Giving people space, permission to make mistakes, to experiment, have fun and try new things and new ways of making stuff happen is in the DNA of Heart n Soul. We are at our most comfortable when we are in a secure environment but not really sure what is going to happen next – but whatever does will be ok – the worst thing that is going to happen is that we will learn something new!
It is by tuning into what might be described as the aesthetic of learning disability culture that we have all found the confidence and belief to model these ways of being. To be authentically present and open to all possibilities at all times.
I had never met such a fun, genuine, fearless, open hearted bunch of people as the 12 participants at the music session I started running at the Lewisham Academy of Music back in the mid 80’s. Being unaware of the multiple labels, conditions, syndromes and medical diagnoses of this enthusiastic and friendly gang of young people meant that we were engaging together on a more equal basis.
After several months of getting used to listening to each other at these weekly music sessions, getting better at keeping time and trying some cover versions of other peoples songs there came that ‘light bulb moment’! A few chords were being casually strummed in a relaxed reggae style when suddenly one of the group, a young man called Pino Frumiento started singing some lyrics. We all looked at each other as we realised this was not a cover song – this was something new!
The joy and excitement of that moment as a song began to form and the understanding that we had created something that we all owned together was profound and magical. From that moment on we never did a cover version again, and everyone in the room took a huge step in believing in themselves and in everyone else. The song that just been written in that moment of inspiration was called Heart n Soul…
Our SoundLab work at Heart n Soul maybe be thirty years on from that experience, but it is founded on the same ideas. Give people space, time, choices and the freedom to experiment and amazing things happen.
Tips and tricks
We thought we would gather together some of the tips and tricks that we have discovered over the years. You will see these tips all through our guide, if you have some tips of your own please feel free to share them in the comments below.
- Create and inspire an environment that is completely informed by respect and trust – this is essential.
- Remain open – don’t have a hidden agenda that you are not sharing with people.
- Be prepared to work with what is happening right here, right now in front of you and do not be worried if that is taking you in a direction that you had not necessarily planned for.
- Explain clearly and patiently what it is you are planning to do, what is going to happen, when the breaks are, when the session is going to finish and why you are doing it!
- Good listening is essential, as is clear communication and an awareness of avoiding technical jargon – words that are not familiar to people will confuse them - that is not to say that new words or terms cannot be learnt and understood – just ensure a clear easy word explanation is used to get the clarity of what the term means – and then it can be owned! There are no prizes for rushing through explanations - this will not be a race - take your time and ensure that everyone understands what is going on.
- Find out the most effective ways people like to communicate – this will not always be through talking – some members of a group might be non-verbal but will still be understanding what is going on. Always ask an individual what is the best way for them to communicate – are there any adjustments/things you can do that can make that easier? Is there any additional support that would make this work better? If you have had this conversation with someone who has come with support and it is still unclear, then talk to their support about the best ways to facilitate and communicate.
- Avoid at all times the ‘does he take sugar’ approach which undermines and ignores the individual who is present – remember – never about us without us!