Shelley Tracey discusses her work on the “Move to the Music” project.

Who are you working with on this project?

I am working with a group called International Women in North Down. The group includes women from countries all over the world, and local women as well. They come together as friends and as people with common interests.

The group organises lots of activities together and takes part in courses. Their participation in “Move to the Music” is only one of the projects they have been involved in in Lockdown.

What is your process in terms of this project?

This project has been taking place via Zoom, which is different from my original experience of working on a related project with the Ulster Orchestra in January 2020. That work was face to face, of course – little did we know then that we would have to adapt to such difference circumstances.

The original project involved working with a group of writers at the Spectrum Centre, Belfast, with their art facilitator, Sally Young, and with Jonathan Simmance from the Ulster Orchestra. I facilitated some writing sessions, attended by Sally and Jonathan as well as all the group members. They also took part in art classes and separate sessions with Jonathan.

The outcome was an event in Malvern Primary School which involved readings from the group, interspersed with pieces of music played by members of the Ulster Orchestra, which responded to these pieces. The music was composed by Jonathan Simmance.

It was a great interactive experience, and lovely to be working across different art forms. So I was really pleased to be involved in this project with the orchestra and International Women in North Down. We have had four creative writing sessions on Zoom, with a member of the orchestra taking part as well. When the group members submitted the pieces which they would like included in the final product, they thought about the kinds of music they would like to respond to their writing.

In the next stage of the process, Jonathan will work with the group on their ideas and put together the final group response. I look forward to seeing the music/writing collaboration. Some of the group members are really artistic and submitted beautiful pictures as well. So the final product will be amazing!

Was there a theme you were working with?

We worked on the overall theme of “Gardens,” because that was something the participants were interested in, and it also embodied the ideas of place, hope and creativity which are connected to the project.

The co-creation in this case had to be done at a distance?

Yes, as have all the projects I have worked on since March 2020. In this time, I have worked with many groups online, and have got my head around how to make it work.

So online working can be effective?

Yes, it can in many ways, although there are limitations, of course. One thing that works well on Zoom is the use of images to inspire writing and generate discussion.

Do you know when the final presentation will take place?

I don’t know the answer to this question, because there are other groups involved, and some are still to get started with their own projects. I think that there will be some kind of online performance or other online product which will showcase the work of all of the groups which took part. Of course, COVID restrictions will impact on the form of the final presentation.

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