The Year So Far: Phase 1

February 6, 2010 at 10:45 am (Diary)

Phase one was an effort to get a handle on a many-tentacled beast – a bewildering network of separate but related organisations all with their own structures, raison d’etres, buildings etc

I’ve been appointed composer-in-residence in the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery so my very first challenge is to find a way of saying that succinctly  (what a mouthful!). So its the FNSNM and I’m the CIR and in my first few weeks I set about trying to absorb the context.

The nursing school sits inside  Kings College London but feels quite separate, quite independent. This is partly to do with the way that Kings is spread over a number of sites and so the school is physically very separate. It’s also seems to be related more generally to the status of nursing within academia but mostly to do with the nature of the training – much of which is done in partner hospitals scattered across south London. In truth the school feels more like it’s in the University of the NHS rather than KCL.

There were of course a range of practicalities to deal with: setting up an office, bringing in instruments, decorating it (lamps and cushions!), an email account, computer etc and then various, building tours, security passes and so on. The idea of having an office smack in the middle on London, actually right on Waterloo roundabout takes a little getting used to – particularly strange because this is neither an arts organisation nor does it feel like a university – its an office building – and that’s a very different environment for me.

I throw myself in pretty quickly by leading a number of music exercises and teaching some songs to all the new first year students at their induction day event and then again for the new masters students. This gives me a very good idea of the community within which I’ve been placed – at least the student dimension – and its very heartening – smart, empathetic young people with a better balance of male/female than I’d anticipated – and willing to be involved.

The following weeks are taken up with meeting key staff, research visits to wards in St Thomas’s and Guy’s hospitals, attending nursing skills training, getting involved in the Nightingale choir and beginning to tease out ideas for the residency. I set up a series of creative music-making workshop at the Southbank Centre to which all staff and students are invited. These go well but numbers are low and I begin to realise that  this is a particular challenge of the residency: when students and staff schedules are so full and they are spread so wide how can I fulfill that aspect of the brief which is about engaging this community?

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