Music Therapist Susanna Bajali shares her reflections so far on the introductory training project taking place at Dell Farm, in partnership with MacIntyre No Limits…

The past two weeks of half term break provide me with a good opportunity to reflect and feedback on the beginnings of the new MacIntyre No Limits project at Dell Farm.

The first three weeks have involved meeting the staff and service users at one of the sites they use; getting to know them – how they work and their expectations and hopes for this project – and introducing some simple activities and ideas using music and sound as ways to communicate and engage with the young people with whom they work.

Our sessions take place at Dell Farm Outdoor Education Centre which is tucked away down winding country lanes not far from Dunstable. The centre offers a range of facilities and some of the service users come to the sessions having spent the morning using the cooking facilities available at the centre or working on the farm – feeding goats or pushing wheelbarrows of hay and muck.

Despite adverse weather conditions, including heavy snow one week, eight members of staff and five service users come from areas as far away as Abingdon to attend this training, demonstrating considerable commitment.

Our sessions take place in a large portacabin on the site. In our first meeting, Alexia and I met with staff members and two service users to talk about the project. There was a sense of expectation and excitement about the project along with some apprehension about what was going to be expected of them. After some time for discussion, the boxes containing the delivery of instruments were opened and immediately the dynamic in the room is changed – eyes light up and suddenly a world of possibility and exploration is opened. Instruments are picked up and tried out, passed around, and quite soon spontaneous musical dialogues and interactions are taking place. There are smiles and giggles from the service users and general enjoyment all round.

The MacIntyre service covers a large area and so three suitcases of instruments have been purchased which will enable multiple staff members to make use of this training across different sites.

The next week I went alone to observe and continue to get to know the individual service users and how the staff work with them. Then the following week, the first sessions started…

I ran two sessions of around 45 mins each, involving the staff along with the service users as part of the group to give them an immersive experience of what a music as therapy session could be like. We passed instruments around – taking turns to listen to one another. We took it in turns to be the leader of the group – listening closely to how each person played and following their sounds and movements. We explored different ways of playing – loud and soft, quick and slow, high and low. At the end there was space to share thoughts and initial impressions and I was encouraged that most staff felt confident they would be able to use the instruments as I had, to mirror and support the young people, although it was noted how much I used my voice and how this was both highly effective but daunting for them as they thought about doing the same. Overall, it was a very positive start and I am looking forward to the next six weeks working with this fantastic group of people!