Jo Higson

PMZ Special Advisor – Equality Advocate


What do you do for PMZ?
I am a Special Advisor, bringing my specialist knowledge and thirty-five years of experience of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to help in any way I can. I have worked both at a strategic level and on the front-line supporting people directly and currently manage a community team for The Co-operative Group (The Co-op). I am a Fellow of the Institute of Equality and Diversity Professionals, but it’s not just a job for me, it is a real passion running throughout my life.

I have long been a supporter of Plymouth Music Zone, having brought a group of talented people being supported by Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support, back in 2011. I saw the transformational effect of PMZ then and will be ever grateful for Teri, the music leader for the group, who insisted I didn’t sit on the sidelines and gave me the confidence to sing. I have previously been a Trustee at Plymouth Music Zone too – which the pandemic rather disrupted. So, it’s great to be back to be supporting their incredibly inspiring work.

Do you play any instruments?

I started learning the violin at age 8, having been inspired by the Halle Proms in Manchester. It was a real treat to go in to the city on the train and see some world-leading musicians from around the world. I stopped when I went to University at 18 but have been back to it a couple of times, most recently in 2017 when I had lessons again. I also have a mandolin (same string configuration) which I started to teach myself during the pandemic, and intend to continue (with some lessons) when I finish my PhD.

I have also had times of pure joy singing in harmony in choirs. I don’t have a strong voice for solos but sang alto in my school choir and loved singing in the annual carol service. We were once recorded for BBC Radio and transmitted on Christmas Day. In more recent years I have been part of a couple of choirs including the Barbican Community Choir and Voices at TRP.

What musical instrument would best describe you as a person?
Mmmm. A good question. I asked this of some of my Co-op colleagues and they suggested a gamelan because it has a beautiful tone, has international influences and is a bit unusual. I thought that was very nice of them to suggest – so yes, I’ll take that.

What has music done for you in your life?
I couldn’t imagine living without it. I love listening, participating and seeing the joy it brings to others. Which you can obviously see in abundance at PMZ. I really enjoy live music too, both in small intimate venues (there are some amazing local musicians – Alex Hart, Becca Langsford, Kay Scoble and Swingology to name a few) and large concerts. Ludovico Einaudi is one of my favourite composers and I loved hearing him at the Pavilions, and in the summer I went to the All Points East Festival in London to hear one of my current favourites, Jungle (“Back on 74” is my current earworm). There is something about feeling the music reverberate within your body that is so life-affirming.

What’s the best bit about working at PMZ?
The people – and the values that everyone upholds in all the work that goes on here. Seeing my passion for equality, diversity and inclusion play(!) out here is wonderful.

What’s the first record/CD you ever bought?
Eek. It was a 45rpm vinyl. The Wombles and The Wombling Song. Least said about that, the better.