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Unite the Beat - making music from mulch, tunes from twigs and beats from branches.

The therapeutic benefits of music are well known. But how about bringing different generations together to make music from what they find on the forest floor? Emily Robertson from Unite the Beat talks about Sound Foraging at Wakehurst.
Date: 
14 August 2018
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Get outside

As Ralph Waldo Emersion said, 'it is a happy talent to know how to play' - and we want to help remind people of that. Our workshops aim to ignite everyone’s inner child, whether they are 5 or 95.

Getting out into nature is good for you and there is a wealth of scientific studies on the subject.

These range from bold assertions by The Nature Conservancy that 'human well-being depends on the benefits that nature provides for free, every day and everywhere,' to findings by environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon that 'spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress levels'.

The same is true for engaging in the arts, with musicians cited by NAMM foundation as having 'superior working memory compared to non-musicians', plus an array of papers discussing stress reduction too.


Unite the Beat workshop

A lifetime of playing

Then we come to the benefits of play.

While most understand the need for children to play, how about adults?

Unite the Beat think it is very important to combine these disciplines. We fear that both children and adults are forgetting how to play, how to spend time in nature and losing interest in the benefits of the arts.

We love to mix up the generations and it is wonderful when you have parents, grandparents, toddlers and teenagers all coming together to share in the simple pleasure of making music together.

We’ve worked with Time to Talk Befriending to reduce social isolation among the elderly, and local schools that bring learning to the outdoors.

There’s nothing like seeing little hands rubbing together to start off a rhythm game, with parents and older people joining in to create the sounds of a rainstorm.

I remember one of our ‘great oaks’ (older participants) who once couldn’t look into my eyes and claimed he didn’t like nature. But the end of our four months, he was helping to make woodland faeries, swinging in hammocks and tasting homemade elderflower cordial.


Unite the Beat workshop

Make noise at Wakehurst

At Unite the Beat, we have seen how playing outdoors can bring people together. That’s why we are so excited to bring our Sound Foraging workshops to Wakehurst this summer.

We start off by learning a little bit about our guests and then we show them how to immerse themselves in nature. We get them really listening to what’s around them – it’s amazing what you can hear in a seemingly quiet woodland. We’ve placed some hammocks in the woods, so people can take relaxing and listening to the next level.

Searching around on the forest floor comes next as our guests look for twigs and logs of different thicknesses, which when tapped give off different tones.

Playing games is another trick we use to help bring out people’s creativity but the part everyone loves the best is when we teach them to play a variety of rhythms. It all sounds incredible when lots of people are taking part- a real natural orchestra.


Unite the Beat will be running Sound Foraging workshops at Wakehurst as part of the Summer Explorers holiday programme from 13 – 19 August.

Book online here or just turn up on the day.




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