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© 2015 by Ian Ritchie

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Advocacy

Collaboration & Inclusion

 

 

I am actively involved in several areas which are concerned with the well-being of individuals and of society as a whole, lying beyond the traditional parameters of cultural activity and provision, in which art and artists – music and musicians especially – can play important and beneficial roles.  These include:

 

  • Music and Disability

  • Arts and Sustainability

  • Music and Healing

 

Artists, particularly performing artists, are by their nature or training our best communicators - it is fundamental to their working lives - and they are potentially our best advocates.  Those of us who work within the cultural sector have readily recognised the need to be advocates for the arts in their own right, but engaging and promoting the power of certain arts, notably music, to bring about social change, individual well-being and economic benefit are underdeveloped.

 

Music and Disability - Creative Case for Inclusion. 

 

I have spoken and written frequently on this subject and have also taken practical, curatorial steps in addressing the need for including musicians with disabilities of various kinds within the mainstream of artistic work.  The closing concert of the 2005 St Magnus Festival in Orkney, which I directed, featured the former trumpeter Clarence Adoo working alongside his professional colleagues in a new ensemble, performing a newly commissioned work featuring his specially-designed new instrument.  This was Clarence’s first public concert in the ten years since he was paralysed in a car accident on his way home from playing the trumpet for the last time.  Please see more about Clarence’s inspiring work and also about the Headspace instrument and Ensemble developed with the support of Carnyx & Co

 

A highlight of my time as the Director of the City of London Festival was the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2012 and the centrepiece was a two-day event in the City’s Guildhall featuring performances, new works, new instruments and a conference, Level Playing Field, which celebrated the contributions that Clarence and others can make to our musical lives and the advancement of our art form.  In 2013 I was invited to represent the music sector in a series of short films, Heads Up, promoting the 'Creative Case for Inclusion': it lasts for five minutes and also features Clarence Adoo at work.

On returning from speaking at the Inclusive Creativity conference hosted by Share Music in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2016, I wrote an article for Disability Arts International which makes 'the creative case for diversity and inclusion within the classical music industry'

 

I made a speech at the annual dinner of the Berlioz Society, subsequently published in their journal, and developed it into a keynote contribution to the 2013 International Conference on Music, Technology and Disability in Derry~Londonderry.  My text, In Quest of Beauty, makes the creative case for developing new instruments and including their disabled performers at the heart of professional music-making.

 

All seven Setúbal Music Festivals which I have planned since 2010/11 have involved young people with a range of disabilities at the very heart of the programme.  This has led to the establishment of a new Setúbal Youth Ensemble in 2014/15 which gives more advanced opportunities to the city’s very best young musicians, drawn from across the community and including several with special needs (using the assistive technology of the Skoog).  This ground-breaking socially inclusive cultural project has been funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s new PARTIS scheme and is seeking new sources of revenue.

Please click here to read a piece I wrote for Disability Arts International on inclusive ensembles and instruments at the Setúbal Festival in 2016.

 

The Arts and Sustainability - the environment and climate change 

 

Writers, composers, painters and others have reflected the natural environment in their work since the very beginnings of what we can call art.  A number of artists today not only gain their inspiration from the world around us but also employ their creative and expressive powers as advocates for our fragile and damaged eco-systems. 

 

Over a number of years and for many reasons I have regarded it to be important and appropriate to address economic and ecological questions simultaneously and to do so within the City of London itself.  Accordingly, for five consecutive editions of the Festival from 2009 to 2013, environmental themes ran through my programmes.  In 2009 artists were invited to respond to the threat of flooding and other man-made natural disasters in a range of creative projects, both indoors and out-, and we debated the subject of ‘sustainability’ from a number of angles.  In 2010 we focussed on Bees, honey-making (a sweet but provocative diversion from money-making) and the prevailing crisis and collapse among bee colonies around the world (a well-timed metaphor for the banking crisis which surrounded us and the spectacular collapse of Lehman Brothers, among others)!  Birds, Flowers and Trees then took their turns on our stages in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.  You may use this link to peruse the programmes in full.

 

When I founded the Setúbal Music Festival in Portugal, ‘Nature’ provided the main theme of the first edition in 2011: the local community – including the hundreds of young people who participated creatively and as performers – related naturally to their environment, and visiting artists all responded in kind.  The evidence of climate change over recent years has been palpable in Setúbal and ‘Climate’ was the chosen theme for the 2015 Festival: the Portuguese word is the same for both ‘time’ and ‘weather’, so the changing seasons will be represented in poetry, music and pictures throughout the programme.

 

In June 2016, I curated a two-day event at Kings Place in London – The Year Without a Summer – to mark the 200th anniversary of the extraordinary climatic consequences in the Northern Hemisphere from volcanic activity of unprecedented enormity in the Southern Hemisphere.  Plunged into constant rain and darkness from the ash-cloud, there was no summer in 1816 and the crops failed in North America and Europe with devastating results: meanwhile, in Switzerland, Byron and the Shelleys were confined indoors, played ghoulish games, invoked Prometheus, invented Frankenstein and set European Romantic literature on its course; at the same time, in Vienna, Beethoven invented the ‘song-cycle’ while the young Schubert took the German Lied to new levels of accomplishment in terms of both quantity and quality.  Two concerts framed a series of talks by leading experts in climatology, social history and neuroscience, discussing the impact of climate change on the mood, behaviour and creativity of individuals and society as a whole, both then in 1816 and now 200 years later.  Full details of The Year Without a Summer can be found here.

 

Music and Healing – Conflict-resolution, Community-building & Wellbeing

 

Since the mid-1990s, I have been involved in using music to help to rebuild people’s lives in post-conflict situations.  Working mainly in Bosnia in the aftermath of the war in ex-Yugoslavia, and supporting the creative and therapeutic work of my colleague Nigel Osborne, this has embraced the treating of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) among Bosnian children, community music-making and education. Engaged initially by WarChild, we established the programme, operation and governance for the Pavarotti Music Centre which was being built in Mostar: including a Music Therapy clinic, a music school, performing spaces and a fully equipped recording studio, the Centre opened in 1997.  I continued to be involved as an independent expert, working as a volunteer, in humanitarian musical projects, mainly in Mostar and Sarajevo, for the next ten years.  I have recently returned to a different part of Bosnia, the city of Tuzla, in my professional capacity as an artistic director to create a new programme in the city and to establish an international network of small, community-based and socially inclusive music festivals.

 

In the lecture I gave at Gresham College in 2013 as part of its Conflict Resolution conference, I discussed music’s relationship with conflict and resolution from several angles (view here).  Musical expression when at its most moving is often achieved through discord or dissonance being followed by harmonic resolution; a more disturbing thought is that mankind itself, like music, naturally embraces conflict as a precursor to comprehending peace.  Be that as it may, music has a strong and proven track record in the rebuilding of communities and healing of individuals in the aftermath of conflict.  Its full potential in helping to prevent or resolve conflict, however, has yet to be realised.     

 

Much art, including poetry and most especially music, has been inspired by and created in response to war.  Conflict and resolution have been the themes of two of my festivals in recent years – St Magnus Festival (Orkney) in 2005 and the City of London Festival in 2013 – and the programmes not only offered a wide range of powerful and reflective music but also advocated the case for reconciliation and peace.  Artists, by their nature, calling and training, are our best communicators, with potential to promote the cause of art not only for its own sake but also for society as a whole.  One particular project developed in my 2013 CoLF, a new song cycle called Trees, Walls, Cities, involved a number of poets and composers in working together across the divides and transcending the barriers within their own communities.

 

The Musical Brain, of which I am Artistic Director, is broadly concerned with the inter-connections between ‘arts, science and the mind’, which are various and multi-faceted.  The annual conference programmes, bringing together expert speakers and musical performers, have explored music’s relationships with mental health (bipolarity and composition, for example), mood (happiness and sadness), hearing (and its loss), cognition, memory and trauma (particularly as a result of conflict).  The aim is to promote greater public awareness and understanding of the importance of interdisciplinary practice and, above all, of the power of music to influence our minds and to change our lives.

 

This agenda of music, healing, community-building and wellbeing has been at the heart of the growth of the Setúbal Music Festival since we began in 2010. It has continued through the creation of the Setúbal Youth Ensemble and now the proposal of a Portugese Centre for Music, Health & Wellbeing – a process beginning with an international Symposium in Setúbal on 28th May 2018.

 

Articles & essays

Documentaries, talks & interviews

Festivals & conferences