National Centre for Early Music

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Northern Gamelan Network

The Northern Gamelan Network is a collection of partners from across the North of England, who are committed to developing their use of Indonesian bronze percussion (known as gamelan) for the benefit of the young people with whom they work. Gamelan is known to be an excellent art form for developing ensemble skills. It offers particularly suitable opportunities for young people living in challenging circumstances - for example, those in financial hardship, those with disrupted home lives and those with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties:
  • Most young people pick up how to play gamelan instruments quickly and naturally. The complexity of playing techniques does not pose a barrier for most of the instruments within the ensemble;
  • Because of the above, there is limited need for young people to practice on their own at home/elsewhere, which can be a real challenge for young people whose lives are often disrupted or who do not have access to the necessary support and encouragement to guide self-study;
  • Young people and their families/carers do not have to pay expensive instrument hire/purchase costs, as there is no need for individuals within the ensemble to have their own instruments;
  • Young people report finding the sounds and the act of playing "soothing", "stress-busting" and "calming", something that can be particularly vital for young people whose lives are often disrupted or challenging;
  • Gamelan is communal by nature, giving young people a genuine sense of contribution and control, which is something often missing in the lives of those affected by challenging circumstances;
  • Playing any traditional piece of gamelan music requires teamwork (especially where there is no conductor/leader) and provides enjoyable opportunities, for those who find group co-operation difficult, to practice functioning as part of a team;
  • Gamelan is often different to anything people have seen or heard before, therefore there are limited preconceptions about what the music is like, who it is for, and importantly who can succeed in playing;
  • The instruments of the gamelan are beautiful bronze with exquisitely hand-carved wooden frames - young people are able to see and understand the preciousness of the instruments and feel a great sense of pride in being trusted and allowed to play them.

The Northern Gamelan Network has been established by NCEM, as part of the Music4U programme, to deliver four main roles, in order to improve knowledge, skills and capacity within the region:
  1. Providing a wider support network for individuals and organisations with the potential to use gamelan in their education and outreach work - raising awareness of the art form and encouraging its use, especially with children and young people;
  2. Facilitating the sharing of knowledge and good practice and providing a forum for 'troubleshooting';
  3. Pooling resources (finances, personnel, venues, equipment) to enable appropriate CPD for music teachers and practitioners, in order to combat the current lack of local workforce experienced by many across the partnership;
  4. Identifying and pursuing opportunities for collaborative practical projects across the partnership, creating high-calibre opportunities for children and young people that would otherwise not be feasible.

The Network is generously supported by Youth Music and Cape UK. Partners currently include: the University of York; Hull Music Service; Bradford Music & Arts Service; Artforms Leeds; YAMSEN Specially Music, Leeds; York Community Gamelan; and freelance practitioners from York, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, Hull, Durham, Lincoln, Nottingham and Manchester. The network is co-ordinated by the National Centre for Early Music and has the support of Music4U partners York Arts Education, Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Music Hubs in York, Hull and the East Riding.

If you are interested in joining or finding out more about the Northern Gamelan Network, please contact NCEM's Education Development Manager, Emily Crossland, on