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Inclusive Summer School


Project overview

An annual four-day music summer school for adults with learning disabilities led by Tang Hall SMART CIC, York, UK.

At a glance:


  • Project duration: 4-day summer school in August    2016, 2017 & 2018

  • With: Tang Hall SMART CIC

  • Who: 20 adults participated across the project

  • When: 10.00 – 15.30 for 4 days at SMART, York.



A Tang Hall SMART CIC (THS) programme, the Inclusive Summer School has run each August since 2015. It is an extended offer to THS SoundSMART provision – a “Music Industry Training course for adults with learning disabilities” that takes place across the academic terms (Tang Hall SMART CIC, 2018). (NB for further context about THS see the PaR Setting Musication page). The Inclusive Summer School is open to c.10 participants supported by 4 THS staff members. Whilst its focus changes each year, broadly activities offered are group band work, group singing and vocal and instrumental improvisation / jam sessions. Participants pay a fee of £30 to attend the four-days, since this provision features as part of THS Rock School programme offer (NB all other PaR Setting projects for the PhD were free to attend).


Why this project for PhD study?

New to York, THS was one of the music-making providers in the local area that I contacted to learn about existing music provision and to explore options for collaboration. (See PaR Setting Musication page for further context regarding my ‘outsider’ engagement with Yorkshire music-making providers for this study). By way of getting to know THS, and to see which provision might support collaboration and the inquiry, I first joined SoundSMART sessions. This initial engagement served as an opportunity to,

  • Observe, and where appropriate join in, with a York based music-making programme (NB at the same time I attended various other music-making programmes in York to experience ways of working and to ascertain whether working together would be appropriate for this study and the existing project).

  • get to know THS before entering into long-term engagement for inquiry

After joining SoundSMART for several sessions and working towards and performing at the THS RE:generation festival 2016, in conversation with THS director Sue Williamson, a pilot study was agreed;

  • to support initial approaches to researching through music-making with THS

  • by way of exploring research processes and possibilities (the timing of which felt apt since the agreed project dates coincided with the end of the first year of my study)

  • to inform future inquiry processes with THS over a long-term engagement.




rappers with guitarist performing a gig

Figure  Image taken by The York Press at THS Re:Generation Festival 2016



Across Inclusive Summer Schools 2016, 2017 and 2018 I joined the THS staff team and worked within their existing session frameworks including group band work, vocal and instrumental improvisation sessions and 1-2-1 or small group breakouts. Inclusive Summer School 2016 served as a pilot for my PhD inquiry. Research approaches and processes tested during the pilot study included;

  • diary room interviews to camera whereby I would interview participants and participants would interview me. This approach aligned with THS’ commitment to participant visibility through member music platform and promotion. It also sought to compliment filming already taking place within the project.

  • Participant photography sessions whereby photos taken by participants scaffolded group conversation about the project.

  • Audio recordings of music-making activity (instrumental and vocal jams for example)

  • Reflective voice memos  


On reflection, the prevalence of talking strategies within this pilot (the diary room interviews, participant photography and group conversation) led me to question the extent to which my inquiry was following a practice-led or practice-based route. Talking strategies felt akin to exploration of participant perspectives about/on music-making, rather than inquiry through music-making. Keen to explore the possibility of researching through community music working practices, and with recognition of the tacit and often embodied ‘knowing-in-doing’ (Nelson, 2013) of music-making, during Inclusive Summer Schools 2017 and 2018, I moved away from processes that seemed to present an add-on to practice and gave focus to inquiry through music-making.


Reflection for PhD PaR settings is made available through critical incident discussion within this online portfolio and the exegesis. Here, I offer some brief points specific to the Inclusive Summer School. Undertaking inquiry across three consecutive Inclusive Summer Schools allowed for a focussed cycle of reflection though a structured ‘return’ to practice (Hughes & Lury, 2013) that felt particularly productive alongside my developing awareness, understanding and engagement with knowing as a multi-mode interplay between know-how, know-what and know-that (Nelson, 2013). As Donald Schön highlights in The Reflective Practitioner, cycles of reflection can take place over extended periods,


A practitioner’s reflection-in-action may not be very rapid. It is bounded by the “action-present,” the zone of time in which action can still make a difference to the situation. The action present may stretch over minuets, hours, days, or even weeks or months depending on the pace of activity and the situational boundaries that are characteristic of the practice (1983/1991, p.62).

As my ideas about music co-creation within community music activity were developing though PhD study, the annual Inclusive Summer School provided anchor points to reflection. Notably my understanding of creative-collaborative music-making as composition within the community music context and questioning of implicit emphasis on output creation for ownership, empowerment and transformation underpinned by notions of cultural democracy.



Hughes, C., & Lury, C. (2013). Re-turning feminist methodologies: from a social to an ecological epistemology. Gender and Education, 25(6), 786–799.


Nelson, R. (2013). Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances. Palgrave Macmillan.


Schön, D. A. (1991). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action. Ashgate Publishing. (Original work Published 1983)

Tang Hall SMART CIC. (2018). SoundSMART. Retrieved August 24, 2018, from

Related Critical incident
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