Playaway Music & Art Workshops

Following our workshops in May this year, artist Melissa Mostyn and I were invited back to the PACE Centre to deliver summer sessions in partnership with Playaway.

Eloise signing 'soft'

Melissa Mostyn and I teamed up with artist and illustrator Tim Reedy in a collaboration with Playaway - a charity that delivers a two-week specialist play-scheme over the summer holidays for children with disabilities - to lead music and art workshops at the PACE Centre in Aylesbury. The charity's theme this year was 'space' - and what a fantastic theme it was! Space has sparked the imagination of many artists and musicians throughout history, from Andy Warhol to Pink Floyd, Van Gogh to Haydn, and Kandinsky to Holst.

To begin each workshop, we watched astronaut Chris Hadfield's cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity. The video (below) shows stunning views from the International Space Station as Hadfield floats around in zero-gravity. Both video and song prompted interesting discussions about real-life issues and events such as climate change, the benefits of satellite technology, and the Space Race (which happened 50 years ago this year).

Following a similar structure to the workshops back in May, Melissa and Tim created live artworks in front of the group while listening to the music. The creative process lasted for the length of the song - just five and a half minutes(!) - before the children set to work creating space-themed pieces of art themselves. There were some brilliant pictures featuring planets, stars, galaxies, and aliens in a variety of bright colours - all finished off with a liberal sprinkling of glitter!

Space is one of my favourite themes for music as there are so many possibilities to explore: instruments such as bells and chimes can sound like glistening stars, while drums and tambourines might represent crashes and explosions from comets and volcanoes.

Click on the arrows to scroll through the gallery

Taking inspiration from Holst's The Planets, I decided it might be fun to create a series of mini-compositions based on each individual planet. The group talked about the character of all the planets - their colours and sizes, surfaces and atmospheres, and number of rings and moons - and matched the instruments and style of playing to each one. For instance, we decided that Mars, with its red surface, fiery volcanoes, and deep craters, would sound angry. By contrast, we gave Earth a 'happy and proud' melody in celebration of the life our remarkable planet sustains. At the end of the day, we strung each mini composition together and performed the Pace Centre Planets Suite to ourselves.

What a delight it was to work with the students and staff at PACE again - I do hope to be back soon!

Click here to read Melissa Mostyn's blog about these workshops, and here for Tim Reedy's blog.

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