A Watford-based charity that uses the power of live music to enhance the lives of people with learning disabilities launched a ‘1,000 Instruments Challenge’. They’re asking people across the country to donate their unwanted musical instruments to them.
Electric Umbrella hopes to collect 1,000 instruments by Christmas. Since the launch of the campaign in early November, they have had 750 instruments donated. These will all be repaired, re-purposed or adapted by the charity, and will then either be used by members or sold to raise funds.
Twenty-two-year-old Tring resident Jonathan Watson is a long-term member of Electric Umbrella. He has poor mental health, a mild learning disability, extreme OCD and anxiety — but he also has incredible talent on stage.
Jonathan likes to rap
“The amazing thing about Electric Umbrella,” Jonathan says, “is that we play a lot of instruments and sing, and it doesn’t matter if you’re not the best singer or musician because you can just let it all out and be yourself.”
Electric Umbrella has helped to empower him to achieve the most extraordinary things, including rapping for an audience of hundreds of people.
Creating live music experiences for five years
The Hertfordshire based charity was set up five years ago by Mel Boda and Tom Billington. Their goal was to provide a platform for people with learning disabilities to enjoy live music. In doing so, they believe they challenge perceptions of mainstream audiences towards learning disabled people. The charity runs regular free music sessions online alongside their Big Yellow Choirs, as well as organising gigs, operatas, musicals and even festivals. They believe that “magic happens” when learning disabled people and pro-musicians work shoulder to shoulder.
During the pandemic, they launched online sessions to bring fun, interactive shows and singalongs, often with inspiring guests, to their hundreds of members, many of whom relied on these social and creative sessions to get them through this difficult time.
Donating unwanted musical instruments
Electric Umbrella Creative Director and co-founder Tom Billington is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player. His rich and varied career has seen him perform all over the world alongside well-known bands. He’s keen to hear from members of the public who may be able to help. “We’re asking people to donate their unused instruments so we can put them to good use and bring fun and joy to people’s lives.”
Billington believes that having a learning disability shouldn’t be what defines someone. “By empowering them to take centre stage and show off their amazing talents, we aim to encourage people to think differently about them.”
Donate to make a more inclusive world
The charity is happy to take instruments that may have seen better days. “We believe there’s still life in even the oldest dogs!” Billington explains. “By donating your unwanted and unloved musical instruments you can be part of a movement to change people’s perceptions and make the world a more inclusive place.”
If you are interested in donating an instrument, please visit their website and register. They will then send you details of how to send it to them free via your local post office. If you don’t have an instrument but would like to support the charity, you can give them a donation.
You can ask for more information via their email firstname.lastname@example.org