We’re sad to be saying our goodbyes to Alexandra Richardson, who has spent the last three years with hcmf// as our Learning & Participation officer. In her time with us, Alex has co-ordinated a brilliant series of events, workshops and concerts that involved the local community, cooking up all sorts of imaginative scenarios through which people could get in touch with their inner artist.
Alex found the most exciting and unexpected ways to engage participants in making music – including starting a DJ booth in an old 70s campervan. Before she heads off, we take a look at some of her personal favourite projects down the years.
We’re incredibly grateful for all Alex’s hard work, and her commitment to outreach and accessibility in all of her projects.
Alex jumped right in at the deep end, starting her post in October 2016 – just a month before the festival. Her very first project was Salamanda Tandem’s White Cane, delivered by composer Duncan Chapman, composer / singing audio describer Isabel Jones, Mickel Smithen and Takashi Kikuchi.
The project was initially developed by former Learning & Participation Officer Sarah McWatt and it was a fantastic project for Alex to start with. Performing on Platform 1 of Huddersfield Train Station, visually impaired dancer Smithen’s long white cane was used an as instrument, exploring space, touch, vibration, movement and sound, while blind viola player Takashi Kikuchi provided improvisations.
The resulting soundscape was transmitted to the audience via headsets, creating a space in which everyone could connect and follow the myriad stimulations of sense. Audience members noted the sense of connection: ‘strangers ceased to be strangers’, one listener observed, through ‘the physical feelings of the vibrations’.
In 2017, hcmf// ran Momentum II, a music-for-health project designed for refugees and asylum seekers at The Reach Project, as well as inmates at Leeds prison. Over 50 participants had the opportunity to explore a wide range of instruments, develop song-writing skills and record their songs.
Participants described the positive effects of making music together, such as ‘being able to express myself and feel free’, responding positively to the chance to collaborate.
Alex says: ‘The Leeds prison group really took to songwriting and were very creative. They wrote and recorded three high-quality tracks within eight weeks of the project, which was super impressive. It was also really wonderful to work with the participants at The Reach Project.’
Music For Young Players
Music for Young Players was the name given to a series of graphic scores produced through the 1960s and 70s, created as a means of making performance exciting and accessible for children. Working with Sound and Music and composer Duncan Chapman, hcmf// used these pieces as the focus of a project to engage local school pupils with performance – and also encourage them to realise their inner composer!
The scores were used as starting points in a long-term project with Kirklees’ schools; composers Julian Brooks, Eleanor Cully and Tom Lawrence ran in-school composition workshops over a six week period, culminating in a collective performance at hcmf// 2017. Using a plethora of percussive instruments – from xylophones to rubbed balloons – the Town Hall concert also gave pupils the chance to debut their own compositions as companion pieces.
The concert really brought out the inner child in Alex: ‘The balloon is my new favourite instrument!’
Canopy of Voices
In 2018, hcmf// further developed the work we had begun with refugees and asylum seekers. Working in partnership with Manasamitra, we co-produced Canopy of Voices, featuring a series of singing workshops involving choirs from the local community.
Guided by singing leader Jess Baker, from local organisation HOOT, the community choirs came together with singers from the University of Huddersfield’s choirs and York’s Stonegate Singers to perform at hcmf// 2018, delivering a highlight of the festival to an awed audience at St Peters’ Church.
Alex: ‘I’m very proud of the singers and everyone involved. It was one of the most heart-warming projects I’ve been involved in at hcmf//. I’m really proud of how diverse and welcoming the event felt’.
In 2018, the festival developed a new strand of Learning & Participation activity in North Kirklees. Working together with Leeds-based DJ Fred Mikardo-Greaves, Alex delivered Campervan Radio, a workshop series in which young people learned to mix music, make podcasts and present radio shows. It all took place in an old 70s campervan.
Initially, the hcmf// Campervan Radio appeared for a taster session at Fun Palaces, a series of events held across local Kirklees libraries. Due to the success of the project and the positive way young people engaged with the idea of broadcasting, the project found a new residency at Upper Batley High School, where students co-hosted shows about films and spun their favourite hip-hop tunes.
Alex: ‘Campervan Radio was probably my most ambitious project to date, because of learning how to fit out an old campervan, sourcing the right equipment to fit within the dimensions and hoping that a group of young people could fit into it to learn how to DJ and make radio podcasts. The excitement for the project from the boys at Upper Batley was absolutely worth it and the mobile-ness of the van made it possible to visit various Kirklees libraries. I hope the project can continue in the future’.