Paul Eddington, star of TV comedy Yes Prime Minister, visited Albany Prison to talk to inmates about being an actor. The visit was organised by Independent Arts. He is pictured with Carol Martys and Albany’s education officer, Martin Davis.
THE VIEW FROM HERE
IF YOU were lucky enough to see the recent televised performance of the Big Noise children’s orchestra playing alongside the Simon Bolivar Symphony musicians as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, you could not fail to have been enchanted and moved by what has been achieved in a very special arts project.
In 2008, the charity Sistema Scotland began the Big Noise orchestra in Raploch, Stirling, an area once notorious as a crime estate. Children, aged six upwards, have been taught to play instruments and perform classical music, which, as the programme progresses, will see real talent and skill develop.
The Simon Bolivar orchestra has grown out of the main Sistema charity, which first gave hope through music to deprived Venezuelan children, and is now a worldwide movement which transforms children’s futures through classical music.
The effect of the Big Noise programme has been profound, with the children increasingly committed as they progress towards an exceptional standard. And the joy that shone in the eyes of the Raploch kids as they tooted their way through their public performance (made all the more charming by its exuberant amateurism) showed the importance of giving children a sense of worth and purpose.
Independent research reveals "Big Noise is having a positive impact on children’s personal and social development, including increased confidence, self-esteem … a sense of responsibility and positive behaviour change."
Which all goes to show just how beneficial the arts are in creating a better society.
Here on the IW, we have an initiative which is as effective and important as worldwide charities such as Sistema. Independent Arts was founded in 1987 and is celebrating 25 years of making a real difference to IW people from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly the elderly, those with learning difficulties and the disabled.
Its first director was Carol Martys, now a patron of the charity, who had previously run a drama group at Parkhurst Prison.
Independent Arts initially trained musicians, artists and dancers to teach and entertain the elderly and those with learning disabilities. Since then, its remit has grown and it organises all sorts of arts-based projects across the Island.
Singabout gives music therapy to dementia sufferers, and is a proven way of stimulating and even improving their condition. Other activities include photography, arts and crafts, and memory and reminiscence sessions.
"We have worked with a huge number of vulnerable people," says project manager Caroline Ash.
"There is particular satisfaction in finding out about elderly people’s past experiences.
"It’s easy to forget people in residential homes have often had amazing lives. One lady told us she used to be a milliner. Nobody had known but we gave her a pen and paper and she drew a hat. We discovered another lady had been a land girl."
"We want to branch out to more vulnerable people, such as the unemployed or those with depression" says Caroline. "But we’re not as well known on the Island as we need to be."
The 25th birthday of Independent Arts is not just a milestone but an opportunity for the Island to recognise the exceptional work done by the charity. In a society which seems so often broken, Independent Arts gives hope and enjoyment to those who might otherwise be ignored, and its wider benefits are immense.
It’s a constant struggle to find the funding necessary to provide such excellent therapy but it is determined to do so. If you would like to help towards the continued work of this unique Island initiative, you can visit its website on independentarts.org.uk or contact them on 01983 822437.
A brilliant reaction, no problem
Independent Arts is realistic in acknowledging people’s problems and doing something about them. Elsewhere, the word "problem" has become entirely meaningless.
"No problem" is increasingly the stock rejoinder to, well, almost anything. You pay your bill in a restaurant. "No problem," says the waitress, as if handing her a whole load of money might have caused immeasurable obstacles.
You book an airline ticket. "No problem," says the clerk at the other end of the telephone. Well, why should there be a problem? Aren’t they just doing their job?
"No problem" carries with it the implication that you, the client, have caused them an immense amount of bother but that they have somehow gallantly overcome it.
Sometimes, however, as well as being "no problem", it’s "brilliant".
I recently had to give my name and address to an insurance firm. "Brilliant," said the girl every time I reached the end of a line.
What did she mean? That I had somehow surpassed the bounds of genius by being able to recite these simple facts?
It is all becoming quite a problem and very far from brilliant.