An interactive pomegranate orchard, a dance-mat quartet, a 6ft performing puppet made of recycled materials… just a few of the imaginative ideas brought to fruition during past Spitalfields Music Takeover projects.What makes Takeover even more special is that all of these have been dreamt up not by professional music leaders, but by the 8 year-old schoolchildren taking part. It’s this ingenuity and creative energy that has inspired Spitalfields Music to produce, for the first time, a third festival as part of its annual programme.
In March 2015 the Spring Takeover Festival sees pupils from Osmani, Stuart Headlam and The Cherry Trees primary schools in Tower Hamlets taking charge of programming and producing their own multi-arts festivals, inhabiting their entire school for a whole day with installations, spontaneous performances, and interactive music-making. Given the full resources that Spitalfields Music has to offer, they will work alongside music leaders (including those from Spitalfields Music’s Trainee Music Leaders scheme), their teachers and their parents. This may sound unusual but as Clare Lovett, Programme Director: Learning & Participation explains: “[this] is so important in the Takeover project – music and creativity not only take over the physical space of a school, but also engage everyone within the school community”.
The effects of Takeover go much further, however. The project is specially devised for children starting Key Stage 2, an important moment of transition in primary education. As the participants work to create their festival day, workshops and activities are structured to promote collaboration, imagination, confidence and leadership. The effects have not gone without notice, as one head teacher noted during a Takeover festival day last year, “it was wonderful to see so many who are normally introvert or shy come out of themselves.”
It’s this kind of impact that has encouraged the scale and ambition of the project to grow since being piloted in 2013. The next phase, the Spring Takeover Festival, sees more children than ever before taking part, and brings together even more members of the school communities. Spitalfields Music’s aim is to bring the Takeover model to all 72 of Tower Hamlets’s primary schools, challenging many traditional practices of how the arts are presented in schools, and embedding a more innovative approach to creative education.
The Spring Takeover Festival also bears many more qualities that are inimitably ‘Spitalfields Music’. Elements from across the organisation’s whole programme are brought into the creative melting pot as next year’s Associate Artists and those on the Trainee Music Leaders scheme will work with the children and the opportunities provided by Takeover are available equally to children in both special educational needs and mainstream education. There will also be opportunities for public audiences to encounter and enjoy the children’s creativity themselves.
For now, the children are at the beginning of their planning, exploring what their festivals could become. Who know what the imaginations of these young producers will dream up this time? You’ll have to come along and see.
Take a look at our website for more information about Takeover Spring Festival. Tickets are available from Monday 16 February, or Monday 2 February for Spitalfields Music Members.
A version of this article first appeared in Spitalfields Music Winter Festival 2014 programme book.