Grassroots music movement aims to address arts 'imbalance' in Stratford - The Stratford Observer
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18th Aug, 2022

Grassroots music movement aims to address arts 'imbalance' in Stratford

Catherine Thompson 9th Jul, 2021 Updated: 14th Jul, 2021

A MUSIC movement is aiming to address an ‘imbalance’ of Shakespeare and grassroots arts in Stratford while supporting young musicians.

Clare Thomas runs Stratford Music Network – a social movement which provides fledgling musicians and bands with support and experience they might not otherwise have access to.

Among the opportunities provided by the network is its Shakespeare Sessions – live music staged at Stratford’s Shakespeare Street Cocktail Bar and Nightclub – designed to showcase new and young artists. The project is also offering paid work to music and media students to support the events backstage.

The mum-of-three fears live music has been sidelined by the town’s emphasis on high art, as it returns to centre stage, post-pandemic.

She said: “Stratford is so synonymous with Shakespeare and to that end grassroots Music and Arts are often sidelined. The club is striving to address the imbalance by providing a home for the Shakespeare Sessions and also provide a base for a regular comedy club, which is the brainchild of artist Helen Kilby-Nelson and The Stratford Community Arts Project, and also about bringing the arts to all at grassroots level.”

The network is also running a three-week programme, known as Spark, for 10 to 16 year-olds, in which they can learn the basics of playing an instrument. The project is part of the Warwickshire County Council’s Holiday and Food scheme.

Clare added: “Everything we do here has a back drop of positive social impact and our band programmes use music as a vehicle to improve mental health in young people and give them essential life and work skills.

“We essentially want to bring about more opportunities for young people and improve their lives, particularly for youngsters from less affluent backgrounds. We aim for inclusivity and want to move away from the idea that music and the arts are a luxury.”

The music network was set up following the closure of Stratford Music Centre (SMC).

Clare and husband Mike invited their son Sam’s friends and fellow rockers to practice at their Bearley home when the centre, based at Stratford School, closed in summer following rent increases. Since then, the couple has provided gig and coaching opportunities to a wider community of young creatives.

Visit ‘Stratford Music Network’ on Facebook for further information and updates.

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