Colourful shakers on the floor

Plymouth Music Zone – Early Years Making – a conversation with music leader, Josie Newton about navigating challenges of Covid-19 working

What did you put in place to be able to maintain and support the relationship between yourself and the setting(s)?

Due to the nature of the work, working with 2-4 year olds, it was challenging to remain directly in contact. At the start of lockdown in 2020, I created videos of me singing (and playing) several of the pre-school’s favourite nursery songs which PMZ shared on Facebook. The pre-school then shared several of these videos themselves which parents ‘liked’ and commented on. It was a great opportunity for parents to see our work as they would never have been able to do so before.

During the summer holidays, I continued to work with the pre-school as they ran a holiday club for 4-11 year olds. These sessions were very different, where the children chose popular songs to sing and play along to. It was also a great opportunity to see and work with a few young participants who were not able to have their last PMZ session due to lockdown.

Did you have concerns about working in-person again and if so, why?

Due to my own health, I live with Fibromyalgia, I was very apprehensive returning to in-person work, along with being very excited to return to the setting. I had staggered my return to in-person work, to enable me to focus on each setting and what the return meant for everyone involved.

How did you adapt your practice for safe working?

As I returned during the warmer weather, we were able to work outside in the garden. This was not only a safer environment, but had much more space than the indoor setting, which meant we could be more socially distanced. The staff were incredibly supportive and helpful throughout this all, normalizing several new adjustments for the children. For example, I used to do a ‘hug or high-five’ at the end of my sessions, where the children, if they wished to, would line up to give me a hug or high five goodbye, which I could no longer offer. The young children continuously impressed me by respecting the space I needed – we now say and wave goodbye instead. When the rain and colder weather arrived, we moved back indoors, where the children sat in a semi-circle facing me, rather than a circle, so they were distanced from me whilst I wore a visor for the session. Again, the children adapted brilliantly. 

Has working around the challenges of the pandemic changed your feelings about your work?

Previously, to showcase my worth as a musician and music leader, I always felt that the musical elements of my sessions were my main focus and that anything else the participants gained from, was just a bonus. Whereas now, I have seen how the most important part of my music sessions, whether it be the Early Years sessions or guitar lessons, is giving a safe and creative space for individuals.

On several occasions during these challenging times, I have received feedback that my session was the only time that person had laughed that week, or this was the most confident they had felt, or music had given them a positive thing to focus on. I always believed in the importance of music, and all the wonderful things it inspires, but during this time, I’ve seen it in action.

Have you taken any positives from the circumstances?

I just feel incredibly lucky that I was able to continue to work creatively virtually and in-person throughout this time. Working with a diverse range of individuals through music has supported my own learning and development along with more personal aspects, like my mental health and own creativity.

Do you feel you were given adequate support / guidance from Plymouth Music Zone to help you in your work in early years settings?

Absolutely, the discussions between PMZ and the pre-school ready for my return gave me clear guidance, which I have continued to be able to follow. When I requested more comfortable and better functioning visors, PMZ provided me swiftly with new ones. I am also grateful for the trust PMZ put in me to ensure I am working safely for myself and PMZ participants in an external setting. This in itself has given me confidence walking in each week.


Thank you to funders Youth Music and The Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust for their support of our early years work.