Bristol Reggae Orchestra

Bristol Reggae Orchestra

People’s Health Trust addresses social determinants of health as described by the WHO, by supporting projects that increase collective control and build social links and ties. Encouraging collective control is described by the WHO as a wider social determinant of health. Giving local communities greater control to determine what happens in their neighbourhood brings about better outcomes locally, stronger social connections and self-respect: all highly correlated with wellbeing. Art is often seen as a powerful vehicle through which collective control can be exercised and social connections can be made.
Bristol Reggae Orchestra received funding through People’s Health Trust’s Active Communities programme. Active Communities is an open grants programme that funds people-led projects, addressing issues and demands identified by local residents to make their areas fairer places to live, grow, work and age.

Bristol Reggae Orchestra brings together a diverse group of musicians and local residents, helping to build social connections and reduce isolation. The Orchestra aims to celebrate the contributions of Caribbean and African music to local culture. A recent two year project sought to provide opportunities for participants from targeted local communities to develop their skills, widen their social networks, develop their confidence and express their musical and cultural identity.

Funding Sources
Bristol Reggae Orchestra received a grant of £25,610 in 2014 as part of People’s Health Trust Active Communities programme. The project was designed and delivered by Bristol Reggae Orchestra.

The project was designed and delivered by Bristol Reggae Orchestra between April 2014 and March 2016. The project delivered 24 fortnightly rehearsals, including 12 open workshops to engage new participants. They also held four half-day workshops for existing participants to develop their skills and gave two public performances.

The Orchestra was formed in 2010 by a group of local musicians who felt there was a lack of opportunities for local artists. The area of St Paul’s experiences high levels of disadvantage and many felt excluded from mainstream music activities and networks in the city. The Orchestra was established following a pilot six-week project, funded by the St George’s Bristol Migrations programme.

Location and settings
The Orchestra ran sessions in the St Paul’s area of Bristol and Orchestra workshops and performances also took place in the postcode areas of BS2 8YH and BS5 6AW.

Description of the arts activity

Artistic approach and medium
Music and singing workshops and rehearsals allowed participants to meet new people, develop their skills and work with local artists. Instrumental workshops focused on improvisation and composition, with the group also regularly practicing for bigger community performances.

Participant engagement
The Orchestra participants influenced the project through regular feedback and consultations, and by engaging with the steering group and committee to decide on the project’s direction and take on leadership roles within the group.

Over the course of the project 50 participants engaged with the regular workshops, 305 participants were reached with the open workshops and over 500 local people attended the performances.

Details of the project participants

Target population
The target participants are categorised by People’s Health Trust as a community of place, as they are local residents living in the same designated fundable neighbourhoods. These are neighbourhoods within the bottom 30% most disadvantaged, according to the IMD, and 90% of project participants are required to live in these areas.

The project was open to all local residents from the St Paul’s area, and the participants ages ranged from 16 to 64. Participants are from a variety of ethnicities, including Black, African Caribbean, mixed ethnic backgrounds, White British and other White backgrounds.

Method of recruitment/referral
A number of participants were already involved in the Reggae Orchestra as it has been established in the area since 2010. New participants were recruited through open workshops and public performances.

Project management

Roles and responsibilities
A resident-led steering group of participants met four times each year and was open to all local people involved. The group plan the overall direction of the orchestra, with the feedback from the wider group, gathered through consultations, questionnaires and during sessions. The steering group also worked with a smaller committee who designed the workshops, supported performances and fundraised.

The project was delivered by a range of staff, professional musicians and volunteers, who helped to shape and direct the project. The project manager worked closely with the steering group to co-ordinate the rehearsals, the outreach activities and the educational programmes. A music director oversaw the fortnightly rehearsals and supported the workshops. Professional musicians and volunteer mentors also supported the activities.

Quality assurance
The organisation was actively encouraged to self-reflect through their progress reports. In addition, local residents being involved in the direction of the initiative was a critical part of the quality control in that local people were in control and able to direct the group’s aim towards for the genuine benefit of the residents of the neighbourhood.

Costs to participants
There was no compulsory cost to participants; however the group did accept donations.

Ethics and consent
Participants in Bristol Reggae Orchestra give active permission for information about them to be used in evaluation and marketing and were assured that if they do not give permission their participation in the orchestra will not be affected. The Orchestra agreed as a term of their grant to share any information about the project gathered with the consent of participants to be used for evaluation purposes by People’s Health Trust. The group have additionally consented for information to be shared with APPG.

Evaluation methods and findings

The group submitted six-monthly progress and end of funding reports to People’s Health Trust, reporting on progress and reflecting on the impact of the project on participant’s wellbeing.

The Orchestra gathered feedback from the participants through evaluation questionnaires, attendance and verbal feedback.

The project reported that through engaging with the orchestra and workshop, participants have expanded their social networks, increased their confidence and developed their musical and performance skills. The performances encouraged participants to have more pride in the Orchestra, and their contribution to the local area.

“I’ve been involved with music for most of my life, but in my late 20s, I started to lose my sight and for a while I didn’t play. But the orchestra has turned my life around, it’s got me on a good level footing, it’s got me back into music. The orchestra has helped a lot of people, not just me. It’s wonderful.”

The steering group, committee and regular engagement provided opportunities to for collective control to develop, as participants were able to influence the design and programme of the Orchestra and take on leadership roles in the project. The workshops and rehearsals enabled participants to build stronger social ties and make connections with a range of community groups, including refugees, through collaborative performances and encouraging them to join the Orchestra. Through developing participants’ confidence, influence and social relationships, the Orchestra tackles the social determinants of health, as described by the WHO. This helps to reduce health inequalities, and increase wellbeing.

Published/unpublished reports on the project
End of funding reports and six monthly progress reports were supplied to People’s Health Trust.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England