This December, a team of 13 students and graduates from the Reid School of Music will be leaving Edinburgh’s winter behind for a trip to The Gambia. Now in its third year, the project with Deeper Life Primary School in Serrekunda is a Music in the Community initiative aimed at improving children’s language and literacy skills.

Following previous performances of BIG BOAT, The Tin Forest, Musical Hats and Orpheus in The Gambia, this latest trip will see the Music in the Community team work with 100 school children on a production of Watching, Dee Isaac and Katharine Craik’s opera to excite children’s interest in healthy sleep patterns.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, Watching was first performed by children from Leith Walk Primary School across four sell-out nights at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) in March 2015. In The Gambia, two school children - Suleiman and Philippa - will play the lead roles.

Music in the Community

Music in the Community is an award-winning course at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) which brings staff and students out of the university into settings such as schools and healthcare environments.

The course is led by Dee Isaacs, Programme Director of our BMus (Hons) programme, and composer of many musical works for children and young people.

In March this year, participants worked with 85 children from Leith Walk Primary School on Postcards from our World, a project which took as its starting point the treacherous journeys families are taking across the seas to find a place of safety.

This summer, they also teamed up with the University of Athens to bring a performance of The Tin Forest to refugee children in Greece.

The Gambia

Music in the Community’s work with Deeper Life Primary School is the first type of intervention in The Gambia using music to enhance language development.

Support by The Carnegie Trust, it began in December 2013 with the composition and performance of a suite of songs entitled BIG BOAT, based on the repetition of a set of simple, rhyming English words.

Teacher Mohammed Dansoko said:

"Anywhere you find the children around campus, you find them singing the songs. Sooner or later the whole of Serrekunder will learn these songs, and on and on it will go until it reaches the whole region if not the whole country”.

During follow-up visits, students have been able to learn Djembe with master-drummer Gibi Camara, whose musical group, Alla Leake Kunda, will be involved in December’s production.