Monthly Archives: November 2014

A letter to Nicky Morgan

Great reply to Nicky Morgan

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

Here’s what our education secretary said recently at a conference to promote science and technology learning. Here’s my reply.

Dear Ms Morgan –

I left school in 1986. I did two humanities degrees. Jobs, as you may recall, were not thick on the ground. I did a business course first, not because I wanted to but because, oddly enough, I didn’t know what else to do. I thought it would give me a solid, useful career in which I could contribute to the national economy and make my father happy.

Then I came to my senses. I ran away from the business course, which made me want to kill myself and a number of other people, and did two humanities degrees. I spent eighteen happy, poorly-paid years in archaeology. My specialist field was – as it happens – the archaeology of industry, and particularly of mining, which was so vital…

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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


I Can Play The Big Bass Drum


At the weekend I was lucky enough to be a part of the the audio visual spectacular that is Lewes Bonfire Night.

I was away from my normal instruments and instead had been promoted to playing bass drum with the Mid Sussex Brass Band.  It was a great night, frosty enough for you to appreciate the fires, but not cold or rainy enough to be unpleasant marching around the town for 6 or so hours.

It truly is a completely mad affair, with health and safety seemingly having been thrown by the wayside in a totally brilliant manner.  Bangers and fireworks going off in the streets, fire everywhere, and then of course the 4 competing firework displays on show on each side of the town.


Playing bass drum was great!  I felt in many ways like I was really leading the band, driving it along, and of course I am sure it looked great too!  I was playing with a group of brass musicians, most of which I hadn’t met before.  But there were a few familiar faces, particularly the wonderful Paul Homewood, who has organised the band at this parade for many years.  There always seems to be a last minute panic getting this band ready, but it always comes together in the end.


This year was particularly close to the edge… in that we didn’t have a snare player, until about and hour in, when we met a guy on the street with his own marching snare, who was just joining in with one of the samba groups for kicks.  A few coaxing words later and we was part of the crew, and a great addition to the group too.. even if he was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask rather than a regulation blue blazer.

The sounds going on that night were amazing, be it the carnival mix of samba, drum corps, brass bands, trad jazz… all to the chaotic beat of gunpowder going off all around.


A fantastic experience and I really hope to be part of it again next year….even if I was rather bruised and sore from marching with that drum all night… apparently I was meant to have a tiger skin or something… (or vegetarian equivalent)




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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Gigs, Pics / Vids / Audio


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Straight No Chaser: It’s Oh So Nice

Recorded at our regular gig at The Hassocks Hotel, West Sussex, Sunday 2nd November.

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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Gigs, Pics / Vids / Audio


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I Drew My Ship

Latest video with the wonderful Elle Osborne.  Sadly she can’t play at the moment, but she makes up for it with some proper beautiful singing!

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Posted by on November 7, 2014 in Pics / Vids / Audio


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Lessons In Music

I had my first music lesson for almost 20 years at the weekend, courtesy of the great folks at Pat (A.K.A Dear Old Dad) met up with me via Skype for a slot we had arranged earlier in the week and we had a good chat, and worked through some tunes. Pat was very kind and helpful, offering me some really excellent nuggets of advice. He had very thoughtfully already checked out my playing on some of my YouTube clips and so was prepared with some ideas that would be useful for me.

Not having a lesson for 20 years is not entirely true… I guess as musicians we are constantly learning from those around us. Every gig or rehearsal is a lesson in some way or another and I guess part of graduating to becoming a musician is your formal learning transforms into continual informal learning through experience.

Spending the time with Pat at the weekend made me consider how we learn, and how we teach. Having taught music for many years now, both in the classroom and in private instrumental lessons, I have learnt how to overcome musical problems and how to impart this to others. I know how to work out exercises to overcome technical difficulties. Unless there is some technique I don’t actually understand, or physically am not capable of, then issues are simply a matter of time and determination to overcome. (Some things take more time and energy than others though…) For pupils who have been learning for some time lessons are much more about coaching and encouraging. The pupils know inside what they need to do, they just need somebody to push them to do it! Expression and performance is a matter of experience. Go and see performers play, and watch what they do, listen to recordings, analyse, transcribe and learn. You just need a willingness to self analyse, and determination to improve.

So what is the point of the teacher?

I am very glad I met with Pat. Having seen him many times in his videos it was so nice to chat and play alongside him in real time. It was wonderful that he could give me confidence in what I was currently doing, and what I needed to work at. I kind of knew these things, but I feel better about what I am doing having talked it through with another person. The lesson did help me and I have improved because of it.


So what next?

Well Pat has suggested we hook up for a ‘Skype jam’ at some point, which sounds great, not sure if i trust the laggy internet for this yet, but it would be a great thing to do, jamming with another guy thousands of miles away sounds like a great experience, so I may have to take him up on this!

Pat (and son Patrick) are offering all their knowledge for free through their Daily Frail videos, as well as currently setting up lessons via Skype to those that ask for it. (Please check out their website at ) I trying to work out how I can pass on my musical skills in a similar fashion. Being able to teach in order to share positive experience sounds like such a marvellous ideal, but how could I do so in my community? I need to work past my experience that my musical skills are a commodity that have to be sold, to a place where they are something I can share with others.

I haven’t got a plan yet… but I’m working on it….  Anybody need a music lesson in Sussex?


Posted by on November 4, 2014 in Education, Teaching


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