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Lottery Funded

Get ready for more community drumming in 2017

Thank yous are due. To our members, volunteers, visitors, support staff and all those people behind the scenes that help members to attend and look after the venues that host us. To the many groups and Homes where our community drumming projects have taken place over the last year. Thanks also to the Big Lottery Fund who have made this work possible, and of course all the people who voted for us last February.

It has been a year of new beginnings, travelling, learning and a lot of hard work. It is odd to reflect that this time last year I was waiting to hear the details about my People’s Project TV film, and starting to worry that I would not find a suitable venue for shooting the film. At the time it all seemed surreal. Looking back I am amazed that from a standing start on 1st April the project was created and up and running by mid May, and sessions have been provided fortnightly at the three venues ever since. Drumming Together is now an established part of the local provision for people living in the community with early-onset dementia, and we want to continue growing the project to reach people further afield. To coin a phrase, watch this space.

Today we held our last session in Leominster and with a smaller group than usual we were able to take time to explore some of my more exotic instruments from far and wide. The Tibetan Singing Bowl (see below) is difficult to play but several members were able to get it to sing.

After the seasonal break we return to our three Drumming Together venues to deliver the remaining sessions and begin the process of gathering our learning from the project – and putting into motion the plans for what comes next.

The diary is already quite full for January with two new projects for local people living with dementia starting up. More will be revealed in due course.

IMG_0475 IMG_1263

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Beat It returns to Oxford and Sandwell

Our 3 week project working with Young Dementia UK at Pitt Rivers Museumhttp://University of Oxford was a great success with a performance by the group in the museum’s Clore Balcony on the last day. Every person chose to take part and play a small solo over a gentle group heartbeat. It was both moving and energising, and the invited audience of relatives and museum staff were appreciative (they had not expected to be included in the call and response game!) Many thanks to the museum and everyone who took part. I very much hope to work with Young Dementia UK and the Museum again.

Thanks also to BUDs (Better Understanding of Dementia in Sandwell) for making me welcome on my tour of clubs across the Black Country. We had a lot of fun doing warm up exercises and using shakers and small instruments to accompany our singing. The sessions worked very well thanks to the active support of BUDs team of volunteers and staff. This has made me realise that particularly when working with people who have high support needs, people’s experience and level of engagement and interest can be hugely affected by the support they receive in addition to what I am able to bring. This is something to take into account when planning future sessions.

Meanwhile the Drumming Together programme continues, at Leominster and Droitwich Meeting Centres and after a 2 week break for pantomine rehearsals, at the Courtyard in Hereford.

Drum, African Drum, snake skin,handling object, music in museums

Snake skin African drum at Pitt Rivers Museum

Drumming for dementia, community drumming, Sandwell, Better Understanding of Dementia

Community drumming session at BUDs, Sandwell

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Dementia group plays in museum and other news

October has been hectic with several small projects coming to a close and some exciting new developments.

Last Monday I went with Beat It Director Linda to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, for the first of three workshops held in the Museum for people with early-onset dementia and their carers.  Part of the museum’s VERVE programme, the project is designed to introduce the museum as an accessible environment and to encourage people to take an active interest in the objects. We were priviledged to be able to use some of the museum’s drums in the workshop. I am looking forward to working with the group again on Monday when we will creating a piece of music for the group to perform on the last day.

Closer to home, the Awards for All Wales funded project taking Beat It into Care Homes in Powys has come to a close. We have worked at Cartref in Hay on Wye, Morgannwg House in Brecon and Try Newydd in Llanfaes. The manager of Try Newydd commented that our sessions were particularly successful because of the flexibility of Beat It’s approach. We worked with any residents who wished to participate, taking the instruments to them in their chairs rather than insisting they join the activity in a formal way. One resident amazed everyone with his competent drumming skills on an improvised drum set, having learned to play many years ago in the army.

Next week sees Beat It returning to Oxford, concluding our tour of BUDs clubs in Sandwell, continuing with the Drumming Together programme and meeting a Stroke Group in Birmingham who we hope to be working with in the future.

Drumming at Try Newydd Care Home in Brecon, Powys

Drumming at Try Newydd Care Home in Brecon, Powys

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University, drumming for dementia, community drumming, african instruments and artefacts

Playing instruments in the collection at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

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Community Drumming Festivals and more

With both sons entering or re-entering University life I have  ample time to reflect on the last six months and  plan the next stage in the life of Beat It. I may drop off the radar for a few days and do some thinking by the sea somewhere!

I am currently working on a Reaching Communities application. Completing the form is prompting me to think about more fundamental questions like: what happens to Beat It if we do not succeed in this or a similar application? What do I need to add to my skills and knowledge to take Beat It further and establish it as a sustainable project? How can I pass on the techniques of my practise so that others can deliver Beat It programmes? How can I demonstrate the positive changes my work brings to people and the value-for-money brought about by these changes?

Two events in the last week were great fun and a welcome contrast to my regular work. On Monday I teamed up with Thomas O’Flaherty to run a Brazilian festival of music and dance for Autism West Midlands at Oakfield House, Birmingham. We were amazed at the willingness of the participants to try new things and the high level of skills throughout the group. The staff and management, plus visitors and parents all joined in and made it a high energy event which left everyone buzzing. This event was funded by Sport Relief through the Heart of England Community Foundation. As this was a success we will be seeking to run similar events at other venues.

Last week  I led a foot parade of drummers at the opening of the Hereford Community Games at the Leisure Centre, organised by ECHO. I had ten minutes to distribute instruments to 100 people and a further 5 to teach them how to play a simple rhythm together…and march! The effect was a lot of fun if not exactly a work of military precision. I also ran a lunchtime drumming workshop (pictured) which was a great chance to see old friends play some rhythm games together.

Community Drumming, Autism, Dance, Brazil, festival, drumming for autism

Brazil Festival at Oakfield House with Thomas O’Flaherty

eco games

Beat It at Hereford Leisure Centre for the Community Games

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September already….

I have been busy over August, with a couple of short breaks in North Wales, otherwise business as usual. September will be interesting with meetings planned to begin the process of bidding for a Reaching Communities grant.

Meanwhile sessions continue with Drumming Together in Leominster and Droitwich, with the Courtyard resuming after their break on September 14th. Louise, our new sessional workshop leader, is finding out how flexible you have to be to run a session of this kind! Fortunately she is a capable practitioner and brings her own experience and personality to the role, while for me it is great to be able to delegate.

On a sad note Angela Robinson (below, right) who has been managing the Droitwich Meeting Centre for the Alzheimer’s Society, had her last day on Thursday. Angela has been an enthusiastic advocate for Drumming Together as well as a very keen participant. We will keep in touch and hope to continue working together when she is established in her new role.

Bringing vibrant colour and a fresh sensory experience is our new delivery of drums kindly provided by Music For Alice. (see bottom of page)  ‘The trustees and I were overwhelmed both by the incredible work of your charity and the quality of your application’. These instruments will add a different element to the Drumming Together sessions as well as other projects, and it is good to be able to utilise new sources of funding to complement the existing projects. We pride ourselves on our collection of instruments. We bring real drums, not children’s copies. Our items come from many countries and cultures and this enhances the sensory stimulation and involvement as well as providing talking-points and opportunities for reminiscences.


New instruments thanks to Music for Alice

New instruments thanks to Music for Alice

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Dementia Friends

I am now a Dementia Friends Champion. This means I can run Dementia Friends awareness-raising sessions for the public.

The training session at Theatre Hafren in Newtown, Powys with Alzheimers Society covered many aspects of how to help people live well with dementia and I look forward to providing Dementia Friends sessions in my community.

During August the Drumming Together programme is taking a break at two of its venues, to resume in September. Meanwhile other projects continue. We have just finished a short course of sessions at Dovedale Court in Wednesbury, Sandwell kindly funded by the Harry Payne Fund administered by the Heart of England Community Foundation.

I have had a personal involvement with Dovedale Court for many years so it was exciting (and a little terrifying) to go in with my ‘work hat’ on. The sessions were well attended by residents and supported by keen friendly staff members. A relative who took part together with her mother said ‘It was easy for the residents to get involved. Gentle and non-pressured. Suitable for everyone.’ Dawn the Activities Co-ordinator told me she has purchased some instruments for the residents to enjoy during their music listening. This legacy of continuing music-making is a very important aspect of my work and it is great to see evidence of it taking place. My mother (pictured) said she was not impressed but she liked it more than she admitted!


Dementia Friends Champions training, volunteer trainers for awareness raising for dementia.

Completing the Dementia Friends Champions training with Alzheimers Society at Theatre Hafren, Newtown, Powys

Drumming form dementia, community drumming sessions at Dovedale Court HC One Ltd in Wednesbury, Sandwell

Drumming at Dovedale Court

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The People’s Projects And More

On July 10th I travelled  to the impressive Brangwyn Hall in Swansea for the PRIME Cymru Business Awards. Although Beat It did not win the Growth Business category it was a privilege to be a finalist and HRH was genuinely interested in my work.

Drumming Together, funded by The People’s Projects, is well established in its three venues now with 6 sessions already delivered at each. A major piece of news is that Beat It has taken on a sessional practitioner, Louise Money, who took over the delivery of sessions while I was on holiday. With a dance and movement background Louise has a calm and flexible approach which means she can step in and deliver sessions effectively. Welcome, Louise.

The Courtyard sessions are now closed for the centre’s summer break and will resume on September 14th at the new and better time of 2 till 3.30pm. Leominster and Droitwich continue on a fortnightly basis, please ask for dates.

In addition to Drumming Together Beat It is working at a number of settings across Herefordshire and the West Midlands including several Residential Homes for people living with dementia including Kington Court and the Weir Nursing Home. The Weir’s Activities Coordinator Teresa commented: ‘It was quite surprising how many of the residents got involved. This is completely new for us and it is difficult even for me to get my head round it. People respond to all the different sounds and it is nice you get visitors joining in’.

Prime Cymru, Growth Business Awards, Brangwyn Hall Swansea

Prime Cymru Awards 2016 – held at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea, South Wales. HRH The Prince of Wales, Founder & President of PRIME Cymru attends the charity’s annual awards which celebrate and showcase a range of achievements by both clients and mentors. Winners were awarded within the categories of New Business, Growth Business, Green Business, Mentor of the Year and new category this year – Positive about Age Employer Award. HRH The Prince of Wales is pictured with the category winners and talking to those who have benefited from the charity.
Pic by: RICHARD STANTON. Tel: (01584) 878990 / Mob: (07774) 286733. Email: All rights 02/07/16, (please see terms of repro use). FOR FULL PRESS RELEASE PLEASE CONTACT JULES WESTON, PRIME CYMRU. email: / tel: 0800 587 4085.


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Business Growth

It is a little alarming to realise that we are a quarter of the way through the People’s Project timespan. I am satisfied with the preparation and launching of the Drumming Together programme at the three venues and feel that a lot has been achieved in a very short space of time.

An unexpected spin-off from the People’s Project came from PRIME Cymru who I contacted to ask for help with the campaign. In 2011 when Beat It was little more than an idea, I received mentoring from PRIME which was really useful at that time.

PRIME was pleased to hear that not only had my business stayed trading but was clearly showing signs of growth. This led to me being nominated and short listed for a PRIME Cymru Growth Business Award. The ceremony will be on July 4th in Swansea and the patron, Prince Charles will be present. Last week the team from PRIME came to film and interview me working with a group of older people. This time last year I had never taken part in any media activity of this kind, now I am becoming quite familiar with it. This is all a bit of a shock to me and I will have to iron the dress I bought for my son’s graduation and make a bit of an effort!

Drumming Together continues at Leominster, Droitwich and Hereford. Enquiries are starting to come in from people who have heard about it. On Thursday I visited the Dementia Cafe in Hereford to talk about the project, and last week I travelled to Wolverhampton to deliver a taster session at a Dementia Cafe there. Feedback was very positive  and I will be meeting with the local managers to look at future working together. It is my intention to develop the reach of Drumming Together into the West Midlands alongside continuing to provide the programme at the existing outlets, so the Wolverhampton link and the potential for working in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society up there is exciting.

With growth and sustainability in mind I have begun a conversation with the Big Advice team about Reaching Communities. They explained the importance of gathering the right kind of evidence based on people’s stories, and not just focusing on facts and figures.

Another area of growth is people. We now have our first sessional worker lined up to shadow me at some sessions, and to provide cover when I am on holiday.   This has entailed talking with an HR consultancy to ensure we do not make any potentially expensive mistakes and to get a  contract of services written.


PRIME Cymru, Social Enterprise

With Jules and Dewi from PRIME making the mini film for the PRIME Cymru Growth Business Award

Alzheimers Society, community drumming, therapeutic music-making, drumming taster session

Feedback from members at Wolverhampton dementia cafe following our taster session




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Another milestone day today with the first Drumming Together session in Hereford delivered. The Courtyard Centre for the Arts is a lovely venue, spacious and busy with things to see everywhere and lots of events going on for people of all ages. Drumming Together is being delivered in partnership with the Courtyard’s Creative Ageing programme:

This is a different way of working for us and I have to say it feels quite exciting to be part of the Courtyard’s programme of events.

Today was somewhat nerve-wracking for me as always with an unknown group (we had no idea how many, if any, people would turn up) and unfamiliar venue. Actually, it was terrifying. It helps to remember at times like this that the people who are attending are feeling equally bemused and have no idea what they have let themselves in for. As soon as the drumming started we all relaxed into the rhythm and began the process of getting to know each other as a group through this medium which never fails to entertain and stimulate people. Several people commented on the therapeutic aspects of the rhythms. Our Native American Shaman Drum (pictured) was especially appreciated with its low pitch and soft vibrations.

Welcome to Jan our new volunteer, who enjoyed supporting the Leominster Beat It sessions wearing her other hat as volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society so much that she agreed to join us in Hereford as well.

So now we are delivering regular sessions in Hereford, Leominster and Droitwich Spa. Behind the scenes I am working constantly to promote Drumming Together and work on its future development. Currently I am preparing to employ sessional workers to ensure continuity and allow me the scope to work on growing the project. Evaluation is an important part of the growth process and discussions are under way about how best to gather information to take the project forward. In addition other work continues, with an Awards For All project going ahead in Herefordshire Care Homes and other mini-projects carrying on in Herefordshire, the West Midlands and Staffordshire. And yes, I will be taking a week in the sun very soon, feels like I’ve earned it! 2016 has been full of surprises so far.

Drumming workshop, Courtyard Hereford, drumming for dementia, Big Lottery

Deep resonant Shaman drum, enjoyed for its therapeutic qualities.


Droitwich Spa meeting Centre, community drumming, drumming for people with dementia and carers, therapeutic music-making.

Droitwich Meeting Centre group of members including people who are living with dementia and their carers. At the group we are just people who all play together.


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Drumming Together Hereford

May has been busy! Our new People’s Project funded programme, Drumming Together, started in two of our three venues, with the third one poised to take off next week in conjunction with Remember Me.

The second session at Leominster Meeting Centre took place on Tuesday 24th with a well attended and relaxed but lively session. This week the second session at Droitwich Spa will take place on Friday. The Courtyard Centre for the Arts in Hereford will be hosting our first Drumming Together in Hereford next Wednesday the 8th June.

On May 19th Remember Me was held at the Courtyard to celebrate arts for people living with dementia. This event was effectively a launch for Drumming Together, as we had an exhibition stand and held an open taster session for anyone to come and play some instruments and learn more about the project. This was a great opportunity to hand out leaflets (collected from the printer that same morning!), share information and generate interest in our new programme. I was privileged to meet the new Mayor of Hereford Mr Jim Kenyon who had just taken up the post of Mayor. He stated that after attending Remember Me and learning about the arts activities that are going on around Hereford he is ‘pleased to be beating a drum for dementia’.

Last year I attended Remember Me as an interested member of the public with a small project that I was trying to establish, and more questions than answers. This year it felt very different. Being a stall holder was useful, although I spent more time away from the stall being curious about what everyone else was doing and making new contacts.

The taster session was nerve-wracking because I had no idea who would come and what would be expected of me. Every session I do has the element of surprise in one way or another, but this was more of a showcase and that was scary. In the event it was a successful session with everyone fully engaged and lots of questions asked. The main difference for me this year was having a sense of purpose. Many people, some of whom I had never met before greeted me with ‘I saw you on TV and voted for you’, or ‘everyone in our office voted for you’. I am the first to acknowledge I am just at the start of my learning journey, but it has given my confidence and my self-image as a practitioner a huge boost to have the backing of the People’s Project and all those people who voted for us.

Hereford Courtyard Centre for the Arts, Remember Me conference for Dementia

Meeting the new Mayor of Hereford Mr Jim Kenyon and Lady Mayoress Sarah.

Drumming for dementia, dementia carers, Courtyard Hereford, arts for older people

Community drumming taster session at Remember Me, Courtyard Centre for the Arts, Hereford.


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