Ben Higham Consulting


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AHRC Connected Communities
February 2014

Whatever happened to Community Music?

A report by Tony Brown, Ben Higham and Mark Rimmer, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

This report captures the thoughts and ideas of community music folk on where the sector is today and how it got here. Practitioners, trainers, managers, academics and funders all participated in a series of discussions exploring issues that all agreed were important aspects of community music activity. A previous report (McKay and Higham, 2011) identified that the ‘UK has been a pivotal player within the development of community music practice’ and these discussions set out to examine how the current state of the sector, bearing in mind the increasing emphasis on outcomes and the shift from collective to individual achievements, relates to the intentions and purposes of its dynamic past.

The meetings took place across the country (in Norwich, Manchester, Leeds and London) and sought to revitalise understandings, both inside and outside the sector, of community music’s potential role in connecting and developing communities. They also drew on participant’s expertise to develop priorities for further research that will increase understanding of the impacts of such activity.


Professional Culture Conflicts: Change Issues in Public Service Delivery

Tony Brown and Ben Higham with John Elliott and Christine O’Hanlon February 2012
Funded by Community University Engagement East at UEA, Norwich (CUEEast) as part of its Sustainable Living Programme and sponsored by Social Enterprise East of England (SEEE) Ltd.

Public service provision in the UK is being challenged by changes to structure, process and funding. As a result the context in which professionals and managers are required to deliver rapid change is characterised by paradox, inconsistency and incoherence. These confusions reflect the tension between the drive for higher quality services, at a time when the funding available to support such improvements is being urgently and radically reduced.

The research seeks to develop a clearer understanding of the cultural and operational issues posed by these changes by interviewing a range of public service professionals affected by them. Some respondents recognise the potential for opportunity and all are committed to service improvement. However, in practice professionals appear to be offered greater freedom and autonomy, and a move away from a target-driven culture, at the same time as the monitoring of simplistic and countable ‘outcomes’ is intensified.

In terms of emotional responses the spectrum was dramatic – ranging from supreme optimism and confidence, to head-shaking despair. Innovation and change are the rhetoric of encouragement whilst experience and professional confidence, necessary to deliver these things, are eroded by the shedding of experienced staff, and an obsession with governance and protocol.

The report recommends that a more honest dialogue needs to exist between policymakers and practitioners, so that a greater sense of shared purpose can be achieved, and the translation of policy into practice can be implemented and evaluated more effectively.



AHRC Connected Communities Community Music October 2011

Community music research review

Community music: history and current practice, its constructions of ‘community’, digital turns and future soundings

A report by George McKay and Ben Higham, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

The UK has been a pivotal national player within the development of community music practice. In the UK community music developed broadly from the 1960s and had a significant burgeoning period in the 1980s. Community music nationally and internationally has gone on to build a set of practices, a repertoire, an infrastructure of organisations, qualifications and career paths. There are elements of cultural and debatably pedagogic innovations in community music. These have to date only partly been articulated and historicised within academic research.

This document brings together and reviews research under the headings of history and definitions; practice; repertoire; community; pedagogy; digital technology; health and therapy; policy and funding, and impact and evaluation. A 90-entry, 22,000 word annotated bibliography was also produced. An informed group of 15 practitioners and academics reviewed the authors’ initial findings at a knowledge exchange colloquium and advised on further investigation. Some of the gaps in research identified are: an authoritative history, an examination of repertoire, the relationship with other music (practice), the freelance practitioner career, evidence of impact and value, the potential for a pedagogy.

Back to business

With Tony Brown, Social Enterprise East of England, Bedford, UK, 2010
How can social enterprises and their customers adapt to the opportunities arising from any change of values and expectations in the current business environment?

Transformation of Adult Social Care. February 2010

With Tony Brown, Social Enterprise East of England, Bedford, UK, 2010
The Transformation of Adult Social Care is a prominent and early expression of a wider commitment to the radical reform of the public service agenda. This transformation is associated with a reduction in costs, an improvement in efficiency, and the encouragement of innovation. This moment is linked to the conviction that Third Sector organisations – in particular Social Enterprises – could and should play an expanded role in innovative, cost efficient service delivery.

Those that can, play. Those that don't think they can, or think they ought not to, or think they are not allowed to, don't.

Music and/as Right Action Conference Norwich, UK 2007
We live in a world of cultural confusion. Under considerable, and misguided, pressure to be everything to everyone we are denying our individual circumstances and contexts, the elements that make our engagement with society meaningful and that inform how we understand the world. The danger is that this influence is insidiously received and is often interpreted by people as an internal restraint rather than an external constraint. As a consequence there is little potential and encouragement for the emergence of a creative person, that is someone who understands the purpose and nature of creative activity and engages in it as ethical behaviour.

The South Norfolk School Refuser Programme – collaborations in education. An exploration of the use of music-making activity within a structured group response to school refusal including the evaluation of the benefits across the curriculum and the implications for practice development for teachers and community music tutors.

International Conference on Research in Music Education, Exeter, UK, 1999 Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Conference, Norwich, UK, 1999 with Ian Brownlie and Emily Mumford

Is the notion of "multiculturalism" - potentially so attractive as a political and educational concept that promotes greater understanding - nothing more than a new form of cultural imperialism? Are there not better ways to encourage specific cultural voices that secure value and meaning?

International Society for Music Education (ISME) Community Music Activity Commission Seminar, Durban, South Africa, 1998
23rd ISME World Conference, Pretoria, South Africa 1998
Kusanganisa Festival – School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK 2000

What constitutes competent professional practice within Community Music East?

2nd Qualitative Methodologies in Music Education Research Conference, Urbana-Champaign, USA, 1996.
Community Music East Ltd. (CME) is an independent organisation working in community education through the medium of music. Users of the project include schoolchildren, both able-bodied and disabled, youth, the general public, young offenders, prisoners, adults with mental and/or physical disabilities and young people with mental health problems. The organisation provides in-service training to a range of professionals from the care, education and arts sectors as well initial teacher training for B. Ed students and as part of post- graduate music teacher training courses in university.

Is there such a thing as a person-­referenced construct of competence (being competent)?

This essay makes the case for a person-referenced construct of competence. This construct is always used to decide an individual’s fate, good or bad. In reality, any perception other than the particular as to how an individual is viewed in the context of his/her function, job, profession, vocation is unworkable and, ultimately, irrelevant. When a decision is made all general criteria are rejected in favour of the specific. This is the healthiest view of competence as it is one that affirms the person by enabling them to identify the continuing growth of their ability rather than the trend that competencies, assessed objectively and discretely at a specific moment, have a habit of disappearing.

The role of values and judgements in the development of autonomy in the music teacher and community music tutor. Diverse professional musical experience and a common interest in action research leading to a dynamic view of music teacher/community music tutor training and praxis. A different approach.

ISME Commission On Community Music Activity, Athens, Georgia, USA, 1994
with Maggie Teggin, University of East Anglia (UEA)
This paper takes the form of a brief outline of the formative musical and educational experience of the authors as practitioners and how this has influenced their involvement in, and approach to, the training of trainee music teachers and community music tutors. The later section is the basis for an interactive workshop exploring data gathered through the teaching and training of music teachers and tutors, and specific associated research in this field, that relates to the role of values and judgements in the development of relevant and useful practice.

Community music - philosophy and practice put to the test

ISME Commission On Community Music Activity, Oslo, Norway 1990 and published in "The Community Musician: training a new professional", (Drummond J. Editor) The Norwegian Affiliation of ISME, Oslo, Norway, 1991, ISBN: 82-91007-02-0 pp. 36-41
In the context of the operation and activity of an established community music organisation in the UK this paper considers the following questions; what are the community's needs? Who decides what they are? Who determines the training musicians get? What skills and qualities does a community musician need and how can these be developed?