We were delighted to welcome drummer Richard Jupp to Prior’s Court to officially open our new Woodland Music Circle - an outdoor learning space that provides the opportunity for musical enjoyment, promotes creativity, supports communication and social interactions and meets many young people's sensory needs. Richard, who was a member of the hugely successful alternative rock band, Elbow for 25 years, joined students, staff, parents and representatives from Acoustic Arts, the company who designed the installation in conjunction with our therapists and young people to cut the ribbon for the official opening.

Speaking at the opening, Richard said:

“I’ve had a truly inspiring day in the company of everyone at Prior’s Court. It was an honour to be invited to open the Music Circle and humbling to get to spend time jamming with the students and exploring rhythms and beats.”

The Music Circle at Prior’s Court was the idea of one of Prior's Court's Teaching Assistants, Sophie Burton, who researched the benefits of intensive interaction and outdoor classrooms for young people with autism as part of her degree. Her idea was translated into a reality by Acoustic Arts, with support from Prior's Court's Therapy team who suggested the types of instruments that would most benefit our young people. Students were then encouraged to get involved in the design process by expressing their interests trying out various sample instruments and from this, the final instruments were carefully designed with our young people in mind, using natural materials that complement the environment and enhance the sensory and sound experiences.

Music plays an important role in the learning and development of many students and young adults at Prior’s Court. It provides a tool for communication and self-expression without the need for language - something which is vital as many of the young people at Prior’s Court are non-verbal or pre-verbal due to their autism. The Music Circle provides a new learning environment, out in the open, which is both fun and engaging but can also be calming, and one which promotes social interaction between staff and students or even between the students themselves. It combines music learning, for example the understanding of core principles of music making such as tone, pitch and duration with the benefits of therapy and outdoor play and meets many of the student’s sensory needs.

The Music Circle was made a reality which is now being enjoyed by students thanks to funding raised through events, grants from Trusts and Foundations and individual donations.

More photos from the opening are available on our Facebook page.