11th February 2015
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the chance encounters, connections and opportunities that have shaped my life. In 2012, as an MSc student at Strathclyde University, one of my undergraduate lecturers, Peter Argondizza, suggested that I fill a last minute space on an interdisciplinary research event, as he knew I was keen to pursue postgraduate research. Little did I know this would involve working with Paragon, setting me off on an adventure over the last three years that I could not have predicted at all. In one of the most valuable weeks of my life, I learned for the first time about the social model of inclusion, universal design, and found myself drawn into Paragon’s work. Later that summer I went to visit the M3 project in action, having heard so much about it and really wanting to see it for myself. I ended up joining M3 as a musician, quickly pushing me towards developing new musical skills in this largely improvised and intensely creative environment. Following a few months of incredible opportunities with M3, I wanted to use my research skills to do something in return for Paragon. We decided to apply for a Go & See grant (administered by Engage Scotland; supported by Creative Scotland) to visit Ireland and find out about inclusive arts activity in Belfast, Dublin and Cork. This was a big step for me as a researcher, to work outside of an academic setting, and to represent Paragon. You can see my diary updates from that trip on Paragon’s Facebook page.
Through my research links with Lio Moscardini and Alastair Wilson at Strathclyde University, I became involved in Paragon’s plans for an inclusive instrumental instruction programme, Play On, and Ninian identified that my administrative experience and understanding of Paragon’s inclusive ethos would put me in a good place to help run Play On. Lots of timetables, meetings and busy Saturdays later, I’ve now been coordinating Play On sessions for nearly two years!
I’ve recently gone back to university to study for a PhD, an endeavour that Paragon has always supported me in, and one I hope will allow me to support Paragon in return. I plan on looking at the accessibility of musical learning opportunities, in terms of how we negotiate musical traditions and ideas of what musicianship is. This is very much inspired by the musical learning I have witnessed at Play On. Paragon has provided me with crucial support and opportunities to develop as a musician, researcher and inclusive thinker – thank you for setting me off on this adventure; I can’t wait to see where it takes me!