Case study: Going Home with Live Music Now
As part of Live Music Now's 'Going Home' project, Robyn Stapleton took her duo partner Claire Hastings home to Stranraer to perform in two schools and a care home in August 2018, maximising the purpose of the travel, and bringing live music to new audiences.
In 2018, Live Music Now Scotland received a grant from Tasgadh, the Traditional Arts Small Grants Fund, for ‘Going Home’, a project which invited musicians to return to their roots and the communities, heritage and culture which shaped the foundations of their performing practice. Here they tell us about how they are reducing travel emissions whilst increasing audience access to live music.
Live Music Now Scotland was founded on Yehudi Menuhin’s vision that all members of society, whatever their circumstances, should have access to the enriching experience of live music. At the same time, we offer invaluable performing opportunities, training and support to emerging artists from across Scotland at the outset of their professional careers. The musicians who are part of the scheme are selected by audition, and apart from outstanding musical and technical abilities, they must have excellent communication skills and an ability to engage with a wide range of audiences from a diversity of backgrounds.
Typical audiences include children with additional support needs, older people in residential and day care, often with dementia-related illness, young offenders, hospice patients and those living in remote, rural and island areas with little or no access to high quality music. Programmes are tailored to suit each venue on a bespoke basis and the resulting interactive performances prove time after time that connecting with people through music can stimulate responses that have a deeply profound and lasting transformative effect.
Live Music Now and Green Arts
Live Music Now Scotland prides itself on being an organisation with a small environmental footprint. By bringing live music to audiences in venues such as schools and care homes we keep audience travel miles to near zero, and our musicians are encouraged, from their very first induction meeting as members, to travel as efficiently as possible. We have recently moved our staff office to avoid unnecessary commuting miles, and some of our staff members work from home to cut our travel even more. However, the sheer volume of work our musicians undertake each year – close to 700 performances across Scotland and internationally – means that we cannot be complacent and we are always on the lookout for ways to make our work greener and more efficient.
‘Going Home’ 2018
Our aim is to work in every Local Authority Area in Scotland each year. Needless to say, some of these areas are more accessible than others. For a musician based in Glasgow, it isn’t difficult to jump on a train to the Borders, Perth, or even Inverness to do a few workshops or performances and still be home in time for dinner. It can be harder for us to programme concerts in the far north and island regions when travel is expensive, musicians need accommodation when they get there, and whims of weather mean a performer can be stranded on the wrong side of the sea!
Fortunately, these areas are a hotbed of musical talent and we are fortunate to have a number of traditional musicians on our books from the farthest-flung parts of Scotland, and it’s out of that knowledge that the idea of ‘Going Home’ was born.
The musicians we work with tend to be living and building their careers in the Central Belt due to the necessity of being within easy reach of performance and study opportunities, especially in Glasgow. Yet their musical influences often stem from where they grew up. The ‘Going Home’ project was devised by Carol Main, Director of Live Music Now Scotland, to give three of our groups the chance to visit the areas where they grew up and give back to the communities which nurtured, educated and encouraged them by performing in a variety of community settings.
The initial grant from Tasgadh covered performance fees and travel expenses which allowed us to take music to three areas:
- Stornoway: Norrie MacIver (guitar and voice) performed at two care homes during a trip home in April 2018
- Stranraer: Singer Robyn Stapleton took her duo partner Claire Hastings home to Stranraer to perform in two schools and a care home in August 2018
- Orkney: Graham Rorie and Aidan Moodie, a fiddle and guitar duo, performed three concerts in Kirkwall and St Margaret’s Hope at Christmas 2018
Graham Rorie and Aidan Moodie, a fiddle and guitar duo, performed three concerts in Kirkwall and St Margaret’s Hope at Christmas 2018
The artists spoke movingly about their experiences performing back home:
“Getting to perform at home always feels special. Orkney’s a community the two of us grew up playing music in so sharing what we do now with that same community is a real privilege. There’s a personal element to performing somewhere you feel you ‘belong’, somewhere you feel truly part of. “ Aidan Moodie
“It was very special to be able to return to Thorneycroft Care Home, a residential care home that I have a personal and family connection with. I enjoyed speaking to the residents in my local dialect and sharing the traditional folk songs from our own area. It was very encouraging to see such a positive change in many of the residents during the performance, seeing people looking, engaging, singing, moving to the rhythm and smiling. There was a noticeable excitement amongst staff too, stopping in their tracks to take in the music or sitting down to experience the concert with the other residents.” Robyn Stapleton
We will happily admit that when devising the programme our main drivers were the benefit to the musicians and the community, and green issues were not at the forefront of our mind. It rapidly became apparent, however, that this was not only a mutually beneficial arrangement for us, our musicians, and their home communities, but that it could become the foundation for a model of work that would be hugely effective from an environmental perspective.
The ongoing model and our green goals
Norrie MacIver performed at two care homes in Stornoway during a trip home in April 2018
Live Music Now Scotland operates on the basis that musicians should be paid fairly for their work, and that performances should be available to the venues that most need them, regardless of their ability to pay. With that in mind we spend much of the year tirelessly engaged in fundraising to ensure we can continue to deliver our vast programme of work across Scotland. Often, the funding we receive will be restricted to a certain geographical area, and any unrestricted funds we receive need to be used efficiently to ensure as much as possible is spent on performances themselves, rather than associated travel. By taking ‘Going Home’ as a model for our future work we will start to engage actively with our artists to ensure we can combine performances not just with their trips home, but with any other travel across the country.
The benefits will include
- Reducing our carbon footprint by combining our performances with trips which would have been made anyway
- Ensuring that a high percentage of our unrestricted income goes on performance rather than travel
- Allowing us to target areas which might prove prohibitively expensive were we to pay for travel and accommodation ourselves
- Allowing us to work cost-effectively in regions which are not covered by any of our current funding agreements.
- Providing high quality live music opportunities for audiences in a wider range of locations
The challenge now is to raise awareness across our musicians and encourage them to let us know when they are touring or travelling in our target regions so that we can programme activity accordingly. We are fortunate in the unique flexibility of our programme, and the need for high quality music in venues across the country, that we are able to operate in this responsive manner without compromising the value of our work, and we appreciate that it isn’t a model that will work for all art forms or all companies. But for Live Music Now Scotland, making the most of the wealth of the regional diversity among our musicians makes good business sense, environmental sense, and helps us bring live music to the broadest possible range of audiences.
Live Music Now is a member of our Green Arts Initiative: a growing networked community of practice of 220 Scottish cultural organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community, and there are lots of resources and case studies (like this one!) to support #GreenArts organisations. Take a look at our Green Arts Initiative page for more information.
All images are from Live Music Now