Spare Tyre Band members with hand-made instruments pose for photograph

Spare Tyre Band: a group of disabled musicians making a big noise, and their own instruments

Two weeks ago Guy Llewellyn shared his experience of starring in the Big Band featured in the 2016 Paralympics Superhumans advert. Here, Amy Smith, from leading  participatory arts charity Spare Tyre, tells us about another musical ensemble: The Spare Tyre Band.

The Spare Tyre Band members do not simply play their instruments. They make them too. 

The Spare Tyre Band: “It’s Like It’s A Part Of Me!”

My name is Amy and I work as the General Manager of Spare Tyre. Spare Tyre is a leading participatory arts charity based in London. For me, meeting the Spare Tyre Band has been one of the top highlights of working here.

The Spare Tyre Band features disabled performers who have learning difficulties. Each band member plays an instrument they’ve created from recycled materials.

“The Band is loud, and proud”

Band member Paul and Spare Tyre Artistic Director
Band member Paul and Spare Tyre Artistic Director Arti Prashar at Lewisham People’s Day

I first met the Spare Tyre Band in Catford. We had arrived for Lewisham People’s Day on a warm Saturday in July and I stopped by the station to pick up Band Member Chirag on my way. Even though we had to travel there independently, we met up so we could find our way to the park together.

The Band is a loud, proud and creative way for people with learning difficulties to make their voices heard. It allows them to showcase their skills to the world, and helps challenge prejudice about disabilities and learning difficulties.

The programme is challenging and encourages performers to stretch themselves. The physical activity of the rehearsals and performances is good exercise in a supportive and fun environment.

“I feel amazing, I feel I’m reaching out. It’s like it’s part of me… Spare Tyre Band gives me a focus and a meaning” – DJ, Spare Tyre Band member

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DJ, Jack and Jocelyn performing at Wandsworth Arts Fringe

Meet the Instruments

We love to be as creative and inventive as possible when we make our instruments.

We are very proud of our tubular bells made of old copper pipes. We have also got four large drums made of old industrial spools. We also have dozens of smaller drums and trumpets made from plastic tanks, sweet tins, bottles and plastic piping.

We love to discover and learn about new instruments from all over the world. For example, one instrument we use is the akadinda – a wooden xylophone originating from East Africa. Usually with a xylophone you strike the tops of the pieces, but with an akadinda you strike the ends to make a more beautiful sound.

Making Music, Making Instruments

At Lewisham People’s Day, the team performed their set of 20 minutes. They played ‘Our Beat Speaks to the Heart’ and everyone’s favourite: ‘Fish and Chips’.

After a little break, they got out a huge picnic mat and everything we’d need for the drop-in Instrument Making Workshop: brightly coloured tape, ribbons, dried beans, plastic piping, bottles, and carefully taped cans and tins.

Anyone can come join in, and make a shaker or a drum out of recycled materials. We all sit down together and build and decorate the instruments. Then we have a jam session, with everyone playing together.

The workshops have a strong ethical and environmental message, as well as a creative one. They are a reminder that anything can be reused and turned into something fun.

Bigger and Better

Since March, the Band has gathered every week to build more instruments, compose new material, and rehearse. The performance schedule is ambitious and professional.

Three band members put their hands and wristbands together
Chirag, Scarlett and Amy put their wristbands together at Lewisham People’s Day

Summer 2016 has been a busy run of outdoor festivals all across London. As well as Lewisham People’s Day we hit Wandsworth Arts Fringe, Redbridge Green Fair, Fairlop Fair, Wandsworth’s ‘Get Active’ Festival, and The Streets in Ilford.

The Band’s sound is loud, rhythmic, and infectious. The beat will always get the audience up on its feet.

Members of the Band often travel together to support each other in the journeys across London. We meet at local stations and catch trains together, or just walk together to find the Festival site.

As everyone knows, London is a huge city. But travelling all over London together makes everyone feel more confident and independent.

“We are always looking for new members to join”

The Spare Tyre Band will be forming again in Spring 2017. We are always growing and looking for new members to join.

For more information about Spare Tyre and the Band visit their website.

Know of any other Bands for people with complex needs? Or ever seen the Spare Tyre Band perform? We would love to know what you thought!

Get in touch with ideas or comments on Twitter or leave a comment below!