Making Connections

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields will mark its 25-year history of working with people who have experienced homelessness in 2024. The people we work with live in a variety of circumstances – some might be living on the streets, others could be sofa-surfing or living in temporary or insecure accommodation. The workshops we deliver aim to take the principles of our chamber orchestra – creative freedom with joyful, collaborative music-making – beyond the concert hall: we invite participants to collaborate with our musicians, instil freedom for them to make creative choices, and use this to create enriching music-making experiences together.   

Here, Rachel Ingleton, ASMF oboist, reflects on our latest project, with new illustrations from Ruby Wright which capture the spirit of the recording session in November. 

As an ASMF player, I feel very lucky to have been involved in the recent collaborative musical project at The Connection. This is a day centre where homeless individuals can access a variety of services and it is situated right next to St Martin in the Fields Church – it is therefore close to the heart of the orchestra.

This project involved clients who use the day centre, a pool of ASMF players, together with some Royal Academy of Music postgraduate students who currently hold Open Academy Fellowships. Together we took part in creative music-making every Monday for 8 weeks. Each of the workshop sessions was led by the amazing Jackie Walduck, finally culminating in a recording session at St Anne’s Church at the end of November. 

The transient nature of homelessness means that there tends to be an unpredictable number of participants showing up each week. Some weeks the group can be large, often with a very active section of drummers, and other times it might be smaller, quieter and more reflective in mood. I love the fact that you never know what to expect from week to week, and there can be some great surprises. Recent examples of this are someone who wanted to try the violin, and with Catherine Morgan’s expert help, was a natural, and a quieter participant who was suddenly up for singing a really touching song he had written. Each person brings their own individual energy to the group, often depending on what is going on for them that particular day, some taking a more active role and others preferring to be more observant.  

“Participants showed a great curiosity with instruments, and, a willingness to experiment with different sounds and textures. For some, this was a new experience – the musicians were receptive to this, making sure that participants were not overwhelmed and that sessions were fun and light.”

Max Webster – Team leader at The Connection


The sessions start with some simple warm-ups using hand-held percussion before some players move on to tuned instruments. It always feels like a safe space for participants to try some simple improvisation and it’s amazing how this sometimes develops into a longer and varied piece without much need for verbal guidance. 

Some core members of the group attended the Monday sessions consistently and it has been a joy to see their confidence developing as the weeks progressed. I have been so pleased to witness the shift in this, from perhaps initially taking a back seat to later performing a more leading role, often contributing their own valuable musical ideas rather than just following instructions. 

“Over the years, a solid and heartfelt relationship has built up, drawing on the creativities of people living with the effects of homelessness and the incredible musicianship of Academy musicians. These talents come together to form a creative ensemble, improvising, devising work and co-composing. Here, all ideas are welcomed, every voice is heard, and artistic outcomes are created jointly.”

Jackie Walduck – Workshop leader, composer and percussionist


Partly due to Jackie’s sensitive awareness of each individual in the room, together with her calm leadership skills, there is always an atmosphere of trust, support and collaboration, and every member is equal within the group, however large or small their contribution. It was also inspiring to work with Hazel Gould – a writer who helped guide the group to use their own words to create a fantastic song which was rehearsed and then recorded and will be used in the Sound Walk in the Spring. 

I have been involved in these projects for many years and each one brings something special, but this was memorable, and the recording is something everyone in the group can take ownership of. 

“In our recent recording session, two group members recorded a melody they had created together on their glockenspiels.  A third member arrived with yet another song they had written during the week, and it is testament to the mutual trust and creativity within the team that we were able to realise this song beautifully, within a short window of studio time, and conducted by a fourth group member.”

Jackie Walduck 


“When we went to the studio, it was exciting for all those involved. For those that were new; it was something to aspire to and get involved next time, and, for those who were recording they showed a lot of focus and courage in engaging in the process. All of those that recorded music, spoke fondly about studio time and the entire experience and it was clearly a source of pride that they had been an integral part of the process.”

Max Webster


The SoundWalk will be available as part of the Marriner 100 Celebrations in April 2024. The recordings made in this project will be geolocated around St Martin-in-the-Fields church, and accessible to the general public via the Academy website.  

Our recording session was illustrated live by Ruby Wright. See more of Ruby’s work here:

To find out more about how you can support our work, visit