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Sound Connections at the Expo

Sound Connections was involved in two panel discussions at the Music & Drama Education Expo, Europe’s largest conference and exhibition for anyone involved in music and drama education. The event was held over two days, at Olympia London, on 22 and 23 February, with over 80 workshops and discussions and 150 exhibitors.

Julia Roderick, Programme Manager, chaired a panel discussion on ‘Spotlighting innovative early years practice’ with members of the London Early Years Music Network (LEYMN), which Sound Connections hosts. It was fascinating to hear the varied experiences and reflections from three practitioners – Nicola Burke, who is leading on the Tri-borough music hub early years music programme, Dave McKenny (Pulse Arts), who is particularly involved in music and healthcare, and Rosie Adediran, music leader on London Rhymes, a project encouraging parents/carers to sing to their children and delivered in partnership with Creative Futures.

In response to the opening question ‘Why early years music?’ Nicola’s candid reply of ‘Why not’ captured the mood of the room and the feeling that the importance of early musical engagement is crucial to the overall development of the very young. The Tri-borough’s early years programme is both ambitious and high quality and it was interesting to hear how CPD underpins all of the activity. This is a forward thinking consortium, of which Sound Connections is one of the partners, which other music hubs are watching with interest.

The recently published report from the All Parliamentary Party Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, makes the case for the arts as a robust health intervention, and provides evidence of the benefits of music to children in intensive care and to mothers with postnatal depression and their children, amongst many other health care challenges. It was fascinating to hear from Dave Kenny about the impact of the work of Pulse Arts through workshops at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Rosie Adediran’s work with parent’s and carers also highlighted the need to take music into the home and the importance of music and singing as an early way on bonding.

Questions from the packed floor included reflections on the challenges of funding, the place of early years in the National Plan for Music Education, and the need to support practitioners who are starting out on their careers.

Later in the afternoon Philip Flood was a panellist on the main Music Education Council (MEC) debate, a Question Time format discussing ‘Linking policy to practice after 2020’, and giving attendees the opportunity to discuss the challenges opportunities for music education over the next 10 years. The other panellists were Hannah Fouracre, Director of Music Education at Arts Council England, James Dickenson, Head of Hertfordshire Music Service and Chair of Music Mark, Helen Mason, Head of Redbridge Music Service, and Fiona Pendreigh, Head of Plymouth Youth Music Service. Dick Hallam, Chair of MEC, fielded questions from the floor.

The debate was, understandably, lively, given the uncertainty of funding for music after 2020. It was heartening to hear Arts Council agree with Philip about a needs driven approach with an emphasis on inclusion and diversity. With limited public funding the priority must be for those in most need to be able to access a diverse range of music opportunities.

As well as the two panels the Expo was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and partners, including Grooveschool, CM, Inspire Works, EFDSS and the London Youth Choir. Useful conversations were also had with MU, ISM and Sing Up, amongst others.

The Expo is an important event in the music education calendar and it was a useful opportunity to share the priorities of Sound Connections more widely.


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