Oxford Concert Party and Age Concern in the Vale of Aylesbury
We completed a six-month series of concerts, workshops and activities for older people in and around Aylesbury, in league for the first time with Age Concern Buckinghamshire, the Social and Community Care Services of Bucks County Council and the arts development team of Aylesbury Vale District Council. The elderly are often left out of creative and community opportunities, so our aim was to develop a strategy for sustainable arts provision in the area. Joined by the writer, Pat Winslow, we visited 10 communities, many of these on a weekly basis - including day centres and residential homes in Wing, Steeple Claydon, Northall, Buckingham, Hartwell and Aylesbury. In Brill, local primary school children join with the elderly for inter-generational workshops which lead to a final concert in the local church on 8 March. The entire project culminated in a grand public concert on the afternoon of 18 March 2008 in St Mary's Church, Aylesbury at which many of the 200 participants took part in a celebration of their memories and life stories.
The project was made possible by major grants from Arts Council England South East and the Aylesbury Vale Community Chest, and further valuable support from Buckingham Community Foundation.
Partnership with Music in Detention for Campsfield
Following a pilot project, thanks to funding from the St Michael's and All Saints Charities, of three days' workshops for detainees in Campsfield IRC, evaluated by the charity Music in Detention (MID), Oxford Concert Party is now one of MID's principal providers. MID works as a broker between Oxford Concert Party, three other providers and Immigration Removal Centres to commission participatory music activities for immigration detainees. Part of this work is designed to use music to help train IRC staff to better understand the perspectives and experiences of detainees, and indeed we have already found that staff at Campsfield enjoy participating in the workshops alongside them.
Our first project with MID at Campsfield ran from November 2008 until June 2009. It covered 13 days of workshops led by Isabel Knowland and ARne Richards, joined at many of these by our other 4 members, and for 2 days by guitarist Gerald Garcia The Asian Music Centre provided 3 further workshops. By the same token, we have also worked at other IRCs in England under MID's banner and have led a 'spin-off' programme 'community exchange' activities in Oxford - through music - linked to our work at Campsfield. These are designed to bring immigration detention and related issues to the notice and knowledge of local communities. 'Shared' music projects with detainees, albeit at one remove, can be created together, for example as a recording.