Jigtime has been performing in schools since January 1991. The first four years were spent in the Greater Belfast area, and constituted a pilot study funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, but since PSEP funding began in 1995 we have performed throughout Northern Ireland. The programme started from the belief that children should be introduced to and learn to appreciate the many and varied strands that make up the Irish tradition of music, song and story. By making it a rewarding and enjoyable experience it becomes a means by which young people can develop both a critical appreciation of the music and a view of it as a diverse, shared tradition common to all who want it. The cross-curricular themes of EMU and Cultural Heritage provide the ideal means of delivering the programme in schools.
Jigtime comprises a singer, a storyteller, a fiddle player, a piper and a flute player. We have several different formats - group, individual or a mixture of both, depending on the wishes of the school. The programme is aimed at Key Stage 2 - classes P5 to P7 and year one of Secondary school. Each performance lasts between one and two hours depending on the format. We are the only full time group providing this kind of programme and the response to it from principals, teachers and pupils has been unreservedly enthusiastic. Our problem has mainly been catering for the demand and keeping it within our budget. Since PSEP funding in 1995 Jigtime has given over 160 performances to 200 schools and class groups. Linking up with the education department at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum at Cultra means that, as children come there in mixed class groups from two or more schools, many more children can participate in our performances.
In reports to CCRU some indication was given of the reaction of
principals, teachers and children to our programme. It was universally
positive. CCRU, in it's own ISA pilot study seemed to indicate,
on a more objective level, a positive shaping or reshaping of
attitudes amongst children to, not just their musical heritage
but also to cross-cultural identity. This gives us great satisfaction
and our aim is now to continue and expand this work.