Folk Arts Oxford aims to promote folk and traditional dance, music and song in the Oxfordshire region. In particular we are interested in improving access for those who might face barriers to participation in the arts.

Through our funded project work: children in Headington have learned about local lad William Kimber, and the musical legacy he has left; a new band called Iris has been formed, who accompany all their songs with Makaton signing; children from mainstream and special schools in Oxfordshire have the chance to create music together, and perform on the main stage at Folk Weekend: Oxford.

Alongside our own projects and events, FAO works collaboratively with other local organisations, forging links and creating opportunities for folk artists to work in education and community projects, as well as showcase their talent in local events. 

I'm really excited to get going with the Hands up for Singing project! We've got a few new artists on board this year, and thanks to our funders we've been able to put together two full training & development days so that we can all work together on developing the material for the workshops.

First up we looked back at some video clips from the pilot project last year, and talked about what we saw in each. There were some lovely examples of children really responding to the music, and we discussed topics such as the need to give plenty of processing time, matching the rhythm and movement the children are producing naturally, and how to judge how much the pupil is wanting engagement at that moment. After this we had a Makaton workshop, giving a brief taster of how to communicate using Makaton, and some signs and symbols we would find useful when leading music sessions with children who have learning needs.

The set up for this project is designed to integrate children from mainstream and special schools, so each workshop day is going to be based in a special school, with a group of children from a mainstream school visiting as guests to take part in the project. All the children will take part in musical activities together, as well as learning three folk songs with Makaton signing. By the end of the two development days we had a workshop outline we were really pleased with, and a whole bank of varied activities that we can do with children of all abilities. Now we're raring to go and try them out with some children!