“The drum also”

26th June - 9th July 2021
Basement of Conditions.shop
Unit 66 of the Whitgift Centre, Croydon, CR0 1LP


The best workshop I never ran

Playing: An 11 minute recording from my phone of a group of students from Central Park Primary School, London performing on a set of self-made cardboard drum kits.

This imperfectly captures the culmination of a day spent together at the Tate Modern where I was working as an artist in residence for the Schools and Teachers department. For me this was the pinnacle of my time there and the best ‘workshop’ I ever ran during my residency - in spite of and definitely because of a lack of planning on my part. I struggled throughout the residency with the balance of structure, structurelessness and the expectations of students, teachers, the department and myself. This recording to me represents a perfect example of differing layers of support and structure coming together to create a moment of togetherness. To me it also displays some of the underlying power dynamics within education, the ‘workshop’ model and notions of creativity and freedom.

During the day we spent the morning walking around the gallery, getting to know one another and what we were interested in. One of the students was a keen drummer and I had a bag of drum sticks at the gallery from a previous unsuccessful (planned) workshop. Together we decided we would make drum kits together out of the available resources we had (cardboard) and perform on them in the Tanks - which is an incredibly resonant space, which would make up for the lack of natural resonance of cardboard.

During the making process the students couldn’t decide on any music to have on but one of the teachers said that each term they listen to a different genre of music throughout the school. This term was Jazz and they had been listening to some really “out there” stuff so I should put on whatever I thought would be good. So I put on a live album by Max Roach that I had obsessively been listening to whilst painting in my studio at the time - which includes a 15 minute version of the drum solo “The Drum also Waltzes” - a call for the drum and rhythm to be seen in a different light. We listened to the album and set about making the kits - with one student deciding to make an intricately designed skull guitar from scratch using rubber bands and cardboard. The instruments were decorated with tape and drawings - one teacher looked a bit lost as what to do to support the student he was working with so I started tearing off bits of tape and handing them to the student who then began to arrange them beautifully on the box/drum. The teacher took this process over and slowly became more confident, only afterwards did I find out he’d never had an experience like that with a student before - a student who he thought might not be able to engage with the process of creating something.

We took the kits across the gallery into the Tanks - the teachers were surprised and questioned if we were allowed to be doing something which could be disruptive to the general public’s experience of the gallery. I said it was fine - One of the benefits of the role was this permission to disrupt and use sound and music to alter the experience of the gallery for the young people I got to spend time with.

We set up and everyone began to play - it sounded incredible in that space. A small audience started to gather and enjoy what was happening. On the recording you can hear me direct the group to each perform a solo - an intervention in the free play that had been happening previously, one of the teachers can be heard to say while i’m trying to get their attention, “Listen to Sir” - which still makes me feel uncomfortable but is an important reminder that despite a lack of desire to be in a position of power I was (and still am - controlling the narrative through this work and these words). With this power however I thought it was important to ensure every individual had a moment of being listened to. This became especially important for the student that made a guitar - completely inaudible in the group cacophony - but in a silent space reverberated around the room in a way that none of us expected. This is the point I loudly cry out - a single moment but the peak. He did what he wanted during the whole process and we supported it the best we could, despite not knowing how it would fare against the rest of the group, and then made space for him. I sometimes forget that those single moments are enough to make everything before it worthwhile.



The Tyranny (2020)
136cm x 206cm x 2cm
Oil, oil stick and pastel on canvas and cut-out board

Don’t Be Precious (2020)
85cm x 140cm x 4.5cm
Oil, oil stick and pastel on canvas and cut-out board with drawings by students from Central Park Primary School.

Dancing With Language (2020)
125cm x 100 cm x 4.5cm
Oil, oil stick and pastel on canvas and cut-out board with drawings by students from; Hampden Gurney Primary School, London; Tower Bridge Primary School, London; Ibstock Place School, London St Josephs Catholic School, Kingston Upon Thames; Greenside School, Stevenage; Bowes Primary School, Arnos Grove; Thomas Buxton School, London.    

Hold me close, ghost (2021)
60cm x 40cm x 5cm
Oil, oil stick and pastel on canvas

What is this? (2019 - 2020)
Pen, Pencil, Crayon, Acrylic paint, charcoal, dust, dirt from shoes on canvas

Drum (tom) (2021)
Oil, oil stick and pastel on drum shell with canvas skin

Drum (floor) (2020-21)
Oil, oil stick and pastel on drum shell with canvas skin

The best workshop I never ran (2019)
Audio, length - 11:18
Recording of performance on self-made drums by students from Central Park Primary School, London on the 21st January 2020 in the Tanks at Tate Modern.   

Lonely wide open (more more) (2020-21)
Audio, length - 1:45
Samples “Drums Unlimited” by Max Roach from the album of the same name

Blue Sketch (2021)
Audio, length - 1:06
Samples “Blues (featuring Cecil Bridgewater)” by the Max Roach Quartet from the album Live in Vancouver