Why creativity matters Seven years on, Epic Award winners still keep the beat Pandemonium Drummers was founded in 2012 and is a volunteer organisation of around 100 active members based across England. The group won our Epic Award for England in 2014 for their achievements in grassroots creative activity, and recently celebrated becoming an incorporated charity. Ten members of the group were interviewed in July 2020 to bring to light what has kept the group going strong over the past eight years, and how they have remained connected during the pandemic. Read the full story here. How did it all start? Pandemonium Drummers were 1000 volunteers originally put together by London 2012 Ceremonies for the Pandemonium segment of Danny Boyle's Olympic Opening Ceremony. The formation of the Pandemonium Drummers happened organically, when one participant created a Facebook group for members to keep in touch and keep drumming. While the Olympics were underway, and members were also rehearsing for their role as athletes marshals in the Olympic Closing Ceremony, a group member shared an opportunity to drum at Standon Calling Festival. The group took their buckets, which they use as drums, and industrial revolution costumes to their very first gig. Their Closing Ceremony attire included a blue bowler hat with a light bulb on top, which continues to be recognisable part of their performance costume. We have our own history, we're writing our own connectedness. - Helen The success of Standon Calling Festival marked the start of an intense year of performances around the country. Over the past eight years, the group has regularly been performing at parades, charity events, festivals, and sporting events including the London New Year’s Day Parade and London Marathon. The group are continuing activity through distanced drumming during the pandemic, which is providing them with welcome social connectedness as well as wellbeing benefits felt from drumming. What's it like being part of Pandemonium Drummers? The group is welcoming and friendly and bonds between group members have formed at rehearsals over the years, thanks to the openness and generosity of spirit of its members. This atmosphere is supported by groups that formed to travel on the train to events together, localised meet-ups that take place outside of rehearsal times and a willingness to make new members feel welcome. What keeps the group ticking? The success of Pandemonium Drummers is in part down to the mechanics of the group. Their dedicated committee helps to create structure, while the members' roles within the group are informal, and part of an organic process. It hasn’t grown as part of some strategic long term plan or from a directorate at the top. People bubble up and take on roles. It’s a non-hierarchical set up. - Mary A [Since taking on the role] I am more confident. I’ve done things. I had never organised events before and I’ve organised a few - some of them quite big... it really made me organise myself, because you have to be very detail orientated...suddenly it made people think ‘I'm proud of her. - Mary A What about the drumming? The drumming itself is integral to what keeps the group going. It provides stress relief, energising benefits, and is a glue for the group, creating a shared sense of purpose and growth. From a mental health point of view I love that fact that it is all consuming and high energy. I always feel exhilarated after it. - Helen The group also support each other to create a platform for learning where members develop their drumming skills and performance confidence. Everyone is encouraged to be themselves, and embrace their own performance style. What has happened during the pandemic? During lockdowns the drumming has been a way to stay connected with each other at regular events, creating segments of pieces that were then edited together by Dan, including their video to thank NHS and key workers and 'Carnival de Lockdown'. Even when not working towards a performance, playing the drums during lockdown was beneficial for wellbeing. During lockdown, as I live on my own it does get a bit lonely at times, so I set up a Zoom wine bar as I called it for a number of people in the group, and we do that every couple of weeks. I still had to produce the accounts for the group so it felt that life was carrying on as normal. Being treasurer also helps to keep my brain active in retirement. - Sally What is the value in being a volunteer organisation? Everyone is there because they want to be there, not because they are forced to be there. Everyone is enthusiastic and it’s just lovely. - Dan The diversity of the performers encourages the audience to feel that they too could be a Pandemonium Drummer, while the technique of drumming on buckets inspires audiences to try drumming at home. Eight years on from the London Olympics, Pandemonium Drummers continue to socialise, perform and advocate. They are looking for younger members! Learn more and get in touch with the group via Pandemonium Drummers' website. You can also reach them via email ([email protected]) or Twitter @2012drummers.