Giving workshops can be the bread and butter of a creative life. It can't be all flights of fantasy and self-expression, you know! Alas!

I've been lucky enough to have some good opportunities to develop workshops, and given the invitation, I would consider doing them some more.



Selfsong is a course of workshops, with the ultimate goal of performing a new self-written song. Each participant goes through a series of experiences, games, visualisations, exercises and challenges all geared to discovering, enhancing and enriching their relationship with sound. This also takes them on a journey into their own identity, and from this journey emerges the material for the song. With guidance and confidence-building, the material is given shape, voice and expression until it is finally 'premiered' into the group, as a 'selfsong'.

Given how personal our singing voice is to ourselves, and given the nature of the subject matter, this process is a high-stakes exercise. As a result, the sense of achievement to be gained by it is enormous, and has led to comments like ''if I can do that , I can do anything''. However, it is played out within the supportive environment of the oral tradition of world music and performance psychology, to better enable the considerable challenges to be met.

Perfected over fourteen years at the Oxford School of Drama, it remains an important part of the self-development process of all first year students, and counts some of today's stars of screen and stage among its original participants.



Also developed at the OSD, Folksong leads the participants into the often ignored world of non-jazz, non-classical acoustic music, often called folk, but actually so much more. Throughout the history of early human music, through the earliest written music, through the troubadours and the Industrial Revolution, through the Celtic diaspora, two world wars and the advent of technology, folk music has stored a vast wealth of song, stories, characters, legends, lore, history and tradition.

However as folk music declined with more 'refined' social aspirations and with the rise of electronic media, it stumbled virtually to extinction. In pockets of resistance the old skills lingered, and collectors collected what they could - a mixed blessing this, as although the material was saved from disappearance, it also suffered the same fate as the butterflies equally beloved of gentleman collectors - it was preserved in glass, never to change again.

Luckily, singers and musicians nowadays are breathing new life back into those songs, (and how!), and they are once more out in the oral tradition, growing and changing a little as they pass from one person to the next.

This series of workshops leads participants through this story, to find a particular narrative song to breathe new life into, and to more fully appreciate the depth and riches of both our traditional culture and our new living traditions.



Largely absent from our ethnic culture, except in a military sense, the drum has a large presence elsewhere in the world, both as a catalyst of social gathering and as a powerful ceremonial tool. This workshop derives from thinking about what our ancestors would have used to make the earliest of drums. Perhaps someone noticed that as a new skin tied over a pot or a frame dries out, it becomes taut, and consequently changes from a dull thud to the more musical sound we expect from a drumskin.

This workshop uses hand made terracotta pots, and deerskin from culled Scottish red deer, to apply this technique. One day a drumskin is prepared, with all thongs and drumheads cut from the wet hide, and attached to the pot. By the next day, the drum has tightened considerably, (and will continue to do so for a few days more). It is now a playable hand-drum and ready to be decorated with all manner of feathers, beads, shells, paints and pigments, and brought to the circle for its initiation.

This often serves as a very good bonding exercise for parent and child, as the tight tying of the knots in the thongs does require some dexterity, but both can derive great satisfaction from their drum.


Message Drums.

This leads to the creation of one or more solid wooden open-sided drums, often of considerable size, hollowed from a single tree trunk. The ecology of treefelling, respect for nature, and the enjoyment of uninhibited drumming of many hands together on a resounding trunk, channels younger energies in a constructive way and encourages a sense of place and belonging. The resulting drums also serve as intriguing, tangible and accessible sculptures for visitors, old and young alike, for quite a time, while also gently returning to the land through biodegradation. These are the original jungle drums used for transmitting messages across distances, and can be set up in a trail through a heritage site, park or estate.



Using samples, hard-disc recording and editing, field recording, imagination, listening skills and a sense of fun, a whole world can be created in a soundscape. Perhaps as a timeline for a specific historical site, an atmosphere for a theatre production, a scene-setting for a museum exhibit, a score for movement art or guided visualisation or even a futuristic space odyssey, sound and silence will always be there, playing their part. Recreating these worlds with sound technology can help our imaginations to engage with concepts and distant realities in a way that words alone can't quite achieve.

This can be anything from a one-off workshop to an extended 'artist in residence' exercise, depending on budget and requirements.


For all workshops and installations, please get to discuss your particular ideas, group requirements, site details etc.