Drummed Up's History



2014: Drummed Up staying in the heart of Newcastle

Drumming workshop at Darlington CollegeIn January 2014 Drummed Up moved from Bamburgh House due to its closure. While Broadacre House next door was being made ready, we moved temporarily into St James United Reformed Church Hall, right on the edge of the Northumbria University Campus. The accoustics of the hall were a bit of a challenge for drumming but proved to be excellent for singing, much to the consternation of our regular member Lord John!

In May Drummed Up finally moved into a room on the ground floor of Broadacre House, which we very much hope will be our permanent home in the heart of Newcastle city centre.

At the beginning of June Drummed Up played a very wet Newcastle Community Green Festival. We were very impressed that some of our friends from the North Yorkshire drumming group Ee By Drum made the long trip to come up and see us in such awful weather. Later in June we travelled a bit further afield to Darlington College to play at their Open Door Festival, where thankfully the weather was much kinder.

We have the Great North Run coming up, our next WEA course starts on Thursday 18th September and we have a weekend away planned at Barrowburn which is almost fully booked up. We'd love to do some more gigs before the year is out but please remember that we do need to have at least 3 weeks notice!


2013: Friends old and new for Drummed Up

Drummed Up Halloween gig 2013January 2013 kicked off with a new drumming event based in Newcastle - a community drum circle run by Simon Wood who started Drummed Up in 2002. Many of Drummed Up's regulars attended and had a great time.

In March, inbetween WEA courses, Mark ran three intensive bass drum courses exploring the challenging rhythm Soli M'barina which were really well attended by new and experienced drummers alike.

In April Drummed Up played at the Heel & Toe Children's Easter Walk and Fun Day at Chester le Street. In June we played again at one of our very favourite events, the Newcastle Community Green Festival in Leazes Park. June also saw the return of Simon Wood to Drummed Up as he ran a drum circle for us when Mark was away, which was a great chance for those who enjoy a bit of jamming and freestyling to have a play.

For the seventh consecutive year Drummed Up played for runners at the Great North Run and at the beginning of October we played for Newcastle Mental Health day again. On 31st October we got our spooky glad rags on for the Where the Wild Things Are Glow in the Dark Halloween Party supporting Hannabiell & Midnight Blue at Oak in Newcastle and had a fantastic time.

Drummed Up proved to be a little bit too noisy for the folks at Commercial Union House, who started to host a series of lectures there on Thursday nights in October, so we moved across the road to the fourth floor of Bamburgh House on Market Street in Newcastle city centre. We had some great sessions there with Mark encouraging the exploration of free soloing techniques in a really supportive atmosphere - have a listen to some of the results


2012: A new home in the centre of Newcastle for Drummed Up

In January 2012 Drummed Up moved from The Tower to a new home - the Sixth Floor of the exciting new creative hub in Commercial Union House on Pilgrim Street in the centre of Newcastle.

In July members of Drummed Up joined with students from Mark's Durham City WEA drumming class and drummers from North Yorkshire's lively Ee By Drum drumming group to participate in a weekend African drumming workshop with the world-class Nansady Keita in Newcastle.

Yet again Drummed Up played at the Great North Run, performing to 50,000 people - but only for around 10 seconds each! In October we had the honour of being the opening act for Newcastle Mental Health Day on a lovely sunny Saturday morning at Grey's Monument in the city centre.


2011: Drummed Up on the move again

Drummed Up workshop at Seaton Delaval Hall2011 saw Drummed Up performing African rhythms in some of the classiest venues we have probably ever played! In May the group performed at Dissington Hall, again in aid of Development Direct, and in August ran several African drumming workshops for the National Trust in the South Portico at Seaton Delaval Hall. Organised as one of a series of activities for children over the summer holidays, the workshops were a great success with visitors - we even managed to get more parents than children drumming!

In October Drummed Up was very sad to have to move out of 41 Jesmond Vale, the group's home for 6 years, as it was being closed by Newcastle City Council. We found a temporary new venue in the vibrant and creatively exciting Ouseburn Valley area of Newcastle - the old Polestar recording studios building now known as The Tower, on Stepney Road.


2010: More guest teachers for Drummed Up

Drummed Up playing at the Newcastle Green FestivalDrummed Up performed as usual at the Newcastle Green Festival and the Great North Run and later in the year at Newcastle Racecourse's Halloween Fireworks Spectacular. In November there was a performance to possibly our most appreciative and enthusiastic audience ever at Dilston College's Dragon Festival, and later that month Drummed Up took part in an event in aid of the charity Development Direct at World Headquarters in Newcastle.

Over the summer Drummed Up ran two workshops with djembé master Nansady Keita which were attended by over 30 people from across the north east, travelling from as far as Hartlepool, Darlington, Middlesbrough and Stockton.

In September dundun master Zal Sagna from Senegal joined Drummed Up to teach the story of the Zenefoli using rhythm, dance and song.


2009: Even more new African rhythms and dance at Drummed Up

West African dancing at Drummed UpIn January Mark Barfoot returned to Guinea to study again with Nansady Keita and he brought back more new African drumming rhythms to teach the group, including Nyagalimba, Kebendo and Seneti.

The WEA classes with Mark continued, followed by Bekki's dance classes with Alec leading the drummers. In March the group was visited by a BBC journalist, who used the group's drum and dance session as the subject of a project for his Masters degree in Journalism.

Drummed Up played at the Newcastle Mela again - both on the main stage and running some African drum circles in the main arena. The group also played at Byker Fest and even did a couple of alfresco rehersals in Jesmond Dene, although the animals at Pet's Corner didn't seem that impressed with the African rhythms!

In October several members of the group got together to see world-class djembé and kora player Seckou Keita at The Sage Gateshead, which was an entertaining and memorable evening.


2008: New African drum and dance teachers at Drummed Up

Drummed Up session at 41 Jesmond ValeThankfully, 2008 was much less frenetic year than 2007 in terms of number of performances and the group settled down to a new drum and dance teaching programme. Guest teachers included Modu Mane teaching djembé and bass drums plus Ruth Willis and Sens Sagna teaching West African dance. In October 2008 Bekki French took over the dance tuition and ran a well-attended beginners African dance class.

Although there were fewer performances than 2007, things were by no means totally quiet on the gig front as the group performed again at Redefest and also at the Amnesty International Winter Solstice Ball, as well as the usual performances at the Newcastle Green Festival and the Great North Run.

In the autumn Mark Barfoot began teaching the first WEA (Workers Educational Association) course at Drummed Up and introduced several new African drumming rhythms and songs to refresh Drummed Up's performance set list, which had not changed a great deal since the group first began performing in 2003.


2007: Drummed Up's busiest year so far

Drummed Up members on a float at Leeds Carnival2007 was undoubtedly the busiest year so far in Drummed Up's history and the group was in great demand for many events across the north east. The group drummed, danced and sang their way almost to the brink of exhaustion, performing just about every weekend from April to September and sometimes doing up to four gigs a day!

Highlights this year were many: performing at The Star and Shadow cinema in Newcastle for their screening of the 1973 Senegalese film Touki Bouki; a return to what was sadly to be the final ever Chopwell Forest Festival; a performance and African drum circle at the Middlesbrough Mela; Redefest; Blackhall Mill summer fair with spontaneous African song afterwards at Sam's housewarming; and opening the Newcastle Mela, the largest free Asian festival in the north east of England. Deserving special mention though was the 'Freedom' performance at Dance City in Newcastle, which marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, and Leeds Carnival where Drummed Up performed in conjunction with the Newcastle African Association, playing to what was probably our biggest audience ever.

The taught sessions at Jesmond Vale continued under the steady instruction of Mark Barfoot and a regular flow of beginners of all ages and backgrounds soon discovered the wonder of West African drumming and dance.

Drummed Up consolidated its position as a not-for-profit community music group by becoming members of Making Music, a well-established national body representing and supporting the needs of voluntary music groups of all types in the UK. The group was also used as a case study by the North East Social Capital Forum in their guide to social capital entitled Connected and Collective.


2006: Drummed Up visits Africa

Drummed Up members on the beach in AfricaIn January 2006 several members travelled to Senegal and Gambia to study with drum and dance teachers. Later that year traditional West African dance was introduced as part of Drummed Up's Thursday evening sessions and performances, adding a whole new dimenson to the group.

Mark Barfoot, Drummed Up's Chairman at the time, became the group's main drumming teacher and began teaching a number of new West African rhythms.

In September the group welcomed back Sue Amey as a guest teacher, together with Modou Mane from Senegal.

Drummed Up was immensely proud to be asked for the first time to perform at the Great North Run, which has since become a regular feature of the Drummed Up calendar. Among the other performances of 2006, highlights included the Chopwell Forest Festival (which was one of Englands biggest woodland events), the Sunderland International Kite Festival, a performance at Newcastle University in support of World Aids Day and opening the L'Afrique Festival concert at Grey's monument.

In the autumn of 2006 attendance at the group reached a peak of 58 people at one Thursday evening session - some travelling from Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hexham, Consett and Durham - making Drummed Up, for a short time, the biggest African drumming group not only in the north east of England but in the whole UK!


2005: New teachers and a new home for Drummed Up

Drum circle at 41 Jesmond ValeIn January 2005 Alec and Sue left to study and travel in West Africa for three months. A group of Drummed Up members who felt confident enough to do so took over teaching the Thursday evening sessions. This group included Dave Green and the then current Chairman, Mark Barfoot.

In March 2005 Drummed Up moved to the Newcastle Music Service building at 41 Jesmond Vale in Newcastle - also known as the 'Northern Sinfonia building' as this had been the home of the Northern Sinfonia orchestra until they moved to The Sage Gateshead in November 2004. The free use of a spacious and acoustically excellent hall in a building totally dedicated to music provided a fantstic location for Drummed Up.

Although the new venue meant that Thursday evening sessions changed to a 6.30pm start time, attendance continued to average around 30 people per week. The first hour's improvised drum circle was dropped in favour of a beginners African drumming session between 6.30 and 7.30pm, concentrating on technique and introducing Drummed Up's rhythms to new members. This was followed by a session involving more challenging African rhythms for more experienced drummers and then gig rehearsal concentrating on performance skills.

The group's African drumming performance skills were demonstrated shortly after moving to Jesmond Vale, as on 5th April 2005 Drummed Up performed in the prestigious Hall One of The Sage Gateshead. This was followed in May 2005 with a performance on the main stage at the Ceilidh Gall Gallowa' festival at Knockengorroch in Galloway, Scotland.

In November 2005 Drummed Up was visted again by guest teacher Moctar 'Mockoulo' Sawane for a session, which was another great experience for all those present.


2002-2004: Drummed Up - The early years

Drum circleDrummed Up was formed in the summer of 2002 with the help of community development workers Bob Malpiedi (Activities for Health) and Simon Wood (West City Project, Newcastle City Council). The group was initially set up using funding from New Deal for the Community but soon became completely self-financing by raising money from members' contributions and performances. Drummed Up was formally launched as an independent community group at an Inaugural General Meeting on Thursday 27th May 2004, when the group's constitution was signed.

Drummed Up was originally based at The Hub at Westgate Baptist Church, Westgate Road in Newcastle. Sessions began at 5pm: there was an improvised drum circle for the first hour involving percussion, rhythm games and singing, followed by learning specific African drumming rhythms and performance rehersal. The sessions quickly became very popular, with around 25 to 30 people regularly attending each week. Participants brought food to share during the break and a sense of community was created virtually from the beginning.

The group's main teachers were Alec Fox and Sue Amey, who together ran the successful Beginners and Intermediate West African Drumming courses at Newcastle College. Alec and Sue taught over a dozen different West African rhythms, including Burkinabe, Carabali, Kassa, Kuku, Lonanba, Moribayassa and Yankadi Macru, in a fun and patient style. In September 2004 they were joined by guest teacher Moctar 'Mockoulo' Sawane from Senegal, an opportunity for the group to work with an outstanding djembé soloist.

2004 also saw the start of the group's regular residential weekends away as several members went to Alnmouth to plan the future of Drummed Up and share ideas. The weekend was a great success, involving much eating and drinking - and even some drumming!

By the end of its first two years, Drummed Up had performed at St James' Park, Sunderland Minster, Newcastle Green Festival, L'Afrique Festival, the Big Green Gathering in Somerset and African Drum Village in Glenisla, Scotland, as well as over 50 other venues in Newcastle and across the north east. The group introduced many organisations and audiences to the joyful and life-affirming rhythms of African Drumming.