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Author Jo Carr
Performing Arts Producer, Midlands Arts Centre
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CMF Reflections: 'Hidden Voices' - Midlands Arts Centre

In the run-up to Spirit of 2012's major Carer's Music Fund summit on 23rd June 2021, we asked the Carers' Music Fund grantees to look back on their projects as part of a new series of blogs called 'CMF Reflections'. 

This time, the Midlands Arts Centre discuss their 'Hidden Voices' project which aims to provide creative, inclusive, person-centred music-making opportunities for female carers in diverse communities across Birmingham.

We called the project Hidden Voices because lots of carers are out there not seen, often not officially recognised as carers, but providing care every day, every week for friends, family, loved ones.

We started off by working closely with key partner organisations in our communities, already connected with groups of carers and they really were a crucial part in the success of this programme.

We wanted to create a space where the carers we connected with could come to and feel free to share their thoughts or sit quietly and reflect. They would lead the tone and content themselves, facilitated by our expert music leaders.

The outcomes we were aiming for with carers were increased self-esteem, wellbeing and feelings of potential. But knowing that 1 in 4 of us will be a carer in our lifetime, we also wanted to advocate on their behalf to the wider arts industry, to make it more accessible to carers.

We called the project Hidden Voices because lots of carers are out there not seen, often not officially recognised as carers, but providing care every day, every week for friends, family, loved ones.

This was all going to be great; MAC was such a great place to host this programme. We would look at how to introduce the carers and cared-for to our performance, exhibitions and creative learning programme, make sure they felt welcome at MAC, invite them to events and shows, and encourage them to return after the programme ended to give Hidden Voices a legacy. Then Covid-19 hit.

 

No-one had a plan B for how to do this during a global pandemic.

MAC closed

The Arts closed

We worried

We watched the news

I inherited this, my programme, my plan

I was glad

I was nervous

I didn’t know enough

I was rubbish with tech.

I know about Theatre, Dance, Performance, Producing, not this.

Beckett echoed “Fail Again, Fail Better”

But I listened

I learned

Sometimes I failed

No-one had a plan B, but we all created one together and kept adapting,

Hopes slowly raised

Then lowered again

How to stay hopeful when you have to stay home was easier for some than others.

 

The musicians were amazing, their living rooms became their studios, their workshop space, green screens, therapy room.

Olli joined our gang and was an administrative lifesaver.

Dozens of women let us in to their lives and became lyricists, choir-leaders, musicians and we glimpsed the creative beings they were.

Carers, yes but not just carers.. so much more.

Voices not so hidden anymore- unless they forgot to un-mute!

Spirit kept our spirits up with support and understanding and funding.

Zoom this, Teams that, raise hand, smiley face, put it in the chat.

A year,

A whole year passed

And here we are, near the end

finally planning to meet.

Click to learn what went down at the CMF Summit and read the evaluation.

Click to find out more about the other Carers' Music Fund projects.