Music festivals at this time of year are few and far between, especially those with a core audience of children, let alone in Inverness. That’s the lengths the inaugural Love Music Festival has gone to put together a travelling troupe of 40 artists culminating this Saturday at Eden Court.
Brainchild of British Academy of Composers Award winner Stephen Deazley, the festival itself is far and away the first of its kind in Scotland.
Freshly combining the avenues of education and music, not in the over glossed fashion that the younger generation are blinded with every weekend, but on the time-honoured teaching patterns in Scotland as Stephen explains:
“I wondered why the nature of music offered to children in Scotland relied almost exclusively on a framework born from classical or traditional music, and whether we could develop the “creative learning” models that are very familiar now to schools and family audiences but focus on more unusual or unfamiliar music.”
I wanted young people to be inspired by meeting and hearing amazing musicians from across the world, right on their door-stop.
The festival itself has seen something akin to touring circuses of mini-music festivals, parading their way around schools and venues from Peebles to Shetland and back again – passing leaving the entertainment baton for the next artist to pick up.
“Creating the touring model gave ourselves a logistical puzzle akin to a touring Rubik’s Cube. The result is a leap-frog game of musicians never actually meeting, but crossing each other on the road every day as they travel to a new venue where others have just played.”
Over the last few weeks some 40 artists have then been sharing Scotland’s roads, but never stage, until the fanfare at Invernesses’ Eden Court this Saturday.
“Mostly our festival is focussed on schools but how amazing to have 40 extraordinary musicians in the country and never bringing them together.
We couldn’t let this happen. There are very few other venues like Eden Court in Scotland that could have worked with us on this, able to accommodate many stages, foyer events and fun music activities using every available space in the building.”
We’re delighted to end up in Inverness and hoping for a great big explosive musical bang!
Some of the multitude of artists performing are as diverse as Tuvan xoomei vocalists, Huun-Huur-Tu, and Finish harmonica ensemble, Sväng, aiming to enthral the educational spectrum – ticket prices were never going to be extortionate. But how, in this financial stringent time, has the Festival been allowed to roam so freely?
”Our funding for the festival itself came through a Lottery led scheme “Inspiring Communities”.
They asked for our big ideas – so we said “OK, how about this? Without the lottery funding we would never have been in a position to make any of it happen – so it was crucial.”
It’s not only the children that will directly benefit from the festival and it’s funding:
“We raised £5000 from Young Music Initiative specifically to fund two fellowships for two young music leaders who were able to meet and work with all five of our animateurs.”
Neither is the fortnight purely focussed on the limits of the classroom and stage but furthering the development of the children involved outside, incorporating two innovative online educational throughout the festival.
Map Mixer, a specially commissioned audio mixer tool for recording and sharing performances, and Glow, the world’s first national educational intranet. Both packages will no doubt help connect the tributaries of the Festival flowing into this weekend’s culmination.
Last weekend London’s Barbian Centre in London hosted it’s own refreshing take on the music meets education combo, seeing two major undertakings in the field buzzing in the UK at the same time.
”We have been speaking to Barbican about it and exchanging ideas about potential future projects, we’re just sorry that we have this horrible mid-festival clash – because we won’t be able to get down to their weekend and vice versa.
I love what the Barbican do – especially now that there is a relationship with Sean Gregory’s work at the Guildhall.”
That’s not to say the two projects aren’t just cross border cousins, as Stephen dissects the differences between the London stronghold and Love Music’s Scotland wide coverage:
“There are two main differences in the nature of the work, but lots of overlaps as well.
At the Barbican there is already an expectation of diversity and access to diverse musical cultures, so in a way Love Music Festival has been curated with a “capital city” mentality, bringing wonderful musicians in but taking them out to community halls and rural island venues, where these musicians would just never go.
Somehow the festival for me has more resonance in these remote places.”
Where the Barbican weekend focuses on leading the children directly into the “come and play” end of things, Stephen underlines the rousing cultural significance of the artists that will bring the Love Festival to life:
“We definitely have a strong performance strand, but a lot of the work during the festival days is about exploring different musical ideas – we have drum and dance workshops from Ghana, singing in Bulgarian with Eva Quartet, Yann Seznec’s interactive sound installations.
We definitely don’t ignore or under-estimate the importance of playing – but the up-front contact between our young audiences and our performers is about creating opportunities to amaze and inspire young people, to deepen and broaden their interests and build bridges between different musics and genres.”
It’s been a long and winding road for Stephen and his team to neatly tie all the musical roots into Eden Court for Saturday:
“This time last year our little charity had no funded staff. This week we have 65 people on the road from all across the world, travelling the length and breadth of Scotland with a programme of 30 festival days.”
The first year of the festival has also proven a learning curve for itself:
“We have learned a lot about the complexities of working with the school sector, it has been a small miracle of logistics, but we know that Love Music Festival has introduced a brave and radical programme agenda that hasn’t be tried anywhere in the world, so we’re very proud of that.”
After putting the festival through it’s inaugural year in Scotland, Stephen already has a vision of what it’s going to grow up to be:
“After this year, we want to re-launch the festival in 2012 as a biennial UK festival, still very much with a combination of rural and urban partners. We have a host of venues and education regions across the UK who are ready and willing to leap into the great big Love Music adventure, but obviously in economic times like these, we just have to work harder and shout louder about it all.
Thereafter who knows?”