2024 will be an exciting year for our new Inclusive Music band EngPol M4

Our Inclusive Music EngPol M4 band members outside The Cat House

We believe in the physical, mental, emotional, and developmental benefits of engaging with the creative arts.

So do many health agencies – from the Cultural Learning Alliance to the Arts Council, both cited below. Community-based approaches and social prescribing are part of NHS England’s long-term plan too. 

We also believe those who would benefit most, like those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, don’t always have the access to the arts that they should. We’re not alone.

In 2015, the Arts Council commissioned The every child: Equality and diversity in arts and culture with, by and for children and young people report. It noted the very different levels of access to different art-forms or cultural experiences among disabled and non-disabled children and young people.

The issue of inclusiveness was described as short-sighted by the 2019 Durham Commission, which stressed everyone has the potential to contribute to the cultural capital of the nation… and the need to develop the strengths diversity can bring to society as a whole.

We – and our sister venue The Workshop in King’s Lynn – are committed to doing just that. We’ve a wide range of inclusive and SEND classes and performance companies. Both venues have been involved in international programmes like DAN.CE In and DAN.TE, which champion diversity.

Here in Norwich, we’ve also created the EngPol M4 band made up of senior members of our Inclusive Music class, which meets every Friday under the guidance of tutor Paul Thompson and support worker Amelia Stephanides.

The band was named by the participants who are a mix of English and Polish. The M stands for music and the 4 is for how many members there are – Milosz, Ellie, Alexander, and Gytis.

Their summer track Angry Wasp created quite the buzz.

Paul explains: “The main creative input from our sessions always comes from our participants.  We always start a new term by chatting about what everyone’s been up to. A participant said they’d gone on picnics, and someone got stung. I asked, ‘did it hurt’. And – I think it was actually a mishear – they seemed to say ‘angry’.

“We jammed, picked out bits and pieces, practiced, and did a lot of improvisation. We added new ideas – kazoos for example – used a wasp synthesizer, etc. then recorded it.”

The result was a Kraftwerk style anthem to summer. You’ll catch many of us at The Garage humming it as we work.

The festive holidays saw members record Disappointing Christmas. The electronic feel of both has been continued with their latest tracks – Elevator and Scratchy Cat.

Paul says: “Heading up to the studio I always say, ‘who is travelling in the lift?’ and one member said, ‘it’s not a lift but an elevator’. We discussed and agreed that elevator rolls off the tongue a lot more rhythmically.

“We thought it may be a good title for a song. We started by jamming some tunes and one member came up with a few lines. ‘Coming from America’ is close to something David Byrne would come up with. He’s a genius, so we knew we had something. We then discussed what happens in an elevator and also maybe some actions that can go along with words.”

The song can be played on an acoustic guitar, but electronics is where EngPol M4 is at right now. It suits the subject matter – Electricity by OMD comes to mind. They also used whirlies [think breathing snorkel that can be tuned like an instrument and then whipped through the air] to generate some atmosphere / wind sounds at the start.

Scratchy Cat was, again, facilitated by discussions. The video will feature cats –  what on Earth could go wrong?” Paul laughs.

Milosz – who in trademark front-man fashion says the M in the band actually stands for him – says: “We’ve recorded lots of songs and videos. I enjoy practising, playing instruments. It’s good fun. I feel very happy [in class].”

Self-proclaimed pop princess Ellie – who likes bossing the boys around – adds: “Coming to class, helping people [engage], seeing my friends, makes me happy.”

Her mum, Jutta, says: “I remember when Ellie first started a taster session with the ‘band’. She was extremely excited and there was no doubt that she wanted to continue. She loves being the only girl in the band. Paul and Amelia have worked very hard with them, trying out different instruments and now including music videos with their songs and also performing at some gigs.”

Amelia says: “One participant when they joined us over a year ago was almost non-verbal. Now, they actively communicate, engage, and participate.

“Witnessing their remarkable growth, despite occasional challenges related to their specific needs, reinforces the value of the inclusive work we are doing with these individuals and the positive impact our efforts are making in their lives.”

Listen to Angry Wasp, Elevator, and Scratchy Cat.

You can find out more about all our classes here. Keep up to date with our new shows, classes, offers, community projects and more by signing-up to our twice monthly e-shot. Or follow us on XInstagramFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube.

Has taking a course or class at The Garage changed your life? We’d love to hear your story. Email me.

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