Spitz @ Hackney Museum – October 28th 2015
“Marhaba, Soo Dhawaw and Good Morning” beams storyteller Chinyere, reading the African words of welcome strewn across the floor. Hanging from her every word, children and parents lean forward, while museum-goers and students stop to bring camera-phones out. As we bend syntax and rhythm to help our tongues find their way around these colourful words, dulcet trumpet tones begin to warm up the background…
The ‘African Threads, Hackney Style’ exhibit demonstrated the creation and use of printed cloths and their designs as expressions of African identity, and what better a backdrop for The Spitz Charitable Trust to engage with the public during the autumn half term.
“It was wonderful to have Spitz take over Hackney Museum during half-term and bring in such a dynamic and talented group to entertain the museum audiences who turned up on the day. We were thrilled with the session, which was extremely well attended by people of all ages.” Emma Winch, Heritage Learning Manager, Hackney Museum
With thanks to joint funding between the RSA and Arts Council England, we were able to showcase the musical diversity of Spitz sessions as well as increase awareness of our work on relieving isolation through live music and cross-generational activity. Having predominantly worked in Haringey thus far, we were eager to expand our reach into Hackney, and beyond.
The event’s conception began when the Hackney Museum’s manager visited our pop-up-shop-come-office earlier this year. The pairing of this particular exhibit and the diasporic attributes of jazz music, its nature of improvisation and our musicians was an amalgamation waiting to happen.
Another serendipitous visitor of the shop was actor Clint Dyer, who also agreed to read poetry for us, again diversifying our event. The Spitz pop-up has been a “cave of treasures” for Dalston’s locals and our base of operations over the last year.
While The Spitz is proud to bring world class musicians to the everyday, we are actively proving that recognising and nurturing music from any individual has a positive influence on their (and our) wellbeing.
Victor Stewart (87, dementia) is one such individual. Now a recurring figure at Spitz events (having recently played in the Kings Place Festival), he and his daughters arrived guitar in-hand to revel in his performance of the hotly coined ‘Victor’s Blues’.
“Your organisation promotes good mental health for people suffering from dementia like my father, and allows them to make new friends and visit different environments” – Victoria, Victor’s Daughter
Victor is one of the many elders we regularly visit at day centres across Haringey. where our repeated presence has helped him achieve a state of musicianship and purpose that not many his age feel they could maintain.
Clint Dyer’s son, Merlin (14) is an aspiring pianist and was equally deserving of an opportunity to perform. As this was one of his first tastes of professional musicianship, we felt a compelling need to nurture the moment for him, and with advice in abundance from The Spitz ensemble Merlin took to the museum stage with confidence, even unexpectedly tipping his head to our trumpeter Jay Phelps to join him for a solo! Since then, Merlin has played with us at The Haven Day Centre, where he continues his growing legacy and tutorage with us.
African drumming group Drumhead featured a 7 year old who became a peer for younger audience members who looked on in wonder. Her presence also meant that the age range of performers that day was 7 to 87 – a stunning 80 year span!
The work is symbiotic for staff, musicians and participants, as everyone learns from each other and from this comes new music, relationships and confidence.
‘When asked to play at the exhibit on my trumpet I was nervous, I can’t recall the last time I played in public. But being in the presence of Merlin, Victor, Jay & Chico just dissolved my nerves – we were all in it together” – Jai Channa, Spitz Charity Co-ordinator
The “juxtaposition” of young and old sharing the stage with musicians in their prime is a testament to Spitz’s ethos and something we hope to advocate as our lifespan continues. Though Victor, Merlin et al. seem worlds apart on paper, that day all experienced the same sense of purpose that music brings.