Orchestra 360 with James Redwood

May - Brighton & Hove

O360 is an inclusive ensemble for young musicians with SEND, their parents/carers and siblings and takes place in Brighton & Hove as part of the ‘Our Future Music’ programme with the Southern Music Hub Alliance, funded by Youth Music.

Orchestra 360 is always the highlight of my week. It’s an inclusive, creative music group for children and young people with Special Education Needs/Disabilities run by Brighton & Hove Music and Arts. We also welcome parents, carers, siblings and friends whether they have any experience of making music or not. Participants are given support to experiment with and learn new skills on a range of instruments from tuned percussion to drum kits, ukuleles to saxophones, iPads to keyboards and everything in between.

We almost always make new music either as a whole group, or working in smaller bands or sections of the orchestra. Where possible, ideas come from within the group and we make space for everyone to have a feature, however big or small that may be.

We’ve had some pretty epic gigs – past venues include the Corn Exchange in the Brighton Dome and the (massive) Brighton Centre. We’ve also had some fantastic collaborations with other ensembles from Brighton & Hove Music and Arts, including the Brighton Youth Orchestra.

As a freelance composer and music leader, I lead quite an itinerant life – my work takes me all over the country and I’m lucky to work with lots of different arts organisations in lots of different schools and community settings. But one of the unique things that o360 has brought me is the opportunity to work with (pretty much) the same group over a longer period than my usual 6-sessions-and-a-performance projects. Of course our membership changes - people can’t come every time – but it’s been really nourishing for me to get to know the group in a way that I just can’t on other, shorter, projects.

This longer term commitment must inevitably contribute to the strong sense of family that there is amongst the group as a whole. But there is also a similarly strong bond between the music leaders who run it. The tone was set on our first ever planning day when Emma our project manager (and music leader extraordinaire) brought an outstanding alternative Christmas Cranberry Cake for us to share during our planning. The day also involved a delicious (non-alcoholic) pub lunch and food has continued to be central to our very existence ever since. Miraculously, we have not yet had a single meeting where there wasn’t at least one homemade cake for the team to share during our vital debrief sessions. These are a chance for us to reflect on the session that has just finished, trouble-shoot anything that needs attention and plan the next session. But they also provide an opportunity for us to re-connect as a team once the maelstrom of the music making is over. And it turns out that we really get on – it’s such a treat to work so closely with people that I like so very much!

I have really appreciated the opportunity to build on my previous, short-term, experience of working outside of mainstream settings. I’ve developed a toolbox of games and exercises that have been rigorously road-tested. But most of all, I’ve loved making new music with such an incredibly open-hearted, inventive, talented bunch of musicians.

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