Drum circle, St Bede's Catholic grammar school, Bradford

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
A vanload of 100 hand drums had to be transported from London to Yorkshire for a drumming workshop run by rock musician Carl Palmer, of the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, for more than 50 blind or visually impaired students aged from seven to 18 from special and mainstream schools in Bradford.

The drum circle, which lasts more than an hour and in which students learn to play a welter of contrasting and complementary rhythms, resulting in a huge sound, is the third one run by the drummer for children with special needs in Bradford this year: previous circles were for blind students, but also for the deaf and hearing impaired.

All have been instigated by and run at St Bede's Catholic grammar school, a boys' comprehensive in the city. "There is this huge array of drums and after about 10 or 15 minutes Carl has the students playing in what he calls a band, with a rhythm section and a lead section: it's all about involvement and teamwork and listening to other people," explained St Bede's headteacher Garry Freeman.

While students from special schools come in sizeable groups, the one or two students from mainstream schools bring sighted friends, as well as staff, so the hall is packed: "The students can feel and hear what's going on: it's an incredible, stirring experience," he said.

While the local authority pays transport and drum hire costs, Carl Palmer, who also runs drum circles for businesses, donates his time free. He decided to start them, he says, having realised that there were no participants in his ordinary drum circles with special needs: "If you are a deaf child, you can see rhythm and you can feel it. If you are a blind child you can hear it. It's not a case of teaching drumming technique but rhythmical values and patterns. It doesn't take long before there are no inhibitions."

* For details of Carl Palmer's drum circles, visit www.carlpalmer.com

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