An inclusive and long overdue music workshop scheme is launching in the Welsh capital this month. Isabel Thomas hears more about Pitch In Cardiff from one of its coordinators, Rosey Brown.
Pitch In is starting up at a time when live music has finally been given the green light in Wales and we can benefit more freely from the social and mental health benefits of music-making. How does the project intend to widen access to this?
Pitch In is about giving people a go at playing in a band – people who might not have had a chance before because spaces in which band-based music happens can often be very male, very white, very straight, very cis, and also not accessible. So these workshops are a reaction to that. They are for and by people who identify as disabled (visible or non-visible), trans*, queer, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, as people of colour, as women.
There will be workshops on guitar, bass guitar, drums, keys, and songwriting, and everyone there will be pretty much a beginner, so there’s no pressure! You can sign up and state your access needs beforehand so we can make sure we know everyone is comfortable and catered for. We’re holding it downstairs in SHIFT, which now has wheelchair access (yay!), and it’s a nice big well-ventilated space so people can distance if they want to.
This is just a pilot, really, to see if people are interested, see what works, and what needs to be improved. Hopefully, some people in Cardiff will get a chance to try some instruments they’ve always wanted to try.
Are there any similar projects that tackle diversity in local music scenes in this way?
Ladies Of Rage are doing incredible work in Cardiff already and they’re a really inspiring collective. Pitch In is inspired by similar start-a-band projects that are already happening in the UK, especially in London and Bristol. First Timers Fest in London, which tackles the lack of diversity in punk music by creating opportunities for people who have never played before, has been going for years and some amazing bands have come out of it, including Big Joanie, Charmpit and Best Praxis.
Many adults believe it is too late for them to learn an instrument. How would you respond to this?
It’s never too late! If you want to try it then come along, there’s no age limit to Pitch In. Also, loads of good songs that are really catchy only use four chords, and you can learn four chords quite quickly.
There are lots of barriers that mean people don’t feel like they’re allowed to get up on stage. Then you see another stale male indie band rhyming ‘see’ with ‘me’ and strutting about on stage like they’re God’s gift. So if you’re thinking, “I could probably do something more interesting than that”, or “I’d like to see more people like me onstage”… you can do it! It doesn’t need to be polished. Come and have a go.
The project begins with a taster session and meet and greet on Sun 20 Feb, followed by weekly workshops in instrument-playing, singing and songwriting. Can you tell us a bit about the various musicians who will be leading these workshops?
Yeah, the first session is a great way to come and try all the different instruments. There will be a drum kit, guitars, bass guitars and keyboards, and a few musicians to say hello to and get tips from. I think we might learn a really basic song, all together, on that first session – you only need two chords, one beat and two bass notes to start playing together.
There are some amazing musicians leading the sessions. At the taster session, we’ll have Emma Daman Thomas on drums who is a performer, designer, and multi-instrumentalist in beloved band Islet. We have Francesca Dimech on guitar, who has been in loads of different Cardiff bands and is an experienced tutor, and Kay Stanley on bass who is part of Bristol’s start-a-band project, Eat Up For Starters, plays in Cosmit and co-runs Specialist Subject Records in Bristol.
Then we have the workshops: Gwenllian Anthony of Adwaith is leading our bass workshop on Sun 27 Feb, and Casper and Chris of Telgate are leading our songwriting workshop on Sun 6 Mar – both incredible bands, both sure to be great. Emma is back leading the drumming workshop on Sun 13 Mar which will be really fun, exploring percussion. Last but certainly not least we have Katriine and Mary Waters leading our guitar workshop on Sun 20 Mar. They are both alumni of the excellent Saffron Sounds’ Springboard scheme in Bristol, creating new exciting stuff.
What level can participants expect to have reached in a few months’ time? Will they be ready to perform in public as a band?
We shall see! Hopefully, some bands will emerge from these sessions. If that happens, we would definitely set up a showcase show in a few months’ time – a low-pressure environment where people can have their first gig.
For now, though, we’re just looking at the first steps. It can take time to form as a band. It can be tricky to meet people to play with or know what instrument you’re interested in, so Pitch In will hopefully be a chance for interested people to have a go.
SHIFT is providing some time each week between sessions, so people can come into the space and use the instruments if they want, for free. This way, people can start to explore playing together, hopefully, and see if they get a taste for it.
words ISABEL THOMAS
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