Nina Clark is a Folkestone-based musical activist. The different strands of her career span across several disciplines; singer, songwriter, guitarist/pianist, recording artist, live performer, musical practitioner and workshop facilitator.
Music ? There was never a time when I wasn’t into music! My sister picked my name, after finding ‘The High Priestess of Soul’ by Nina Simone in the LP cupboard. Whilst I’m not sure I’ll ever live up to that, my whole family are musical; my Mum and sister both sing and play piano, my Dad was the singer in a band (sadly before my time), so from an early age it was an encouraging environment for making music at home.
I was about 4 when I started playing piano (Twinkle Twinkle, mate) and singing followed swiftly behind. My sister Kate and I would make up odd songs or radio shows and tape them on the wee cassette player I adored. There was also a white boombox that got lugged around lovingly. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 16, when Alanis Morisette and Fun Lovin Criminals showed me what fun that instrument can be.
Teaching ? My teaching practice has been evolving as long as my performance life; my first teaching gig was at 14, leading an after-school toddlers music group at Homewood. After uni, I began teaching peripatetically in the Kent education sector as well as privately. Because inclusivity is so important to me, I am particularly fond of teaching beginners in singing and guitar, or people who find they are looking for some guidance in their practice.
The joy of seeing a student begin to really make progress, step out of their comfort zone or gain confidence on their instrument is difficult to describe. Being completely self-taught and ear-trained musically, I never had formal training or lessons in either instrument, despite the frequent offers of my parents to pay for tutelage. As a result, I naturally fell back on how I was taught in school by teachers in different disciplines, be they Dance, Drama, English or Media Studies.
The correlating factor in all those teachers was a great combination of discipline, constructive criticism and generous praise and encouragement. Through osmosis, this became my teaching ethos. Keep it fun, engaging and interesting, it’s not brain surgery!
This does not detract from the importance of musical engagement in our communities, societies or on a global scale. I believe wholeheartedly in the decades of evidence that prove music and the arts hold transformative, restorative powers, which I consistently want to make available to EVERYBODY! That is the crux of my musical activism; inclusion.
My new inclusive community group singing workshops, the League of Amiable Songsters is another opportunity to put my money where my mouth is in this respect. My monthly singing workshops will be a safe space to come and explore singing with fellows in a fun and friendly way. The sessions will be set up quite differently from a choir, no experience necessary, no auditions, and plenty of time will be spent developing handy skills to improve our abilities. Come along and have a sing, join the fun, this music is open to all.
© Peter Fry Photography
Walkabout ? I began working as a lounge entertainer in care homes around Kent as a result of facilitating another local group, Guildhall Sports and Arts CIC, song-swap project in 2014. I have always enjoyed the company of people older than myself, even as a child, and discovered the musical tastes of residents allowed me to resurrect my jazz pad / American Songbook repertoire, which I hadn’t approached for some years.
After one particular lounge gig ended up a little less well attended, a lovely activities organiser asked if I would go room to room with her singing for people who couldn’t join us in the lounge. Thus the Musical Walkabout project was born – it’s basically minstrelling, which is very pleasing to add to my list of job descriptions! I spent about six months canvassing local homes and interviewing managers and staff, and discovered that the one thing they all agreed they wish they had more of was time with residents. I think that is a big part of what I provide – a bespoke, 1-2-1 musical interaction based on requests, and a shared interest in discovering that meaningful song for each participant.
© Clare Unsworth/Foxbite Media
Working with the elders ? I think working with the elders in our communities is always a valuable, meaningful thing to do, and in terms of working environments, it is necessarily changeable – every day is different. I think somewhere down the line of the last 30 years, particularly in the Western world, the understanding of what our eldest generation can offer to our society and culture, in terms of time, conversation, wisdom, shared experiences, humour, a sense of perspective that spans decades and transcends trends, has been lost in a rush to the bottom, to the easiest, most profitable thing.
I have never had a trivial or tedious exchange with a resident, each person has something of value to share, and the more opportunities they have to share their wisdom, the healthier our whole world will be. This is true of every disenfranchised part of society. People can and should be heard.
My own family’s experience with the world I now find myself working in was my Nan’s vascular dementia (beginning with number of Transient Ischemic Attacks). Though she remembered us, her independence and capacity was impacted and my Mum quit her job in order to care for her in the year before she entered a care home.
The powerlessness I felt watching my Mum cope with this decline in her mother, through her own research and varied attempts to engage Nan with different activities, is something that I can now process through my own efforts to do the same with residents and clients of the Musical Walkabout.
The impact of the Walkabout ? The ways dementia can effect a person’s personality, their capacity to process information, their physical abilities and habits are profound and diverse. The social isolation this can engender is as damaging as the symptoms themselves and so the Musical Walkabout project is about finding ways through music to reconnect people who may feel adrift in their lives. A focus on participants wellbeing and facilitating their interactions in a positive way can lead to improved capacity to communicate, and bring some joy to what might be a difficult day.
What is heartening is how prominent dementia awareness is becoming in our modern culture. It is in the top tier of areas of society given attention within our governments now, which is a necessary and important way to attempt to counter it’s impacts on our civilisation. There remains an element of taboo when discussing openly situations which can give rise to social isolation – be they dementia, neurological disorders, mental health issues, addictions and more – but as a society we seem to be increasingly willing to tackle such challenges with an honesty and integrity that speaks of compassionate humanity.
© Clare Unsworth/Foxbite Media
A hidden place in Folkestone
It’s hardly hidden, but the Lime Bar on Tontine Street is without doubt my second domicile in Folkestone. Andi and Cath are stalwarts in the community, creatively and as bloody good people its a pleasure to know. Cannot say enough about how important the Lime Bar is for Folkestone.
Something you would only see in Folkestone
Seagulls battling magpies for treasure. You can probably see that in a lot of seaside towns, but we have the best and brightest Laridae and Corvidae.
Something very funny in Folkestone
Improv Gym, held at the Quarterhouse.
It would be remiss to omit mention of the Warren. The fossiling really is second to none. The Leas is a myriad of joys too…
That’s hard. Obviously the Lime Bar. But also The Chambers is another regular haunt for their great music and excellent beers, ciders and gin palace, Googies hosts great DJs, Kipps Alehouse for yummies and the monthly Wonderjam must be on the list. The Harbour Arm is a hub of goodness.
Best fish and chips
Best ice cream
Bello Gelato on Cheriton Place
Best coffee shop
Oh gods, too hard. I shall throw Beanos on Tontine Street and Steep Street on the Old High Street in there for good reason and good measure.
Best concert venue
Split between The Leas Cliff Hall and The Quarterhouse. I attend the latter more regularly, but both are great! Personally, I’ve always wanted to play at the Amphitheatre in the Lower Leas Coastal Park. Bucket list stuff…
Best shopping place
Anywhere on the Old High Street
Best apparel shop (designer, vintage, …)
Feral Child on Old High Street. Very honourable mention to Bounce, opposite Helga and Daniel’s.
Best kids activity
Kid’s Planet is pretty awesome in winter. The Coastal Park is amazing year-round, but really comes into it’s own during the summer.
How to possibly answer that without offending a ton of mates?! I’m going to say Helga Mendes DaFonseca-Shaw, because her talents across disciplines and art forms seemingly never end.
I like Space, but there are oodles. Lime exhibits lots of local talent.
Best health and well being place
I’ve personally benefited from Samantha Whiteside’s reflexology/reiki/massage and more at Folkestone Holistic Health, near the Central Station.