Common Ground has been integral to the arts landscape of Dublin 8 since 1998, facilitating dialogue and collaboration between a selection of artists and the residents of Inchicore, Rialto, Kilmainham and Bluebell. In addition to visual and performance arts, it is committed to innovative music initiatives that seek to develop the confidence of the individual and, in doing so, lead to positive outcomes for the community. In recent months it has focused on the two polars of the age spectrum: its pilot music scheme Tiny Voices brought musicians into early childcare settings while the Voice Programme, based in Rialto Social Day Care Centre, caters to the senior citizens of the Rialto area.
In 2012, Common Ground in collaboration with Early Childhood Ireland and The Base, Ballyfermot, designed and implemented the Tiny Voices pilot scheme in two early childhood settings in Dublin’s south-west inner city for 16 weeks. The project involved two discrete musical approaches, separately designed and put into practice by two musicians in collaboration with resident childcare practitioners in pre-school services located in The Base, Ballyfermot and Goldenbridge Day Nursery, Inchicore. These pre-school services allocated two groups of three- to five-year-old children and each musician made a series of weekly or twice weekly visits. Music was introduced to the children in the form of play, familiarising the children with aspects of music such as pitch, tone and beat. While the children became accustomed to different types of music, they were also exposed to live musical instruments, such as the classical guitar, ukulele, uilleann pipes and low whistle. The methodologies used were specifically linked to Aistear – Ireland’s early years curriculum framework – that at its heart hold the four principles of well-being; identity and belonging; communicating; and exploring and thinking. Research partners were St Patrick’s College Drumcondra and the music department of University College Cork.
On 23 April 2013, ‘Tiny Voices: an Early Years Music Research Report’ was officially launched by singer/songwriter/composer Julie Feeney. In presenting findings and recommendations garnered from the Tiny Voices pilot, the report demonstrates how musical activities can lock onto many other learning experiences and become the conduit through which the child – as an individual or within a group – can explore new domains and develop literacy or numeracy skills. It describes how music can capture the imagination and illuminate the learning experience with fun, creativity and enjoyment. The Tiny Voices pilot has established that music as an art form is a dynamic ‘hands-on’ experience, and in the control of a qualified musical artist and with the support of the childcare practitioners, it can become a slipway into a sea of learning activities and new knowledge.
The Voice Programme
Less structured but no less important in its ambition, Common Ground has also devised a strategy to bring positive musical experiences to the elderly members of the community it serves. In March 2013, it selected musician Eamon Sweeney to facilitate the Voice Programme in partnership with the Rialto Social Day Care Centre. Since 1995, the Rialto Social Day Care Centre has been a resource for the senior citizens of Rialto that seeks to help them maintain their dignity and independence and to fight the social isolation that too often comes with old age. The Voice Programme aims to give people who access the Centre an opportunity to develop confidence and enjoyment in music, however limited their musical background or experience.
Eamon’s involvement in research and teaching music to all age groups means that he is adept in using music to create a sense of unity, blurring distinctions between genres of music and their associated communities. The goal is to prepare a performance for Love: Live Music Day on 21 June, be it an original composition, a new arrangement of an old favourite or a vocal piece from outside the participants’ ‘comfort zone’.
As Eamon says, ‘Music is an amazing tool with which it is possible to do so much: create a shared space, express a feeling, foster understanding, unlock an emotion, invigorate the body, activate the mind, humanize a person, lighten a load. It is my aim to continue developing my understanding of, and ability to direct, the therapeutic and artistic power of music, and to make good use of that knowledge.’
You can read more about all of Common Ground’s projects at www.commonground.ie