Since 1978 Jane Wells has led various short and long term community music projects for organisations that include:
Ashville House Residential Home (Norfolk) – Battersea Arts Centre (London) – Big Heart & Soul Choir (Norfolk) – Britten Sinfonia (Cambridgeshire) – Cambridgeshire Music Service – City of London Sinfonia – Coast (Norfolk) – Creative Partnerships (Norfolk and Lincolnshire) – Firebird Trust (East Midlands) – Gemini (London) – Goldsmiths College Department of Continuing Education (London) – Holt Day Services (Norfolk) – Hugh Lupton (East Anglia) – Ivo Centre COPD (Spalding) – King’s Lynn Day Services – King’s Lynn Festival – Lincolnshire County Council – London Mozart Players (Nottinghamshire) – Ludus Dance Company (Lancashire) – More Music in Morecombe (Lancashire) – Morley College of Adult Education (London) – Norfolk County Youth Service – Norfolk Music Works – Norwich Arts Centre – Norwich Castle Museum – Nutmeg Puppet Company (East Anglia) – Orchestras Live – Peterborough Festival – Rosemary Lee (Shropshire and Norfolk) – SingUp (Lincolnshire) – SoundLINCS (Lincolnshire) – Squeaky Gate (Peterborough) – Rambert Academy (London) – The Place (London) – Sing Your Heart Out (Norfolk) – Singers Inspired (Norfolk) – Vital Communities (Cambridgeshire) – East of England Orchestra now VIVA (Derbyshire) – Voices Unplugged (Lincolnshire) – WEA – Wells Arts Centre (Norfolk) and Wider Opportunities (Norfolk and the Midlands).
Brief descriptions of a few of these projects:
For the King’s Lynn Festival: composer leading 6 projects over 6 years. In each instance groups of schoolchildren worked ahead of evening or coffee concerts given by visiting ensembles to contribute short pieces to each event. The children worked creatively in their schools with Jane and members of the visiting ensembles for a few days ahead of each concert and good fun was had by all! (2014-2019)
For Cambridge-based Squeaky Gate: composer leading music-making sesions for adults who attended the Sue Ryder Hospice Day Centre in Peterborough (2011-2012).
For Orchestras Live: composer leading a week’s residency with a group of able secondary school music students with the involvement of 3 instrumentalists from the London Mozart Players. The project took the idea of carnival as its starting point and the newly created music-theatre piece was performed – along with puppetry animation by Year 7 children working with Blunderbus – in the orchestra’s concert at Newark’s Palace Theatre. The programme also included Saens-Saens Carnival of the Animals (2010).
For Norfolk Music Works: project instigator and director of Crossing The Line, an innovative multi-art form project with a focus on experimentation involving a small team of professional musicians, a visual artist, swimming coaches and a group of around 100 participants. Adults and children worked over a summer holiday period towards a final performance in Dereham Leisure Centre swimming pool. “the project is very unusual and that’s what makes it appealing”…..”a wonderful experience and the happiest group of singers I have sung with” (2008).
For Norfolk & Norwich Festival: music facilitator for a Creative Partnerships ‘change’ project at Burnham Market Primary School where the Year 5/6 class explored a 20 miles strip of the North Norfolk coast from a sound point-of-view through trips on Coasthopper buses! Explorations provided the basis for creating in-school sound installations (2010).
Two fuller examples of projects:
FEN SOUNDSCAPE for BRITTEN SINFONIA and HUNTINGDONSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL (2009-10)
Jane worked on one strand of this project alongside composer, Mike Challis, and instrumentalists from the orchestra. She led workshops with 55 Year 2 children and some family members from Spinning Infants School in Ramsey to create both sounds and songs inspired by the local Great Fen. To stimulate their thinking, the children visited Woodwalton Fen where they learned about the plants and creatures living there. They listened to, and were helped to record, the sounds around them which included birds singing, insects buzzing, reeds rustling, a faraway tractor, a bird scarer, a plane overhead and their overall favourite sound – squelching through the mud!
Slosh! Swish! Slosh! Swish!
You can slosh through the mud and swish in the grass.
And listen to the birds twittering in the trees,
And the wind in the branches fluttering the leaves.
In subsequent workshops the children referred to their recordings in order to recreate some of the sounds they had heard using a range of both familiar and unfamiliar instruments. A number of the Year 2 children, along with siblings and family members, then wrote songs inspired by the Fen landscape in workshops that took place after school and holiday family music workshops. Four songs in particular were brought back to the whole group of 55 children. They included instrumental interludes designed to be played by all the children along with singing and a performance was given to the whole school.
“I remember the Wiggly Bridge Song. that was my favourite. We sing it in the garden and the car. We keep going back to the Fens. Sometimes we take our dollies in their buggies – they really like it there too. We’ve all been noticing the birds there more now, haven’t we Mum?” Yr 2 participant.
As a final touch Jane added in instrumental parts for the 4 Britten Sinfonia instrumentalists to accompany the songs performed once again as part of a final celebratory event at St Thomas a Becket Church in Ramsey alolngside work from a teenage group who had meanwhile worked with Britten Sinfonia musicians and Mike Challis.
“The girls are always inventing when they are playing. I quite often hear little snippets of the songs when they’re out in the garden. They’re all in our heads now so, yes, we sing them together. I like the contrasts in the songs from bright and sunny to dark and dirgy…..They sounded so good when they were sung by everyone together with the Britten Sinfonia musicians accompanying – really professional!” Parent
An unanticipated outcome of the project was the publication of the four songs. This was due to the enthusiasm of Dr Frankie Williams (Cambridgeshire’s Head of Music and Culture) who attended the celebratory performance and said that she would like to see the songs circulated around all infant, junior and primary schools in the County. An external sponsor was found to fund the production of the publication and, after much work on scoring and recording a teaching CD by the professional team, the Little Song Book for The Great Fen was printed and launched a year later.
(Much of the above is extracted from an evaluatory project report by Susan Potter).
NOW AND THEN AROUND DOWNHAM (2005-2007)
This was one of a series of multi-art form intergenerational projects that took place in a Norfolk market town through Norfolk Music Works. Elderly residents at the care home, Ashville House, worked alongside young people from Downham Market High School who took part in out-of-school-hours activity with support from the school’s drama teacher.
The starting point of the project was to explore past and potential patterns of work in and around the town based on participants’ histories and aspirations. With the Ashville House residents, Jane supported the creation of an audio soundscape incorporating words, song and music around the theme.
The young people created a ‘cabaret’ juxtaposing life experiences inspired by the residents’ stories alongside their own current teenage experiences. The piece also included live music with new songs and lyrics written by participants as well as sing-along ‘favourites’ for all to join in.
A visual artist facilitated the making of a banner of silkscreen painting with the residents.
A celebration garden party at Ashville House brought the young peoples’ performance to an audience of residents, staff, friends and family. At the same event the residents’ soundscape received its first public hearing.
A culminating project exhibition was staged at The Town Hall during Downham Market’s annual June Festival. The exhibition, hosted by the project artists and Ashville House residents, included photos, residents’ life story scrapbooks, visual artwork, a film of the young people’s cabaret, and the residents’ audio soundscape. It proved an enormous success with many visitors.
“We have our lives so easy compared to them. I don’t necessarily have to leave school and start work until I am in my 20’s because of university. They were 14! My age now.” (a young participant)
“Residents don’t often see young people” (Ashville House Manager)
“A lot has changed between then and now, but deep down everyone is the same.”
The project won a Norfolk ‘Learning Communities’ award. It was managed by Norfolk Music Works with Jen Fulljames for Ashville House and artists included Jane Wells and Les Chappell (sound and music), Tania Spelacy (visuals) along with Cate Markwell (High School drama teacher).
On The Edge Ensemble – Hoofbeat Streetband – Saxophone Solos
Training, Mentoring and Project Management
One of a team of artistic assessors (music) for Arts Council England from 2012-2017, in each of these years travelling to several venues across England to undertake the work.
Mentor and workshop trainer for Wider Opportunities – continuing professional development in music for teachers (2009-2010).
Leader of SingUp training sessions for SoundLINCS to help train adult singing leaders from teaching and community project backgrounds to support and enthuse children to sing (2009-2010).
Manager of the Wells Fishing Project run by Wells Primary School in Norfolk which involved children both in school and more widely in the community to study the Fishing Heritage of this seaside town. Apart from managing the practicalities of the project, Jane worked closely with visiting artists and townspeople to effect a successful outcome through workshops, performances and artwork celebrations (2007-2008).
One of a five-strong mentoring group working under the leadership of coach-mentor, Edwina Parker, for Firebird in Lincolnshire. Following some training, each mentor offered a series of sessions for two or three younger community musicians. Jane mentored musicians in Lincoln and Nottingham (2004-2005).
A short presentation on community music projects was contributed to a London conference run by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and the then British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (now the The Ivors Academy). The conference title was ‘Composers: Who needs them? – Composers and the Community’ and the keynote speaker was Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in his role of Master of the Queen’s Music. (2008)