre in Beeston, who we have partnered with for many years.

Our facilitator, Nikki, works with a regular group of up to five participants at any one time. Many of these are people we have supported in the past and most have fed-back that lock-down negatively impacted on their well-being.

Nikki maintained one-to-one contact with most of the core members of this group throughout lockdown through friendly calls and emails, and sharing information and links of interest. This seems to have been much appreciated. Conversations focused more on individuals’ wellbeing, feelings, and challenges they were facing. This built trust, helping Nikki be able to consult with them about when and how to bring back face to face sessions in a way they would feel confident about and safe to attend.

Some participants also attended Good Vibrations’ online samba and gamelan Zoom sessions during lockdown.

The lockdown has been particularly challenging for the majority of this group, with noticeably negative effects from social isolation, increased anxiety, and lack of structure resulting in lost sense of purpose. This has been especially true for those that were regular users of the centre.

There was a cautiousness, uncertainty and anxiety in the initial face to face sessions, mainly around changing government guidelines and the knock on effects these had to have on Middle Street Resource Centre’s rules around PPE, access and one way systems. The anxiety has eased as the weeks have gone by and sessions have become focussed on the music.

“All went well today with the first session. It was a nice gentle way back in and felt very safe. I set up workstations with a few instruments for each person so people could stay in one place and they had a set of beaters just for their use. All the participants received the new guidelines before the session.  I provided extra bits of PPE like spare disposable masks, and have put all the notations into plastic sleeves that can be wiped down.”  (Good Vibrations Facilitator, Nikki)

The room accommodates a maximum of five participants within social distancing guidelines so we have had to find ways of ensuring that all those who want to attend can. We have required participants to book in advance, but there are often last minute cancellations because people are experiencing a poor state of mental health on the day itself.

One participant particularly lacks self-confidence and has been previously very judgemental about his own musical ability, regularly saying, “I’m not musical”. When we started back, he struggled with timing and musical memory. He has attended every week since, however, enjoying improvising, listening back to the recordings, and working one-to one with Nikki. And now his confidence, listening skills, creativity, sensitivity of playing, and timing have really improved. On Monday, Nikki noticed him smile for the first time and express a sense of his achievement.

Bethlem Royal Hospital

We have also returned to Bethlem Royal Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in South East London, to run weekly Loophole Music sessions. Our facilitators, Jerome and Kieran run these one-to-one sessions, supporting individuals to make their own music using technology, voice, and western acoustic instruments. This is a setting we have been working in for more than 10 years.

“It feels good being back at Bethlem. Lockdown there meant that patients at River House were unable to attend a lot of their usual activities like the gym, and football matches. The community hub was also not open, so restarting Loophole meant they could get creative again.” (Good Vibrations Facilitator, Jerome)

Jerome and Kieran have been working intensively with six individuals here, helping them to produce their own tracks. The sessions take place in the Occupational Therapy Department which is open to the whole hospital. Patients currently attending are from the Adolescent Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, River House Forensic Unit and the National Autism Unit. The positive aspect of doing Covid-safe one-to-one sessions is that it allows adolescent patients to attend, who normally are restricted from mixing with other adult participants.

The project is booked up, showing the demand for creative activities in this setting. One 17 year old patient is fully engaged, learning about music production and mixing using Logic Pro and GarageBand. Two forensic patients are enjoying recording hip hop tracks, and another patient with autism, is loving using the iPads, with his occupational therapist telling us, “Simon (not his real name) is really benefitting from these sessions. It is rewarding to see him having some positive engagement and enjoying himself. This is a side we have not really seen before.”

We plan to develop this work over the autumn by: adding in extra morning sessions to meet demand; bringing on a past participant as a volunteer; and celebrating participants’ work through an online showcase.

Looking ahead

Of course, given the uncertainty around the pandemic, it’s difficult for us to know what will happen over the next weeks and months, whether we will gradually begin to do more face to face work in different settings, slowly start increasing group sizes, or whether we will have to suspend all activity again if there is another lockdown. But, whatever happens, we know now that we are able to work safely and effectively with participants, that we can be flexible and responsive to different settings, and that our team of facilitators are capable and confident of supporting vulnerable participants to feel safe enough to take a step back into creative, communal activity, which in turn will help improve their mental health and resilience in these uncertain times.

authors: Katy Haigh, Good Vibrations Executive Director, with John, Nikki, Jerome and Kieran