Starting as an office junior at Chrysallis Music in his teens, Mike Fry went on to work with artists including Robert Plant and Marillion.
“The first open mic I ran was in Midhurst’s Royal Oak in 2002. There seemed to be a need for somewhere to create, express and perform. Many musical relationships and long term friendships were born there.
“I met my long-suffering band, The FT, there, as well as vocalist Charlotte Woodman with whom I also perform,” said Mike, who currently co-hosts The Vestry Open Mic in Chichester with Chris Cox.
With his ethos rooted in access and inclusion, Mike reckons that open mics are great for musicians who are starting out and who don’t have enough songs to fill a gig commitment.
“Or maybe a band is trying out new material or a poet or a comic wants to try out new work?
“We have a great PA system and engineer, two high quality guitar amps, bass amp, drum kit. You just need to come down on a Tuesday and get inspired. A lot of the music is totally improvised; good old fashioned jamming. It’s free, too.
“Chichester’s other great night is at La Havana, on Wednesdays, which has more of an acoustic vibe.”
Another initiative that Mike is involved in is Story Factory. Workshops that inspire young imaginations through creative writing, art and music.
“I keep coming back to Story Factory because it offers such a fun and deeply creative day to children,” said Mike.
“It’s a melting pot for the imagination to really play itself out and the ideas just flow.
“I get challenged to put together a song which must include something from each child’s story. Over the years we’ve written some rather adventurous songs!”
Believing music to be a great tool for communication and for creating community, Mike has worked extensively with therapists and alongside practitioners in associated arts.
“I have developed a deeper sense of mindfulness; how we can use music to gain greater control of our emotions and our wellbeing. There is no coincidence in the rise of community choirs, for instance. We love to be entertained but to participate is to thrive. Much of my work is about making that participation feel OK for people. Everybody should have the same opportunities for participation. I am currently training teachers in Belarus and Sweden in techniques for working with inclusivity. I’m also running the module Music in the Community at Chichester University.”
And having just signed a two-book deal with Blue Sky Press to write about inclusion through music, Mike is a busy chap.
“I’m also launching Sweet Vibration Music, a series of mindfulness workshops using drumming, chanting, guided meditation and relaxation. I’ve piloted this in Sweden with one of my training groups and the feedback was fantastic,” he smiled.
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