With normality returning, many people are now regretting their lockdown purchases. But the end of home confinement is leaving some wincing at the fanciful, if well-meaning, acquisitions gathering dust in a cupboard.
As many wannabe lockdown Leonard Cohens and Laura Marlings have long abandoned their musical ambitions, a new initiative is making sure unwanted instruments find the right home.
Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho, central London, is hosting a musical instrument amnesty this Saturday for celebrities and the public to donate their forlorn flutes, untouched ukuleles and surplus saxophones.
All instruments will be serviced before being distributed across the UK and beyond to those less able to receive musical education. Donors will get a tracking number so they can follow their instrument’s journey and see first-hand where in the world it will find its second lease of life.
Past amnesties organised by Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation (RSCF) have seen more than 750 instruments and pieces of sound equipment delivered to children and young people in schools across the country and as far afield as South Africa and Uganda.
But organisers are expecting the post-pandemic musical disillusionment to lead to a surge in donations this year. “We are expecting turnout this year to be the biggest yet,” said Adaze Ologbosere, head of the RSCF. “If the number of calls we’ve had with people asking how they can donate is anything to go by, we expect the club to be full to the rafters on Saturday.”
Instruments collected in the amnesty are increasingly in demand from schools after the government’s plans to halve future funding for music in higher education, a move labelled “catastrophic” by members of the Musicians’ Union and other creatives, industry organisations, higher education institutions and trade unions who have expressed horror at the cuts.
It was during lockdown that Shay Levi decided it was time to fulfil her lifelong ambition to play the keyboard. “The second lockdown was pretty much screaming potential and doom all at once,” she said. “I have always wanted to accompany my vocals with piano but never really had the time or motivation to manifest it.”
But the fascination didn’t last long. “My motivation began to wane after a few sessions,” she admitted. “I’m definitely more of a hands-on learner but at the time face to face teaching wasn’t even an option.”
Gordon Downs had the same musical arc from enthusiasm to ennui. “I took up the guitalele at the beginning of the second lockdown after I found it sitting collecting dust in a local charity shop,” he said. “I’m 70 and wanted to prove that old dogs can learn new tricks but this instrument was too good for me: she’s a beauty and she needs someone with far more experience than I to do her justice.”
Rob Folkes, a professional musician who took up the acoustic guitar last January – and put it down for good six months later – said even such a short time playing an instrument was rewarding.
“I can’t say I achieved my original goal – I am not currently on a world tour playing a sellout show – but I certainly took something away from it,” he said. “The experience made me remember that there is a lot of joy and pleasure to be found from making music on a new instrument. I hope to do that again in the near future, be that with the guitar or something else.”