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You Don't Need Permission To Play!

Have you ever been told by someone to pipe down, pack that racket in? Been refused entry to a choir or musical group because you weren’t ‘good enough’? Do you tell others you’re tone deaf (which is vanishingly rare)? Feel like you don’t have permission to play?

Play It Forward is Musical Walkabout's invitation to you to set down those old stories, and say YES to using music for wellbeing. Come and play with us!

Being excluded, or boasting that something is exclusive, can be a sadly common experience in the world of music, in every corner of the art form. From a school choir leader trampling the enthusiasm of a brilliantly warbling child, to the lofty competitive heights of pop charts, awards and the idea of an A-List, the odd and often unhelpful concept of ‘natural talent’ precludes the basic nature and purpose of music; to unite the disparate, to communicate through barriers and to bond us to one another.

When I founded Musical Walkabout in 2016, I’d been a gigging musician and teaching music peripatetically in schools for over 20 years. Since the far off days of my teens, when any given break time would find me circling the piano, singing Wilson Phillips with my mates, music has been a vital way of life for me.

I’d always felt an affinity with older people, and had missed the opportunity to help my Mum as she cared for my Nan in her last years. As Vascular Dementia eroded the Nan I knew, it never occurred to me to use music to connect with her, so our bond simply faded away. Musical Walkabout’s minstrel sessions offered a chance to reset the board against the isolating effects of dementia, and invite people to come and play.

As an introverted child, playing music gave me a means of channeling my curiosity about the world and since adolescence, writing music has given me a way to sort through and express my emotions and lived experiences. As an adult who has learned to appear extroverted, music is a solace, a shared language, a salve and a reason to get up and dance, when I feel like a wallflower.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a panacea. You have to meet music half way, with your curiosity, your effort, and a simple willingness to try . These days, I feel infinitely grateful that my creative confidence is robust enough to weather the inevitable storm of doubts and self-comparison that beset every professional musician, and when I remember to shine a little playfulness on my life, I’m always rewarded - after all, dopamine is one of several neurotransmitter chemicals released when we listen to, play or engage with music.

Play It Forward, Musical Walkabout’s online music challenge, launched last year in the midst of our Arts Council funded THRIVE project. As if the work plate wasn’t full enough, our commitment to ACE included a substantial audience development plan, and in a bid to smash these goals, I decided it should be a 30 day challenge (I’m a keen Yoga With Adrienne acolyte!)

You might notice this year’s Play It Forward musical social prescribing campaign is a more modest, but infinitely more achievable, 7 day music challenge. And you can duck in and out if you want - that’s the advantage of online activities - you can dive in at a time good for you.

The precepts at the heart of Play It Forward are simple; use music to support your wellbeing in ways that are

  1. Easy,

  2. Fun and

  3. Rewarding

There is plenty of genuine bollocks and injustice impeding public engagement with music - lack of time, money, privilege, access, opportunity. Negative experiences, othering, exclusion, and there’s that feeling again - I don’t have permission to play.


Play It Forward exists to entice you to try something new, to be curious, or inventive, and join us in discovering routes through the barriers. And you don’t have to do it alone. We’re passionate about the Buddy System to keep us from losing momentum. Just like a Gym Buddy, your Music Buddy is there to share the music journey with you - someone to play with!

It’s really straightforward. The data is in: music is beneficial to wellbeing. You’ve likely experienced this first hand. We’ve designed a wicked week of ideas and actions to get the creative ball rolling, complete with free resources you can share with your Music Buddies. There’s no one-size fits all approach to engaging with music, so let’s Play It Forward and explore what works for you.

Are you ready? Let’s play!


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