On a deliriously hot Sunday, my husband and I took our two daughters aged 5 and 7 on to their first ever stage performance.
We had been deliberating about whether they, and we, wanted them to go through the scary ordeal of facing a crowd, however big or small it may be. Our anxiety was stopping us from letting our girls experience something new that they could potentially really enjoy! When we decided to take the chance and take them to Junior Open Mic (JOM), they really did! The crowd was small enough, the venue was hot, however masking that was the indisputable excitement in the air. The energy was abuzz with parents and children, all waiting in anticipation for their turn on the bright stage.
Junior Open Mic was founded by a gentleman called Andy Gray who decided to create a platform for children to experience a professionally set up stage but without the anxiety of it being a competition and absolutely NO judgement! The idea came about after Andy’s 12-year-old daughter, who at the time had been accepted to a prestigious music school, needed a stage to practice the Ukulele, an instrument he plays as well. He approached the owner of His local bar/pub and asked if his daughter could perform to a few people. The love of a dad and his inspiration to give his daughter exposure to a crowd and stage has turned into one of the most incredible opportunities for children who love the stage or just have artistic talents they would like to showcase. For us and for Andy seemingly, it was a safe place for our children to explore being on stage and just have fun.
I caught up with Andy to find out more on how he started this ground-breaking event. This is what he had to say:
SABENA: What inspired you to start Junior Open Mic?
ANDY: My daughter who was awarded a school music scholarship with no background in music. She taught herself to sing and play the ukulele from online tutorials, practiced hard, and performed for the very first time (beyond an audience of mum & dad) for the exam. Seeing how much she applied herself, I thought it would be a good idea to ‘engineer’ another performance event – so asked our local music venue if they would let her on stage, using their sound equipment when they weren’t busy. She loved it – especially all the attention of her and the ukulele getting mic’d up. A month later she performed again bringing some of her friends to have a go, and it just grew by word-of-mouth from there.
SABENA: Why is this open mic so important for children?
ANDY: Because it builds confidence and makes them feel special. It’s something they choose to do, so when they’re on stage, they own that moment! Also, being comfortable with presenting yourself is a life skill.
To encourage performance, the junior open mic format we use is deliberately non-competitive, and I think that’s important. I learnt why from helping run a free community football club where mums and dads play alongside kids so the kids get more equal time on the ball. The club gets loads of kids joining in who wouldn’t normally have the confidence to play football in the school playground.
Underpinning the JOMs is a fabulous pool of parent volunteers who assist in various roles ranging from compere, sound assistant, performers’ assistant, certificate and free drink presenter, all trying to make each performer feel as special as possible.
SABENA: How frequent does the Open Mic run?
ANDY: About every 2 months depending on term times and availability of the venue. The next one is on the 16th September at 2pm at Off the Cuff in Herne Hill. If you are travelling from further away, there’s a gorgeous market outside the bar to browse around.
SABENA: What next for Junior Open Mic?
ANDY: Well I have a scoop for you! In addition to the regular JOMS we are planning a free Micro Festival in Brockwell Park at 2pm on 16th September where about twenty of the more confident performers at JOM will perform in public for the very first time. There’s space for an audience of up to 500 and the quality of the sound set up (kindly donated by a parent/professional sound engineer) is top notch! The event is organised entirely by local parent volunteers. I see the event as a great chance for young performers to test their nerves!
As parents JOM has proven how enthusiastic children can be when put in an unrestricted environment, doing what they love. Our daughters seriously enjoyed their first ever performance and the reward of an official certificate to remind them of their special and brave performance. After all, was said and done, we sat in the pub watching the World Cup drinking our free drink (children get a free drink for joining), reflecting on how great we all felt. The girls’ enthusiasm has encouraged us to want to go back again and they are eager to start practising for their next performance.
Thank you, Andy, for creating such a fantastic platform for our little stars, we can finally take their performances to the big stage instead of secretly doing them at home.
Junior Open Mic
Twenty brave, young performers (aged 4-17) from local JOM (Junior Open Mic) events perform in public for the very first time. Come and hear the next generation of talent. Grab a blanket, picnic and a sneaky bottle of wine!
TICKETS – Sun 16 September 2018, 14:00 – 16:30, London, UK
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A 30-something with a passion for life and most of all for her family. She spends her days not only working alongside her husband as a childminder but focussing on raising two beautiful daughters. Sabena is a former fashion student and keeps her creative juices flowing by blogging. Her world currently revolves around her children, however, she has a keen interest in gardening and her unexpected love of writing.