A group of refugees and asylum seekers from The Grange in west Norfolk created musical pieces for a community event with Ian Brownlie from The Garage’s outreach team.

The Grange is a family home and smallholding in Great Cressingham, which opens its doors to people from near and far to give them opportunities to build their own resilience. In particular they support people who have survived torture and extreme violence and those fleeing persecution.

Based in an old rectory surrounded by 10 acres of beautiful meadows, they share the space with a wide range of wildlife including barn owls, kingfishers and muntjac as well as domesticated ponies, sheep, chickens and guinea pigs.

The beauty of The Grange made a wonderful and inspiring setting for the music project. Ian Brownlie facilitated a five-session project, working with a total of 14 mainly male adult refugees and asylum seekers who meet there each week.

The aim of the project was to help participants improve confidence, self-esteem, teamwork and communication skills while developing musical skills. They worked towards an informal performance at a community event – The Great Cressingham Get Together and Duck Race.

The project started out as a ukulele course after several members of the group had expressed an interest in the instrument. However, due to the transient nature of the group, it soon developed into song writing and music making using a variety of different instruments, including drums, guitars, mandolin, chimes and thumb pianos.

With participants dropping in and out each week, it was Ian’s ability to respond to the changing make up of group which helped make the project successful.

Ian said: “Our approach was to work with the same simple musical structures each week – pieces which could be built upon, developed and adapted by whoever was in the session.”

Ian also gave individual support to participants to help them reach their own musical goals, such as signposting them to online tutorials and showing them how to restring their guitars.

Language barriers were overcome by keeping spoken instructions to a minimum and encouraging participants to act as translators when needed.

At the end of the project the group shared their pieces in a participatory performance at The Great Get Together on the village green. In keeping with the inclusive aims of the group, members of the public were invited join in the performance.

Amelie Sells from The Grange said: “Ian was really fantastic and adapted well to the unpredictable nature of group.”

The project was supported by Breckland District Council.

Clara Wiseman – Outreach Coordinator

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