Making music together

A man sits and plays a guitar in front of a projection of the Together! logo.

Robin Surgeoner aka Angry Fish at the Music Club on 2 December 2013.

Artistic Director Ju Gosling aka ju90 writes: On Monday we were delighted to welcome three guest performers to our monthly Music Club as part of our Disability History Month festival. Musicians Clare Summerskill and Robin Surgeoner aka Angry Fish (who is also a Gold Medallist Paralympian) were joined by VJ Mouse on the Telly, who projected live interactive visuals to accompany the music.

As always, though, the emphasis of the Club was on participation. Everyone who attends is invited to choose an instrument and to join in as they wish. We also encourage anyone who wishes to come to the microphone and sing to us, whether this is a favourite song or one they have written. And we always sing some songs together, and teach them to each other. It was great to have Clare and Robin joining in with this, and to learn ‘Action DAN’ from Robin on the eve of International Day of Disabled People.

The philosophy of the Club, as with everything we do, is inspired by the late David Morris. David loved nothing better than to bring his friends and PAs together to sing, and he recorded many of these sessions and uploaded them to YouTube. Two years ago I constructed the Red Jesus Jukebox website to link these videos together, and you can play them for yourself here.

Many of the performers are noticeable for the colourful hats and wigs they are wearing; David had a large collection of these and believed that putting these on helped to release creativity. We are yet to try this for ourselves, but it can only be a matter of time…

David named his gatherings ‘Red Jesus’ after the bright red statue of Jesus on top of the neighbouring church that was visible from his roof terrace in Limehouse. We often make our own connections to the neighbourhood of Canning Town around us – we sing sea shanties and think of the dockworkers as well as the 900 ships that were built a stone’s throw away; we sing London Pride and think of the Blitz that still impacts on the landscape today.

Our Music Club is therefore about much more than music: it is about celebrating creativity in everyone, about friendship and about community. It is also about creating a regular social space where everyone is welcome. We have heard too many stories during the past year about disabled people (from every impairment group) being excluded overtly or effectively from other locally based activities as well as family functions.

Although we are determined to continue with the Music Club, our current funding from Community First ends this month. We are also aware that many people who would like to attend are still prevented because they have no access to the support and transport they require. If you are reading this and are in a position to help, please contact us.

In the meantime, thanks to Arts Council England for funding our guests; the Community First Foundation for funding the Club; Newham Volunteer Team for providing help and support; and Ramada Hotels for supplying artists’ accommodation.

Newham Volunteer team.

Newham Volunteer team.