Bob’s 'I’ve got a job for you', unfolded to be an invitation to the first rehearsal of two, for a performance opportunity at The Orb’s 2017 Feva festival.
It was at this festival that the band got its name first name. In attempt to acknowledge and support Bob’s confidence as instigator (and potential leader) of the band, during our rehearsal I asked Bob how he might introduce the band. On arrival at Knaresborough, Bob suggested the name, The Burnholme Bossa Nova Band, to which I added, ‘with Bob?’. This led to group laughter and joke telling at the repetition of words beginning with ‘b’, which felt supportive of releasing the nervous tension that was building as we were soon to go on stage. The performance was well received by the audience, which largely consisted of fellow musicians experiencing ill mental health, in recovery, and/or with a disability. After playing, Bob was asked by an audience member whether the band had a CD to sell, to which Bob explained that we were ‘not really’ a band and ‘that was our first performance’. This reception to the group’s performance, alongside participants’ expressed felt sense of accomplishment, sparked the becoming of a band – we could do this again.
The Radical Luddites (formerly The Burnholme Bossa Nova Band) performing at The Orb’s Feva Festival, July 2017, Knaresborough, UK
The Feva 2017 performance presented as a critical incident since it was a predetermined output that supported the establishment of a participant-initiated band, and in doing so offers a more nuanced consideration of process and product in community music practice. Historically, process and product have been considered as dichotomous in community music. Whereby process, understood as relationship and interaction through music-making, has been emphasised as the focus of the work, as opposed to product, such as resulting performances or recordings. For discussion see for example Renshaw, 2005; Rimmer, 2009; Paton, 2011. In my professional practice, I previously resonated with this and was often frustrated by projects that had performance outputs requested in advance of the work by external agencies, especially those with a short timespan to create, and a large group. This often brought about situations in which community musicians (and I as a community musician) reverted to making music for participants. Reflecting soon after the group’s Feva 2017 performance, the event stood out initially as a critical incident because it challenged my problematizing of products determined in advance of projects. It highlighted that performance outputs (particularly those of high-profile) scheduled before any music-making begins, does not automatically equate to problematic practice if they are offered as an opportunity rather than expected outcome. For The Burnholme Bossa Nova Band a performance goal was set before the band formed. This offered an opening; a chance for Bob to pursue his enthusiasm for genres different to those offered at weekly Musication sessions, and desire to play in a group instead of independent songwriting. Through the framework of a Tang Hall SMART musician showcase, set by the organisation’s director Sue Williamson – what was to be performed, who would perform, and if there were to be any performance at all, was determined in negotiation with Musication participants.
With further reflection, the greatest significance of this critical incident is indication of an intertwining between process and product. My moving from process or product, towards process and product is not a straightforward ambition for ‘excellence’ for both, but rather a raising of the question; what are to be considered as processes and products in community music practice? And how does this differ from other music practices? The Burnholme Bossa Nova Band’s performance at Feva 2017 for example, was at once a product (in conventional music terms as a gig for a festival audience), and a process (a confidence building experience that brought together individuals to jointly pursue their music-making as a band). Through the course of time products can be conceived as process, and perhaps vice versa, but I suggest an intertwining of process and product exceeds this, and speaks to the 'foundational principles' of community music (Higgins & Willingham, 2017). Social relationships and interaction afforded through music-making (and from this possibilities for individual and group empowerment and transformation), might be at once process and product in community music practice. Perhaps then, it is a focus on producing at the expense of recognising the relational as a 'product' on its own terms that is problematic. And, this may inadvertently be perpetuated by calls for excellence of both process and product - both social and musical excellence - because this continues to conceive of both separately.
The Radical Luddites (formerly The Burnholme Bossa Nova Band and Bad Bargain Band) performing at Tang Hall SMART’s York Barbican gig, Nov 2017, York, UK
Focus given to products and producing remained important for the group. As Bob stated in a facilitated conversation session that aimed to gather band member thoughts and feedback,
I'm thinking the journey needs to have a,
(Bob, May 2018)
The group continued to take motivation from working towards upcoming gigs and later that year took the opportunity to perform at Tang Hall SMART’s York Barbican gig.
Higgins, L., & Willingham, L. (2017). Engaging in Community Music: An Introduction. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315637952
Renshaw, P. (2005). Simply Connect: 'next practice' in group music making and musical leadership. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation. https://www.musicalfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/simplyconnectcol.pdf
Rimmer, M. (2009). ‘Instrumental’ playing? Cultural policy and young people’s community music participation. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 15(1), 71-90. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286630802682193
Paton, R. (2011). Lifemusic: sounding out university community engagement, International Journal of Community Music, 4(2), 105-120. https://doi.org/10.1386/ijcm.4.2.105_1