Hit everything. Create chaos. Promote pandemonium.
At a kids’ drumming party I invite the Birthday Girl, or Birthday Boy, to form a circle with their twenty ‘little angel’ friends, and make a Devilish racket for three whole minutes. Guzzling wine at the back I watch the horror on the parent’s faces as they lament not booking that nice young magician who was so efficient last year.
Then I call over the one Mum and one Dad who i enrolled while unloading the van.
Remember aerodromes? Metaphors are great for adults who’ve been reading children’s stories for the past few years. I tell them that I need them to be a smooth airfield for their children to take off from, knowing they can land with confidence too. I show them a clear beat and spend as much time as it takes for them to bond and feel confident playing it together. The other parents are chinking glasses, rustling carrier bags and keeping their distance. All is as it should be.
I encourage my new deputies to keep playing no matter what, saying with a wry smile, “No pressure, but if you stop the whole party will crash and fall apart”
I’ve been building up to this moment for the past 30 minutes, ever since they innocently said, “Is there anything we can do to help?” out in the Church Hall Car Park.
Within that airfield rhythm I facilitate a kind of riotously noisy musical statues exercise with the children playing their own drums, eight beats on, eight beats off while the basic groove continues. I’m very insistent, though not punitive, about them freezing absolutely. All of a sudden we find we’re making music.
At this point I’ve got the attention of half of the parents at the back of the hall. They’re beginning to inch forward, intrigued, and even interested in what their sugar-high children are creating.
They’re amazed at how this Pied Piper from out out of town has managed to focus their feral children’s attention so quickly and so consistently. Surely a trick of the light. Within ten minutes i’ve got five more parents holding down the beat, learning from the original two, who are now ‘experts’ in the field of airfield party drumming.
The kids are joining in with better beats, becoming more disciplined, naturally wanting the music to sound like the music they love. There’s an excitement seeing the adults coming forward to join their world of play. We’ve moved from musical statues to co-creating a groove they can dance to. And children love to dance, especially the girls.
I keep the groove going. My drum
drum is strapped to me and I play a few solo phrases to spice it up. The rest of the parents and guardians are now as rock solid as James Brown’s backing band so I can concentrate on facilitating the children. I’ve been booked as the ‘Rockstar Activator’ and I like to deliver beyond expectations. I designate an area between two chairs as ‘the dance floor’ ready for some rockstar performances.
She looks confident enough so I pick the most natural mover to come to the front and lead the dance. I demonstrate her role myself by simply putting my right arm in the air and waiting for the expectant dancers to copy me.. Then the left arm, then I bend forward and shake until everyone is giggling and enjoying it. I clearly hand over to my new dance captain while I look on. I’ve never seen this fail and the new leader ALWAYS adds some unexpected moves of her own which delight everyone in the house. Especially the parents. One of their cherished daughters is becoming empowered before their very eyes. This could be one of those life changing moments. We all feel it.
It’s as if we’re accidentally inventing a ritual, right here right now, that actually means something beyond ‘getting the moves right’. With this much community support getting the moves wrong is OK too. Especially with ten smiling peers transforming those ‘mistakes’ into instant successes when they copy them as an enthusiastic ensemble.
Consequently the groove doubles in intensity. We are in flow, at the intersection of discipline and surrender. Or maybe it’s just this Waitrose white wine.
“What did you do at the weekend?”
“Oh, you know, a bit of alchemy with the kids. Followed by pizza.”
All the adults are fully engaged now, they are the airfield and they are loving watching their children flying above. It’s that simple but these aren’t the domestic flights we started with, we’ve become a Summer Air Show, ‘looping the loop and defying the ground’.
Loading the van a man in his early forties says cheerily, “You were fortunate that we, the parents group, were so up for it today and our children were so engaged. It didn’t always used to be the case. But the school we’ve chosen for them is really rather good when it comes to music. And the teachers are excellent when it comes to discipline, which obviously worked in your favour. But well done anyway, not bad for someone who’s just a drummer”.