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Blog for YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic Leeds Town Hall Lord Mayor’s Christmas Concert.

Our concert this year was dedicated to the memory of Jan Holdstock.

The concert was held as usual on the first Wednesday of  December at Leeds Town Hall;Lord Mayor of Leeds 2017 the Lord Mayor this year was Cllr Jane Dowson, who looked resplendent in the full regalia of red cloak, chain of office and three corned hat.

In the run-up to the concert we held our usual art competition, with themes including listening to Troika and Junkanoo, researching the Bahamian Festival of Junkanoo, and “Peering”, a picture by Karla Gerard. This was the second year running that we included music and and a famous piece of art as our stimuli, and, on the whole, the quality of the entries was raised to such an extent we had to include some Highly Commended certificates. The art competition was judged by artists and art teachers, Cath Byfield and Anna-Marie Milton.

Sixteen schools and centres sent in a total of 420 pictures. This year we asked schools to fill in the entry forms electronically. Several did, which was incredibly helpful, when it came to printing the picture labels and the certificates. This year we displayed winning pictures in the crush room, which did become a bit of a crush at the end!

art competition pictures 2017We also asked if schools and centres could provide their own display boards. This meant less boards for us to find, and ready-made displays for the schools afterwards. We got boards from Hillside, John Jamieson and Milestone and this was also incredibly helpful, and meant that we didn’t need to put any pictures on the Town Hall walls.

[True amusing story: We did find one other lovely big – and heavy - display board. Over the phone I asked the caretaker if I could borrow it from Meanwood Community Centre and his mate staggered to my van with it. Back at my house I unscrewed the hinges between panels as it was so heavy. I was just about to glue some cork tiles onto them when I found a little hinged table thing. I stood back. The cats jumped off. It was a bloomin’ polling booth! Better get it screwed back together quick. We don’t know when it might next be needed! Things looking a bit uneasy down in Westminster.]

The quality of the art contributions was particularly high from two schools – Milestone [West Silc] and Meadows Park [Benton Park], so they are getting a special mention in dispatches here.

We had a display of Junkanoo in the Town Hall Foyer featuring the masks and shakers made by the children at John Jamieson School [East Silc], we also put on a slideshow of all the prize-winners and Highly Commendeds.

Singing on the stage were four choirs: Off By Heart, Young Accord, One Accord and the Wakefield Accords, led by Mavis West, Joanna Winster, Clare Milton-Thompson, Sophie Thiruchelvum, Jackie Craig and Kate Ghent. The choirs come from over fifteen schools and centres from Yorkshire, mostly from Leeds and Wakefield, and they rehearse in Leeds at West Park United Church, Meanwood Community Centre and St Chads Community Centre and in Wakefield, at the Wakefield Music Service’s Manygates Centre.

full stage photo of concert`

Also on stage were The Yorkshire Evening Post Band, East Steel, Off the Off the Cuff and the St Peter’s Clerks. Between all these choirs and ensembles they included several of Jan Holdstock’s compositions in the programme. Aljosha Skorja and Simon Lindley conducted the Yorkshire Evening Post Band, and Joanna Winster accompanied the choirs when needed on the piano; Bex Ainge led the steel band, and Simon Lindley was our compere for the evening. It goes without saying that the quality of the music and the singing was as high as ever. Which was the whole point of YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic in the first place!

The nativity procession was beautifully provided by staff and children from Hollybush – West Silc. They had a treasure trove of a dressing up box and this included as the usual suspects. It was a good thing that I had rehearsed with them the previous week, as unexpectedly I had to lead the procession on the day.

latecomers[Second amusing and true story: Two members of Off by Heart were unavoidably late to the concert and needed the ramp to access the stage. They arrived during one of the prize-givings where they received a good handshake from the Lord Mayor, who took them to prize winners and so did the photographer. Lol!]

Parking was more difficult than ever as Queen was playing at the Leeds Arena. We limited the Town Hall parking to blue badge holders and minibuses, and are grateful to all our volunteers who came on public transport, and to Leeds Station for being so close to the Town Hall!

We look forward to seeing you all next year on the first Wednesday in December.

--Victoria Jaquiss


A short history of the founding and funding of the YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic Lord Mayor’s Leeds Town Hall Christmas Concert

This year we welcome the 34th YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic Lord Mayors Town Hall Christmas Concert. When YAMSENSpeciallyMusic itself was founded in 1987 by Irene, Mavis, Jan and Val it was Irene Peace who declared that children with special/additional needs needed the absolute best for their concerts, and the best was Leeds Town Hall.

Founding a charity is one thing but funding it is another. Irene set about raising money for this event, seeing what was possible to get for free, what was possible to get for a reduced rate. The YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic members all had day jobs and were able to give their own free time for free. And thus this tradition continues to this day.

Not content with a simple music concert, Irene instigated the fist YAMSEN: SpeciallyMusic Art Competition. All entries were displayed in the Leeds Town Hall backstage foyer, and winners chosen and publicly awarded prizes; with some lucky winners having the pictures made into Christmas cards the following year. And this tradition continues to this day as well.

At first Irene attracted so much sponsorship that the concerts were offered for free, with one sponsor, until only a few years ago, offering foreign holidays as the top prize. Now alas, times have changed. We still do get donations, and without them we could not put on a concert in this prestigious venue, but we also now need to sell the tickets, although we have kept them to a very modest 2.50.

We do occasionally get questions about the concerts charging for entry but actually charging for tickets fulfills three functions: 1. People are more likely to attend if they pay for a ticket and 2. People only take the tickets that they need and pay for, and so we don’t have to refuse tickets when in fact we still have seats left (which we did occasionally do in the past). 3. It makes us less dependent on donations.

Victoria J



The 2017 Lord Mayor’s Town Hall Christmas Concert is dedicated to Jan Holdstock

This concert consists of the event itself with its massed adult and children’s choirs and also a massive art competition with its 400 plus entries. This year’s themes for the art competition are to make
A picture of Winter at the Seaside, or
A piece inspired the picture below by Karla Gerard, or
Something inspired by listening to Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije or
Something Inspired by Junkanoo (the West Indian Christmas Festival and also song by Jan Holdstock).
Click here for more information about the art competition.

Jan was one of the founder members of YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic. She died sadly, too soon, earlier this year, but she left behind a huge legacy. Besides founding YSM (with Mavis, Irene and Val) she wrote a huge huge number of songs that children up and down this country regularly sing in school and community settings. She also taught so many of us how to teach music to everyone in our class, whatever our musical knowledge, and she inspired so many is us to believe in ourselves musically.

This year’s concert is dedicated to Jan, and if any of you reading this were inspired by Jan please contact us with your stories. We would love to share
them on this website.

The concert itself is on December 6th at Leeds Town Hall, starting at 7; doors open at .6.30.”

Victoria J

SpeciallyMusic wins Heritage Lottery Fund Support

heritage lottery fund logo

YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic are pleased to announce
that we have been awarded a grant of  35,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable us to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Leeds Liverpool Canal with over 200 pupils from four Specialist Inclusive Learning Centres (SILCs) across the city of Leeds.

We launched this project with an interactive concert at Leeds Town Hall on the 20th June  - part of the Beyond Festival. YAMSEN worked alongside Artforms, Northern Ballet and Leeds Museums and Galleries in order to enable the children to explore ideas relating to the canal through music, art and dance. This concert will be followed by visits to local canal side locations: Armley Mills, Thwaites mills and canal trips.

The principal of the South SILC: “Music, dance, drama and art are often a key way for many of our young people to communicate or express their thoughts feeling and emotions”. This project aims to join these ideas together.

Pupils can log their experiences in Heritage Arts Award portfolios and the YAMSEN team will create accessible resources based on the work. This will be an exciting opportunity for artists and musicians, special school staff and pupils to learn together about their own city and the contribution the Leeds Liverpool Canal makes to its growth and development, creating a lasting memory and resource for the future.

The principal of the East SILC:  “This sounds an amazing project and one which we are looking forward to being involved in.”

Throughout this project we will be working with over 200 pupils who have additional needs. Many of them pass the canal everyday and don’t realise it’s there. We hope that this project will raise their understanding and awareness of its presence and contribution to the life of the City of Leeds.

A YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic trustee: “YAMSEN are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop this project with Leeds children who have additional needs. We believe using music, dance and art will help open these children’s eyes to their surroundings and the remarkable heritage all around them."

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than 5.3bn across the UK.  www.hlf.org.uk.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact
Diane Paterson, Secretary of YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic.  See our Contact page (click here), or find us at YAMSEN on Facebook and @YamsenMusic on twitter.


YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic is the Yorkshire Association for Music and Special Educational Needs, Registered Charity No. 1009204
Our Sponsors Include: leeds music education partnership logoartforms logo  LCC logoleeds child friendly city logo  arts council logoaspire logo