The Manchester Harmonise team during one of our fun exercises in the workshop.
The Manchester Harmonise team during one of our fun exercises in the workshop.

My name is Lily and I am on the MA course in Arts Management, Policy and Practice. This year, I enrolled on the ICP placement scheme because I thought it would be a good opportunity to gain some more practical experience, whilst adding a different edge to my usual studying. My main interest is music, and it really was an obvious choice for me to choose the music charity Musicians without Borders.

Musicians without Borders (MwB) first began in The Netherlands, which developed a UK base in 2010 based in Salford. Recently in May 2015, MwB UK officially established itself as a separate charity called Music Action International (MAI). MAI delivers a series of workshops and therapeutic music projects to support people who are survivors of torture and have lived through horrific times of war and violence in their home countries. Music facilitators (of which some are survivors of torture themselves) are trained to encourage participants who often have severe trauma to communicate through music as a way to improve their mental health and self-esteem. Participants explore musical genres and languages from all over the world, bringing people together from a range of backgrounds, whilst highlighting human rights abuses and challenging negative views of refugees and asylum seekers.

My roles were primarily in fundraising, funding research and grant applications, and in communications. I was particularly interested in the funding aspect and in grant applications, as I had limited experience in this area.

I was also keen to get involved in their project delivery, and in February 2015 I went along to a workshop based on their primary schools project called Harmonise ( It enabled me to meet some of the music facilitators involved in other MAI projects (such as Stone Flowers) and other volunteers. It was amazing to be with a group of people who had such diverse backgrounds and experiences in music. Musical Director Tim Steiner who has worked with the BBC orchestras amongst other organisations(!) led the session. We started with some fun, non-verbal warm-ups, some call and response singing, and eventually we were put into groups. We were told to get creative and began making our own clapping rhythms, lyrics and musical material. It was a chance for me to try out and develop my improvisation skills! At school, being asked to perform and improvise on the spot can be quite a daunting prospect, and part of Tim’s ethos is that everyone can be creative in any given situation.

Later in the session, we all got the chance to do some more music-making. I decided to take my clarinet with me, but there was a whole range of instruments, which allowed us to develop and create a sound that was fresh and unique. Nothing was planned and no musical style was agreed upon. Instead, we took it in turns to have solos and hold other parts like the rhythm and harmony. It was fantastic to see how something creative can evolve in a short space of time without any barriers or rules – we could be expressive in our own way.

We have all be assigned different primary schools across Manchester where a series of workshops will take place, culminating in a performance at Z-Arts on 16 June. It is a really exciting project, and if you are free, you should come and watch us perform!