Tots Gigs: Making Incredible Folk Music Accessible to Parents with Tots in Tow

Tots Gigs: Making Incredible Folk Music Accessible to Parents with Tots in Tow

This autumn, SoundsCreative Projects launches an exciting collaboration with The Nest Collective, to bring the brightest and best of folk, world and new music performers to the Tots Gigs stage.

Tea + a gig GREENERS 1.jpg

Once you have kids, your evening entertainment options tend to dwindle dramatically. Only the most intrepid parents will brave getting the kids out to a gig.  And if you make it that far, then you might have to struggle with protecting young ears from dangerous decibels. Or, just as frustrating, preserving the sacred concert vibe from a squirmy toddler. The alternatives for parents who still want to hear some quality music aren’t promising either. Singing Row Row Row Your Boat for the umpteenth time at your local nursery just doesn’t cut it.


That’s why Tara Franks, cellist and founder of community social enterprise SoundsCreative Projects, started Tots Gigs. Tara has been running award winning parent and baby classes - Tots Tunes - for over 5 years in venues around Hackney, to which a whole generation of Hackney parents have and continue to frequent with their first, second and sometimes even third children! Since becoming a new mum herself, Tara wanted to create a family-friendly space where parents could still catch the best of London’s folk, world, and contemporary music scene. Held once a month on Tuesday mornings in Stoke Newington, the gigs are acoustic, intimate, and informal. Babies and toddlers are free to giggle or wander about during the performance, meaning parents can finally sit back and enjoy the music, as well as the relaxed atmosphere.

Tea + a gig with Pat.jpg

What sets these gigs apart, though, is how well the musicians perform for and engage not only the parents, but also the children, all the while delivering top performances. For Veronique Chacon, member of experimental vocal group THAT! Ensemble, the experience of performing at Tots Gigs is “really different from your normal audience. Performing in front of children, in order to reach them, accessing my inner child is key… becoming aware of my vulnerability, my curiosity – it’s so interesting to get back in touch with that.”

This openness to embrace such an inter-generational audience makes for performances that feel fresh, personal, and accessible. As one audience member put it, “I think my daughter LOVED IT! Such a pleasure to see such talented performers who interacted so well with the kids.

 Many audience members also find themselves returning for the sheer variety of acts programmed at Tots Gigs. As local mum Hannah expressed, “I came to many of the gigs when on maternity leave and loved the mix of performers. There’s nothing else like this for parents – it is such a great way to spend a morning”. Indeed, prior performers at Tots Gigs have ranged from renowned kora player Kadialy Kouyaté, to vocalist, award winning composer and author Kerry Andrew (You are Wolf), to Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale.

From this autumn, Tots Gigs is excited to open up their platform to a whole new network of top artists through their partnership with The Nest Collective. Proclaimed BBC Folk Club of 2010, The Nest Collective is known for showcasing emerging and established talent in the folk scene, and programming gigs in unusual spaces.

This new collaboration between SoundsCreative Projects and The Nest Collective will help ensure that the best folk music remains accessible to parents with children. Not to mention, it’s a way for artists to access new audiences, and frankly, you won’t get any newer than babies and toddlers! Start them young, as they say.

The collaboration will kick off with Nest Collective Founder Sam Lee making a guest appearance at the first autumn Tots Gig on October 2nd.  Sam is known throughout the UK and abroad for his mellifluous renditions and unique arrangements of British folk tunes.

Dates for this autumn’s season of Tots Gigs are 2nd October, 6th November, 4th December (First Tuesday of every month).

If you’re a parent and interested in catching some of Britain’s finest folk music this autumn, do consider coming down!

Shake, Stomp and Sing over the festive period!

Those of you who are regular Tots Tunes goers (or old timers) will know that our weekly classes for parents and their little ones are supposed to be as much for the big as for the small! The classes are about everyone having a bit of fun, singing 'Non baby' music, trying out the very refined dance moves (!) and hopefully feeling like you really don't care if you look like a bit of fool. 

We were very pleased to have a recent review from Bablands who expressed exactly that....

"My favourite thing about this class though, aside from the fact that it wasn’t just another hour of my life lost to nursery rhymes, was how into it everyone – and that includes parents and babies – was. Between the beautiful live music, the welcoming teacher, the element of interactivity and the fast pace, there wasn’t a lot of time for anyone to get bored or feel like a tone-deaf dickhead with two left feet"  Emmy - Bablands.  

Read the full review and check out Bablands website here

For new Tots Tunes friends, if you want to keep that spirit going over the holiday period, work off the mince pies in your own kitchen or stay sane on a car journey to the in-laws, you can...

Download Tots Tunes CD collection 1  (all music composed, performed, arranged by SCP creative director Tara)

Or watch...

Happy Christmas and New Year shakers!

Tea + a chat with Samantha Whates

With an upcoming performance at our monthly gig series - Tea + a gig - for parents and their little ones, singer songwriter Samantha Whates talks to us about her earliest memories of singing, the highlights of her performing career so far and some inspiring musicians she recommends we check out.


Tell us about yourself

I am a Scottish Singer & Songwriter who has been living in London for 17 years. I have been singing for as long as I can remember, my earliest memory of singing was in a music class when I was 5 or 6. I remember the feeling that my heart might burst from my chest with the pure joy of it and I've never looked back! I started writing my own songs in my early 20s using a hand me down guitar my brother gave me. I used writing as a way to connect with my experiences; to try and turn them into something positive and hopeful and to help try and find a way to understand them.

I have be playing on the London and UK circuit for around 10 years starting with open mics and building up to bigger venues and festivals including the Union Chapel, Royal Festival Hall, Green Man etc...

I am currently recording my 2nd album which is being recorded on location in Waiting Rooms around the country.


We love the film you created with William Powers and Joseph Eckworth for Trees and Gold? It has a real melancholic quality. How did the collaboration come about and what can you tell us about the story?

My collaboration with Will & Joe started around the time of the release of my first album - Dark Nights Made for Brighter Days. I was volunteering at The East End Film Festival and Joe was on my team and we became friends and started chatting about what we did in our day jobs - He was finishing a degree at LCC and was working with his friend Will on stop motion animation projects. After the EEFF finished we remained friends and he started coming along to gigs and offered to make a video for Village Kids from the first record. I was SO happy with the work they did and after some recognition at film festivals we decided to do a second video for my next release and it was as beautiful and was also well received! I am hoping we will make a third video for my new album and make it a hat trick!


You will be performing in The Old Church – the only remaining Elizabethan church in London – and you performed earlier this year at the Union Chapel with Chaps Choir. How do you find playing in a church setting?


It feels like such a special opportunity and privilege to be able to sing original and non religious music in these beautiful buildings with such incredible history. These buildings are too beautiful not to be filled with people and music of any religious backgrounds and preferences.  I have been very lucky to sing in lots of beautiful churches in London, around the UK and Europe. Some of those times have been with the brilliant Chaps Choir. It always feels like such a connective moment singing in a church - you can't quite get the same feeling anywhere else. The big reverb and the light coming in through stained glass. It's so special and calm. 


What has been the highlight performance of your career?

I can think of 2 and both were in churches! :)

The one I'll mention is the Union Chapel a couple of years ago almost- which was for the release of mine & Chaps Choir charity single - 'Anyone who Knows what Love is (Will Understand). It was sold out and filled with love, joy, music, hope and a 60 strong male choir!!!!


How did you come to know about SoundsCreative Projects?

I am very lucky to find myself in a beautiful and creative community of artists. We love keeping each other involved in each others projects and endeavours and supporting each other with encouragement, presence and collaboration. I work with Rhia Parker and her incredible recorder duo Gold Vox and it has been through her I have been introduced to the world of SoundsCreative. What a gorgeous, intelligent and creative force!


What do you think of the Tea + a Gig concept?

Bringing music to new audiences in new ways is something that is so interesting to me. Very often, as singer songwriters we find ourselves in the same circuits doing the rounds in the same venues playing to a similar demographic. I am very interested in taking music out of the normal places and exploring the energy of new rooms and new audiences. Letting people of all ages be a part of original music and engaging with people of all ages and backgrounds to see where the music takes us and how it makes us feel together and tea at the same time....WINNER. 


At SCP we believe in connections. Can you connect us to 3 great artists we should know about?

Well I think you know about a few of the people I love dearly - Magic Lantern & Pat Dam Smyth & Gold Vox so I'll try a few I don't know if you know...

Josienne Clarke -( you may know her as the award winning folk duo, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker)With one of my fav voices she can write songs you feel like you've known forever.  I am lucky enough to share a stage with this strong, intelligent, talented artist in our duo Pica Pica and she also has recently released and EP with another crazy talented musician - Kit Downes.

Ida Wenoe - Danish Noir Folk - Ida is one of my favourite humans and her music stops me in my tracks. As a live performer it is like a white light with all the spectrums of a prism piercing through. You have to hear her to understand!

Garance Louis - Accordion/Guitar/Keyboard/Singing - she has it all. She once went away to the circus for a while. She often looks like she's no idea what she's doing but she knows exactly what she's doing. I'm always inspired by how Garance creates a musical world. She moves me and makes me laugh. It's intelligent but wild and wacky! She is one of London's favourite buskers - you'll often see her on Columbia Road or Broadway Market working hard with Adam Beattie and Brooke Sharkey et al. ( mentioned a load more that 3 people... SORRY!


Come and hear Samanatha perform at Tea + a gig on 4th July at The Old Church Stoke Newington

People, partnerships and access to places

An integral part of SoundsCreative’s social mission is to ensure that the musical experiences we run and co-create are as accessible to as many people as possible from all walks of life and musical or ‘non’ musical backgrounds. 

With the vision to gather people together through quality arts activities both, collaborative and experiential, we strive to find ways to make sure the doors are open and classes, gigs, workshops are welcoming to all.  Of course this is inevitably difficult to counter-balance with sustaining a financially functioning enterprise.  Our business model is set up so that part of the enterprise is funded by participant payments to the Neighbourhood Projects and part by the commissioned Conjure your Own Projects. 

With the Conjure your Own commissions we aim to work with a range of arts organisations and local authorities who share our vision in bringing arts activities to varied audiences and target groups.  With our Neighbourhood Projects we are well aware that as soon as you have to charge for workshops it deceases access for many groups in the community.  This is why we are working hard to set up funding links and referral partners for each of our 5 Neighbourhood Projects (Tots Tunes, Tea + a gig, SoundsCreative Ensemble, Vox Voices and Big&small).

Over the last 2 years we have been working in partnership with Islington based charity Music First.  Music First has provided funding for 25% of places on our SoundsCreative Ensemble.

We are really pleased to be developing a new partnership with Vortex Foundation, the charity branch of the Vortex jazz club, with whom SoundsCreative has a long-term relationship.  Working with Cameron Reynolds on his ‘In the Changes’ project, the initial part of this partnership has funded a series of Tots Tunes ‘On the Move’ sessions, reaching new audiences by running classes in the local Mapeldene Children’s Centre. These have been run in the weeks leading up to the Dalston Children’s Festival when we will run an open Tots Tunes session in Gillett Square which we hope will bring new and old Tots Tunes goers together

In a conversation with Cameron Reynolds he relayed:

“The Vortex Jazz Club is embarking on an exciting new programme called IN THE CHANGES (ITC) that will increase the chances for Hackney communities to take part in some of the incredible art London has to offer.   

It is fantastic to be building on our existing partnership with Tara and SoundsCreative as part of ITC. As well as giving both Tara and the Vortex the opportunity to share her exceptional creative activities with a wider audience, it gives us the chance to grow and develop a whole new range of amazing experiences. 

 Tara's ethos of inclusiveness - bringing people together through fun, creative music making fits the Vortex vision perfectly and is exactly what we need to help us face the growing challenges our community faces in these difficult and divisive times”

This is just the start of this exciting partnership as we work together with Cameron and the foundation to support some of our other Neighbourhood Projects too.  Watch this space!

We are on the search for and in conversation with other local organisations so that in 2018 all our Neighbourhood Projects will have 25% of their participant places subsidised. Most importantly we will be working closely with these referral partners to reach those who would most benefit from these creative, social activities.

Tea + a chat with Breakfast Club Duo

Cellist Natasha Zielazinski and Recorder player Rhia Parker and from Breakfast Club talk to us about; riffling through manuscripts, the birth of their quartet, the beauty of the recorder (s) and how collaborations with young musicians of all musical stages impact on their own creativity and compositional process.

They will perform at Tea + a gig on 6th June.  Book here.

Where did the name Breakfast Club Duo come from?

A year or so ago, along with our wonderful colleagues Detta Danford and Evi Nakou, we were inspired to form a quartet. Our first rehearsal was spent rifling though the scores and sheet music in the library of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, trying to find repertoire for our slightly odd ensemble (recorder, cello and two flutes). The situation reminded us of the film The Breakfast Club, in which a group of teenagers have to spend their weekend in the library for detention, and we semi-jokingly bestowed the name upon ourselves.  As these things tend to go, however, the name stuck! This gig represents a more miniature sized version of Breakfast Club with just recorder and cello - hence the 'Duo"!


The recorder is a much-maligned instrument – invoking thoughts of rounds of ‘London’s Burning’ or general atonal screeching. Rhia, do you take pleasure in changing people’s perspectives of your instrument?

Absolutely! I've played the recorder since I was about 3 and have always been surrounded by incredibly supportive family and friends. However, I encounter negative connotations about the recorder constantly, even when talking to professional musicians. It saddens me that so many people's first, and perhaps only experience of the recorder is that of a toy or (at best) a stepping-stone to learning a "real instrument". On the flip side, it does mean that the reactions from people after hearing myself or any of my talented recorder friends play, is so exciting - to be able to reveal the true beauty of my instrument to people is a real joy.


How well do the recorder and the cello work together?
The exciting thing about the recorder is that there are so many of them! This means that we can experiment with how different types and sizes of recorder sound with the timbres and qualities of the cello. We make conscience decisions about whether we want to blend our sound as much as possible (the cello sounding more 'breathy; the recorder having more of a bowed feeling) or explore the exciting individual qualities of each instrument. What really brings us together as a duo is a love of playing and reinterpreting interesting music, and finding a unique quality of sound in the gap between strings and woodwind.

Natasha – you co-run the Future Band ensemble project at the Barbican working with 8-18 year olds on composition and performance projects? What difference do you think projects like this can make to the development of young musicians?

Yep, I set up Future Band nearly 9 years ago with flutist Detta Danford (also of Breakfast Club quartet). The project is really exciting as it involves a mix of young people, Guildhall students and guest artists sitting down together to make something new. At the moment we are working with an amazing guest called Anne Harild, who will work with us to build a House for Listening to the Clouds for the Waltham Forest Garden Party this July. The hope is that every project we do we are all (meaning everyone, including Detta and I) learning something new, trying something different or being asked to make, think about or understand our music making in a different way. We're experimenting, making and performing, and repeating the process again, but each time different. It has a massive impact on my own composing and performing, and hopefully does the same for all of the young people involved too. If you want to check out more about the band you can here -

How did you come to know about SoundsCreative Projects?

Through our friend, the wonderful Tara Franks!

What do you think of the Tea + a Gig concept?

Love the idea!

At SCP we believe in connections. Can you connect us to 3 great artists we should know about?

Kadialy Kouyate -

Aris Daryono (gamelan player) -

Ranjana Ghatak -