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Culture vulture

For Sarah Lloyd, happiness lies at the centre of the music

Violin to gamelan

Violin is my first instrument, but in 1988 I started playing gamelan, an Indonesian percussion orchestra. I heard a programme about it on the radio and saw one at the Royal Festival Hall, one of the few places in the UK with adult classes and open gamelan access. I played seriously enough to do concerts. Then I took a year out of teaching to go to Asia and studied in Indonesia. I've stopped because of workload, but it made an impact. It puts you in the middle of a piece of music, with everything going on around you.

You're a small part of the greater whole.

Favourite listening

I love live music, particularly experimental jazz: Jan Garbarek (saxophone, pictured) and Eberhard Weber (double bass). I was lucky to hear Miles Davis before he died.

Best books

I've had a thing for Elizabeth Gaskell since Wives and Daughters was on TV and I read it at the same time. I like her characterisation and her strong women. A lot of 19th-century heroines I want to smack, basically.

Best at school

Forest Gate has been part of a three-year project with the National Gallery. We've had visiting artists and taken all of Year 7 to the gallery where they created dance and music inspired by paintings. This year, Year 10 has worked with the painter Simon Burton making huge pencil and charcoal pieces: there are three of them, each 20ft long, and we're negotiating with the school caretaker to hang them off the roof because there isn't anywhere else big enough.

Treat in store

The Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) Festival in Reading at the end of July. I camp with friends and family. You never know what you're going to hear, but you know it's going to be good.

Sarah Lloyd, 45, is assistant head at Forest Gate community school in the London borough of Newham. Forest Gate students' work can be seen in the National Gallery's Enriching the Curriculum exhibition, at space@NG (Orange Street entrance) until June 18. Sarah Lloyd is addressing an accompanying conference for headteachers today (June 11). She was talking to Karen Gold.

The 2004 Womad Festival, July 23-25:

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