Mixing and Music Making with Music Works, Cheltenham

Following an exhibition at the Wilson Art Centre in Cheltenham called Alternative Visions, which was all about adults with learning disabilities, Oli the organiser really wanted to get music involved in the exhibition somehow. He got in touch with local DJ Lee Chaos and started a DJ club for adults with learning disabilities.

The first week had one attendee. The fifth session saw 15 people attend! It was such a successful start for the group, they decided to continue after the exhibition had finished and now the group is still going strong!

We made a video showcasing the DJ group and some of the awesome work Lee and the group get up to. We have also included the transcript below:

Sophie: I used to just play around, before I knew how to mix two songs together. It was more like making them sound like chipmunks. But now I know how to remix two songs together.

Rachael: I just saw a poster and I just thought let’s give it a go. We’ll just see how it is, if I can’t do it then it doesn’t matter, I tried. But I’m still learning, I’m still relatively new to it.

Lee: We started off with one person turned up, then two, then four, and by the fifth week we were doing it we had about fifteen people coming.

If you’re sort of learning an instrument you’ve got to start from the very beginning, whereas when you’re DJing you’re working with other peoples’ music. And I think that’s why DJing is so accessible because you get the thing you love and you share it with other people.

Our specialism with this group is working with adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. So the equipment that we’ve got is a little bit wider than it would be if it was a more mainstream session.

Diran: Yeah I mix two tracks. You just turn it on and press play.

Lee: The DJs all bring something different. So it’s really eclectic, it’s really fun, and for me those are the real highlights when we work towards those shows and get everybody on stage.

Allan: I used to stay in a lot and not go out, so this is helping me. Without this I think I’d be shut indoors again, and I don’t want to do that.

Rachael: It’s helped me with my stress and anxiety of going out, especially in the evening.

Simon: Meeting new people with a similar interest and learning about the different styles of DJing.

Sophie: It’s just chill, you can just chill, make new friends. It gets you out, you know, instead of being at home in four walls you’re out communicating with others with special needs and I think that’s a good thing.

Lee: It was Barnwood Trust funding that originally helped us get off the ground at the Wilson Art Gallery. And our next step with the Barnwood Trust is to get the individuals who turn up to apply for the Opportunity Grant so that they can get their own equipment.

Rachael: Come and give it a go, even if you feel you can’t DJ it’s just nice to mess around with the music. Because music is a good medium for anybody, whatever their age or disability.

Lee: We’re very open access, so really anybody who comes can have a go at DJing, can use the equipment, and we’ll find a setup that works for that person and, you know, getting their hands on the equipment, having a play, and seeing whether DJing is for them.

About Small Sparks grants

The Small Sparks fund has been created to help small groups of people throughout Gloucestershire to get together to do something they enjoy and make a difference to where they live.

You might need gardening equipment to grow vegetables together, books or wool to get a club going, or wool and knitting needles for a group you are already a part of.

You can apply for a grant of up to £250 if you can show us that:

  • At least one of you wanting to enjoy the activity has a disability or is an older person who would like to make more friends
  • There are at least four people involved in total
  • Everyone is prepared to contribute their time, energy and talents.

For more information about Small Sparks, visit our grants page or contact grants@barnwoodtrust.org