Stories, Research & Projects
This summer, I'll be participating in The Ideas Collective, a 100-day programme coordinated by SUAS. It brings together individuals with ideas for social and environmental projects to carry out in Dublin.
The opening session took place this week and I'll be documenting the 100 days; the trials, the tribulations, successes and failures. The idea remains very subject-to-change, but you can read about it below. It's all a learning curve, but it'll hopefully be an exciting one as it grows.
My project encourages participants to sing. As the participant is engaged as a singer, so the public becomes an audience. It will focus on individuals affected by homelessness by listening to their voices rather than considering homelessness abstractly. Moreover, singing is free and requires very few resources. The project aims to foster a sense of community identity and a pride in Dublin whereby people are brought together by an appreciation for songs about Dublin. This community can raise awareness of the issue via social media, audio recordings and concert performances. The project will involve a series of weekly rehearsals, frequent online documentation of the process, and the first phase of the project will culminate in a public performance. I feel audio recording is the best medium to document the project because audio content encourages listeners not to judge based on appearance. Can you tell a person’s background/circumstances by their singing voice?
Homelessness leads to extreme social exclusion. In 2014, 4,976 adults accessed homeless accommodation in Dublin, with 168 people sleeping rough in winter 2014. According to Focus Ireland and the Simon Community, the experience of homelessness harms mental health and lowers the self-esteem of those affected. The marginalisation of homeless people threatens community and civic pride in Dublin. There is a need for raising public awareness about the realities of facing these people.
There are three main benefits of the project to those participating: to improve their health; to help their self-esteem; and to tell their story. Singing is an aerobic activity that increases oxygen in the bloodstream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body. Singing also exercises your heart and lungs, improves poise, decreases muscular tension, and releases endorphins. It also encourages concentration and listening. They say that singing brings people together subconsciously because breathing rhythms have an impact on heart rate. This is especially apparent in collective singing, such as a choir. I wish to encourage both group and solo singing.
I aim to develop a support network of campaigners and musicians across Dublin, and eventually Ireland and beyond. Their efforts would expand the project’s capacity for positive social impact. Through my experience in the community and voluntary sector in Ireland and Northern Ireland, I have a large professional network in organisations such as Focus Ireland, Front Line Defenders, Trócaire, Oxfam, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO), the Law Centre (NI), the Legal Support Project, the Irish Centre for Human Rights, etc. I also have a wide network of professional musicians and singers whom I have already approached about involvement in this project.
In order to build relationships and influence key stakeholders and decision-makers, the campaigners and musicians must be fully engaged before the project launches, with an ongoing involvement and culminating in a public performance. I've the skills and vision to develop this project into something of social and cultural value.
Over the last decade, I have performed in venues across the world. I particularly enjoy collaborative performance and this feeds my interest in collective singing for this project. The way in which musicians collaborate can be expanded to bring together disconnected categories of society. This can facilitate referral to social services by gathering the relevant people in a room as an audience – eg. homeless services, medical professionals, etc. I feel it is important to incorporate this larger social/charity sector involvement into such an artistic project. Collaboration also requires social skills. It brings people together who would otherwise not meet and, through performance, singing engages more people than just the musicians.
I've been gradually honing my performance and collaborative skills for this project and will present a presentation about my project at the Galway International Summer School on the Arts & Human Rights in July 2015 on the theme of Belonging.
The first weekend sessions for The Ideas Collective take place on 6th and 7th June 2015. I’ll update the project next week and I’ll be trying to produce short audio clips documenting the 100 days. If you’ve any thoughts or ideas about what the project at this stage, don’t hesitate to drop me a line! Thanks!