Transcript: Limelight Music

Michael McEwan speaks to Gordon Dougall, Artistic Director of Limelight Music.

Podcast Episode: Limelight Music

Category: Disability 



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MM - Michael McEwan
GG - Gordon Goodall

MM Okay now at we’re joined by Gordon Goodall the Director of Limelight and Gordon the first question would be what is Limelight?

GG Well basically Limelight’s an organisation that supports disabled musicians and provides professional training and employment with the largest employer of disabled musicians in Scotland and within that remit we also roll out a youth’s programme to primary schools and to primary schools with Autism units, vision impairment units and hearing impairment units to encourage children to look at ways of developing skills in music and also drama but mainly music, and the reason for this is so that they can get transferrable skills that can lead to employment in other stratospheres of the, of the world basically. So that, that means that, say for instance by performing on a stage when it’s appropriate then the child can get the confidence so that it increases their ability to be able to hold interviews or negotiate and discuss things with their peers, so it’s, it’s a company that’s been going as a charity now for 26 years I think, just over 26 years.

MM You’ve been about for 26 years but in that time you ran a few different projects. So, can you tell us about these projects?

GG Yes well one of the first projects was we ran the first residential music courses for disabled people in Scotland in 1990. That created a workforce that went into then adult resource centres and community centres all over Scotland looking for people with a musical talent and that created the first generation of Scottish disabled musicians and they went on to record albums, to tour, to play in Romania, Germany, Ireland, Israel, across the world and also they were, they were kind of the subject of empirical research by the eminent psychologist, Professor Raymond Macdonald and he looked at what was happening. How the individuals were developing within, then as it was, Sounds of Progress and obviously that was an original name that was formed and… Strathclyde Orchestral Productions was the name at the time then it changed to Sounds of Progress because it had changed to SOP basically and they had to keep the SOP logo and then Limelight became a necessity. They changed their name because several magicians wanted to be called a finished article rather than something in progress. So then also what we did was we produced the first professional music theatre show including disabled people on a paid professional basis on equity contracts. Then also after that we recorded albums with various bands. Michael Cann band, the Super Heroes, lots of individual musicians and also within that we produced our own music theatre productions that went on to play in lots of big theatres and it was professionally produced and everyone got paid for it and they all went on tour together, stayed overnight so basically put a whole kind of new element into people’s lives, particularly people with impairments. Then from that individual people went on to do things like get University degrees in music and become, and particularly with a lot of people with Autism became independent travellers and then now, by themselves work full-time and so it gives people a journey to go through in their life and it assists them in their social life as well so it’s not just about music. For example, at the moment I’m talking to Edinburgh College about putting a course together that basically is to assist people regardless of the subject they’re doing when they’re at College or University. The idea is that what worked with the musicians, particularly those with Aspergers and Autism within my line, what made the difference apart from music and what made the difference was the social circumstances, the development of self, em you know, image and idea, ideology, the basic sense of humour and lateral thinking exercises that we worked on. So, what we were discussing about now is putting a course together. The course isn’t just about music. It means if somebody’s doing technical drawing, they’re doing physics, electronic engineering, whatever they’re doing, that this course coexists with them and it’s to help them get through the course rather than help them with the subject matter. So basically, they’d come to us for half a day and we would work based around music but ultimately the goal would be to give them the ability to think laterally, you know, so that they actually look at the bigger picture. To give them a sense of humour so it helps them to get over the problems and that way hopefully impact on their experience on courses which, for some people haven’t been, you know they haven’t been successful but we feel that with this coexisting course that will help. So that’s the kind of things that we’ve been up to for the last, you know, 20 odd years and also, as I say, we’ve been closely linked to the entertainment industry. For example, one of our musicians became the first professional Musical Director with a learning impairment and he went on to be Musical Director for Tony Roper’s The Steamie, 25th anniversary, so 5 years ago. So he was on tour with big stars running the music for the show in big number 1 theatres like the Kings, Glasgow, Kings, Edinburgh, Inverness, Eden Court, Aberdeen, His Majesty’s, all these kind of things. So, it meant that it was having an impact and then also coexisting with that we had the first visually impaired professional Musical Director who started work with us at the Tron Theatre. So that, we’ve had a huge impact on the entertainment business. We’ve had quite a big impact internationally. At the moment the main impact is with employment of disabled musicians and the existence of disabled people going into primary schools because in primary schools there is no, or I’ve not come across any people that have an impairment in primary schools working. So, what we’re doing now is introducing that to young children. So, they’re getting used to seeing, you know a hearing impaired percussionist or a visually impaired project leader. So, it gives them, you know, these role models. Basically, just trickling down into society of how people with impairments can take on any job if they’re given the right support and the right opportunity basically.

MM So you’ve ran all these projects over the years, you’ve worked with so many different people in that time, what’s the feedback been like that you’ve been working with these people?

GG The feedback’s pretty incredible. I mean we do a lot of the valuation now because you have to obviously for funding and the valuations coming back from hundreds and hundreds of kids that they’ve really enjoyed Limelight and they were, even to the extent that some people were surprised at how good a visually impaired Musical Director, Project Leader could be and it gave them a real insight into looking at people with impairments in a completely different light and these people, these kids are between, you know, nursery age right the way through to Primary 7. So, it’s basically working on the equalities and the equalities evaluation that’s come back is artistically excellent which we kind of know that because we’ve got good people out there, but also the sort of inclusive and equalities element of it has been really noticed. So therefore, you know, Head Teachers, Local Authorities look at you, we’re getting to the stage now where we have to find and train new people because we need a bigger workforce to deal with the amount of demand for the work.

MM So how can people get involved?

GG Well basically the best thing to do is to either go on the website and make an enquiry or phone the office which is 01415488929 and speak to either Matt Gotley or Gerry Rossi and then somebody will be put on our radar and obviously from that point of view they can come into the training programme which is basically coming out and seeing what we do. Then if it’s for that person then they can become a trainee and they can work on our training courses and that’s a paid post and after a while they become and assistant which is a slightly higher level of pay and there’s leadership courses as well that we do and once they’ve got a leadership course and feel ready to lead work then they can lead work in either mainstream or in units. For example, one of our musicians who is, has Aspergers has already led projects in a school with an Autism Unit going and working with kids with Autism, explaining how he functioned when he was younger in being Autistic, being in the spectrum and how he dealt with it or didn’t and the things that happened to him that made him able to do what he’s doing now. So, he became a really good role model for young people with Autism. So, that’s, so there’s a various level of involvement. Having said that if somebody wanted to get involved with the more administrative side of the organisation then there’s nothing to say that they couldn’t phone up and say, “Look can I come into the office a certain amount of times over the next year and just learn a little bit about how Limelight is administered?”

MM So how can are you working on any new projects at the moment? I know you were speaking about you were working with Edinburgh University but are you working on any more?

GG Yes, we’re looking at a Scottish music and health network which is all about how music can impact on people’s health and basically it’s, it’s almost like the NHS. You can reduce the NHS load of people that have mental health issues by making interventions through music that will assist them to feel better about their environment. So we’re looking on that. We’re also working on nursery projects in West Lothian where we’re going to most of the nurseries in West Lothian and we’re working with young children on a music making project which is about making instruments, looking at sounds, devising stories from the sounds and then learning over, I think, the 12 week period and that’s a roll out programme that we want, we’ve already done in the Clyde windfarm area and we’re also running a project in a studio in Erskine where what we’re going to do is work with a group of people interested in music, develop their skills then we’re going to do a collaboration with a place called Wiston Lodge which is down in the Clyde windfarm area and Winston Lodge is basically an outdoor pursuit centre but particularly specialises in people at risk, vulnerable people, people with impairments and the idea is that Limelight with provide a musical project down there and they will also experience an outdoor activity alongside of it. So the idea is that it kind of opens up the social world for a lot of people and at the end of it they do a performance to an invited audience. So, there’s a few programmes we’re working on. We’re also working on an international development with Mrisho Mpoto who is the national poet of Tanzania. He’s the number one slung poet in Africa and number three in the world and we’re working on a programme with him where he comes out and works with us and we kind of look at African, African culture. For example, in nurseries in Africa they don’t have toys, they don’t have IPads so they do dance, poetry, singing. You know it’s all, a lot of it outdoors as well. So, what we want to do is, we want to create a lot of links with the Tanzanian nurseries and come back and try and give a bit of that information to the nurseries in Scotland. Because the other thing is within mainstream nurseries there’s a lot of people who are from economically inactive families, also of young children with impairments that are in mainstream nurseries now. So, it’s basically about the responsibility of going in and helping to support people and not being passive about it and not waiting for people to come to us trying to find who’s out there who needs us.

MM So why do you think there was a need for an organisation like Limelight for people with impairments, disabilities, mental health issues to get into the mainstream arts, why was it so important?

GG Well it came, the actual whole idea and the whole, you know, reason for it happening, you know, founded was that in 1989 I was Musical Director of City which was a large scale community, professionally led community show working with 300 people or more in Glasgow and it had the professional team was Robert Carlyle, the actor, Caroline Paterson, Susan Nisbet, myself and the musician who is sadly no longer with us, Neil Hay, and what we did was we put together this big show that was written by Tom McGrath and directed by Allan Wydiatt and we did it at the Tramway but there was a programme of development in the community that went on for months before that performance and rehearsal period. What had happened was when we got onto the Tramway suddenly all these people were bussed in and there were people in wheelchairs, wheelchair users, people with learning impairments and I’d not had any contact with these people. Now they were all getting, “Oh could you take 4”, I can’t remember how many, “into the music group.” They’ve not had any preparation so it’s not really fair on them. So, it was obvious that all these people that were coming in who had been in Adult Resource Centres and were coming to Community Centres didn’t have any representation in the drama and music world and didn’t have any training so I suggested to Strathclyde Regional Council that they started an organisation which then was called METS, Music, Entertainment Training School, something like that, yes? And with Allan then, you know, wrongly called but that’s generality then, a special needs orchestra. We’re going back a long time now, you know. You’d get shot for saying that now, quite rightly. But what happened was they said, “You’re right, Richard Stilgoe runs these course down in England, could you go and have a look at them and do a report on it?” This was involved with projectability as well. So, I went down, did the report, met Richard, all went really well. Came back and said to them, “Right, here’s a plan.” So, I wrote a plan for them and then they basically turned round to me and said, “Yes, on the condition that you do it. That you lead it for three years so that…” You know obviously a lot more than three years but that was the original deal. And in that time I got a lot of support. I got funding and that led to the residential music courses that I was telling you about and then led to the, you know, everything’s happened since then. So, the need was almost dropped in the lap. It was obvious. I’d had a bit of experience obviously because I’ve a daughter who’s got a severe impairment and high support needs and I had an uncle who had been a professional footballer player and ended up suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and ended up in hospital for many years, in the locked ward of Bangour (spelt phonetically) in the old days when, you know, they locked people up in the west wing. So, I’d had experience of that. I don’t know how much that affected me. I think, maybe it just had made me more aware and noticed that there was an issue but anyway by noticing the problem I thought, this has to be fixed in some way. So we made an impact. Not as big as we, I wouldn’t say I was happy with the impact, I said we made an impact but I’d have liked it to have been and still hope it will be, you know have a greater impact on people’s lives and society in general.

MM So I know I’ve asked you this before, but I usually ask people at the end to give out your contact details. How can people email Limelight or phone?

GG Well there’s and he’s the main, you know, Project Manager and he’s the person who puts together the database of people who are interested in getting involved. And I think it’s not just to think, not just to think professionally because we’ve still got a lot of people who say for instance that they’re on disability benefits and they don’t want to let that go and they, you know, because it gives them an element of security and stability. So, they can come and volunteer. We have musicians who come out to us on a regular basis who take the role of the trainee or even sometimes assistant but they do it as a voluntary activity. We obviously reimburse and make sure they don’t get out of pocket. So, we’re not asking them to pay their fares or, you know, put petrol in cars, but it’s their decision, it’s not ours. So, there’s a scope for people of different levels in terms of employment coming into the organisation and we try whenever to accommodate somebody and give them a positive experience of the organisation.

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