Gam-A-Jam is an 18-month Youth Music-funded project delivered in partnership with Heathlands Project and James Rennie School to develop youth leadership, composition and performance skills through exploring the sounds of the Gamelan.

What We Have Achieved

Our Project



We started the programme in June 2016 with a short composition project which challenged the composers on the BlueJam team to learn about the gamelan and incorporate it into 6 new compositions for the Morecambe Kite Festival. This turned out to be an especially enjoyable and effective training idea and kickstarted the programme in a lively and productive way. The Kite festival performace went really well, with families watching and engaging in the workshops we delivered between performances.



We then felt energised and excited about finding out more about our new instrument and developing our skills and knowledge about it. This was facilitated by our new partnership with Heathlands Project in Carlisle where immediately the opportunities became apparent to trade their knowledge of the Gamelan and working with groups of young people with learning differences with our musical expertise and experience.




Over the summer of 2016 we ran two week-long learning, performance and youth leadership projects which involved National Citizenship students from Inspira working alongside members of Heathlands Project.


Video of final performance Week 1

Video of final performance Week 2



In the Autumn Term 2016 our core activity involved training 12 young leaders from James Rennie School to learn, create and pass on knowledge and skills about the Gamelan as an accessible and fun musical instrument.


Here is their final performance, led by Mike Borgia from Heathlands:

James Rennie performance at Heathlands 2016:BlueJam Arts on Vimeo.




In Spring 2017 we took the Gamelan to James Rennie School for an in-depth, hands-on opportunity for those leaders to actually deliver the skills they have learned with younger students from the school. This has been one of the highlights of the programme, with excellent feedback from the participants, the school and parents. We really hope to be able to repeat this in future years.


The group composed and rehearsed two pieces which they performed to the school and parents/carers to great acclaim and enthusiasm. It was a magic moment, with the audience able to try out the instruments as well as watch the leaders lead the warm-ups they had devised for the group.



During the course of the project, we organised training sessions and open sessions at Heathlands and at community festivals for families to experience playing on the gamelan. These have been instructive and inspirational and have led to a series of ideas about how we can integrate the gamelan into musical performances and community events and use the resource fully. Families from around the area as well as composers, singers, improvisors, folk musicians, youth workers and artists have all come and had a go.

First open gamelan session at Heathlands – you can see we are trying to play and read from the chart – in later sessions we memorised the structure instead.

BlueJam Gamelan 1 from BlueJam Arts on Vimeo.







SCHOOL WORKSHOP AT UCC WITH GCSE MUSIC GROUP, creating a piece to play to 13 primary schools and Heathlands at the Rheged performance in October 2017.





This was such good fun – everyone mucked in after initial reluctance and we created a storyline, cut out shadow show and music to go with it on the gamelan instruments! Here are some images:


CHORCH taster session at BlueJam Space in Penrith

We have offered taster sessions to children from primary schools, focussing on children who are in nurture groups and their buddies. Two schools have come out to Heathlands to play on the gamelan – here is Bewcastle! and their composition Bewcastle BlueSky!





gamajam nl





At Heathlands and for the Rheged performance we were able to use the Dwi Gambia Sari gamelan, which is such a beautiful and precious instrument.

Here are close ups of some of the instruments taken by Luke, one of our young music leaders:






We have also been able to be flexible in offering small outreach events with the use of specially hand-made gamelan instruments by one of our former participants, Lawrence Leith. These lightweight and beautiful instruments sound great, are portable, and also generate a whole new discussion with young people about engineering, how sound is produced, and how to make their own instruments out of recycled materials. The project has also been a boost for Lawrence’s music instrument design and making plans by giving him experience in how to work with potential clients,Here are close ups of some of his instruments taken by Luke, one of our young music leaders:

Here are some of his instruments:

As his instruments are portable and sturdy we have been able to take them to events in the city centre as well as muddy fields and attracted children and families from a wide range of backgrounds.


The Gam-A-Jam project has been exciting, fun and very productive, allowing us to get to know new groups and individuals and start to develop new and sustainable creative relationships.

Made possible by funding from Youth Music.

Gamelan Facts

“The term gamelan – derived from the Javanese word “gamel” meaning to strike or to handle – refers to the ensemble of predominantly percussion instruments on which the traditional gamelan music of Java and Bali is played. Vocal music has also had a significant role in the development of gamelan music, alongside the addition of the rebab – a stringed fiddle, the siter (a plucked zither) and the bamboo flute called suling.” South Bank Centre Gamelan Resources

Project Team

Heather Tipler – Programme Manager and Arts Award
Jilly Jarman – Project Director and Musician
Ali Watson – Musician and SEN teacher
Tom Leah – recording artist and producer

Sarah Kekus – CMH, musician and gamelan consultant
Lawrence Leith – music instrument maker, gamelan consultant and trainee leader
Matt Warwick – young music leader trainee

Mike Borgia – Heathlands director, theatre director and enabler
Neo Borgia – young music leader trainee