IAVMT Conferences

The 2010 IAVMT Conference in Norfolk, UK

Roots and Shoots: Re-connecting with the home ground of VMT,
in celebration of our growing community

UK 2010 conference group photo

Castle Acre, Norfolk, UK. October 19 - 24, 2010

The IAVMT Conference took place this year in Castle Acre, an old medieval village in beautiful rural Norfolk, in the UK. The two venues we used, the Old Red Lion and the Village Hall, were both comfortable and characterful. This year the conference was organized by a five-member committee: Tracy Starreveld (IAVMT Director), Melanie Harrold, Lilith Gottfarb, Sebastiana Mikulova and Veronica Phillips. It lasted six days and comprised of two days of Supervision, a Directors Meeting day and the Conference proper. The Conference itself included a public open day, with workshops, presentations and performances from practitioners for invited guests, and concluded with the Annual General Meeting.

Castle Acre forest

18 members attended this year’s Conference:


The purpose of the conference was as always to gather the worldwide VMT community in one place on the planet and share our news and ideas on how we are living, practising and sharing VMT with the wider community. We were able to listen to each other, voice our concerns, and express where each of us are with our own personal and professional practice. Some presented their most recent projects and experiences on how to use VMT in specific settings, with specific populations and intentions. We enjoyed the diversity that each of us brought to the meaning and expression of VMT. It was a real opportunity to nurture and cherish the immense value VMT holds in our lives, and remind ourselves how it can enrich the lives of others.

The theme of Roots and Shoots gave a special flavour to this year’s conference. Our intention was to honour and further integrate the foundations of VMT into the strengthening and growing International Association.

Tuesday 19th & Wednesday 20th October

Castle Acre Village hall


This year’s supervision was attended by eight practitioners, which made it a very intimate and dynamic group, where lots of ideas were exchanged and shared. Anne Brownell facilitated the first day.

First, Anne led us into a dynamic and playful warm up by introducing a rhythm and simple tune. The group then expressed an interest in reviewing some of the vocal components. Practitioners offered their experiences of working with the three timbres and rich, creative imagery and songs were drawn upon to embody them. Sophie facilitated an inspiring way of teaching pitch fluctuation, which was then explored further using images suggested by others in the group. The components of Violin and disruption were also reviewed and ideas shared.

The group then looked into the issue of resistance in a group workshop situation and practitioners offered each other suggestions for how to deal with it. Problems with pitching and how to tackle it were also discussed. Sebastiana asked for some insight into co-facilitation and the group shared their own experiences of this, working either with another VMT practitioner or with a practitioner of another expressive arts therapy. At the end of this rich, stimulating and very engaging day Hennie talked us through his many good ideas regarding the entrepreneurial side of our work. The group discussed the different domains where VMT could be offered as a way of extending its reach, for example: working with businesses, or in care homes, residential settings or drama schools, etc.

Christine Isherwood facilitated the second day of supervision. Her focus for the day was on grounding, protection and consciousness. These themes sparked deep reflections and experiences. After a grounding warm up, practitioners reflected on what grounding means to them and gave examples from their own practice. Protection was explored in a similar manner by bringing in examples from our work with clients. We explored the issues of transference, counter-transference, self-care and the true meaning of protection for each of us. Sophie shared her success in helping a group of vulnerable young women to create a new, healthier relationship to their bodies and themselves by using VMT. The group also shared about the times when we as practitioners have felt ‘stuck’ in the therapeutic process and what has helped us to move on. It instigated a useful reflection on the importance of pausing, breathing, grounding ourselves in the present and trusting the process whilst using VMT tools. Active supervision was also a powerful and invaluable part of the two Supervision days, and practitioners had an opportunity to work with each other in front of the group in order to explore the difficult dynamics that can arise between practitioner and client.

Back to Top

Friday 22nd October


On Thursday evening we were joined for dinner by some practitioners who had trained with Paul Newham many years ago, which made the gathering even more significant and special. A spontaneous song sharing session around a big dinner table brought us all together in a joyful and creative fashion.

"Breathing the Spirit" by Sophie Martin

On Friday morning all practitioners gathered in the Village Hall where we had our morning session. After an invigorating voice and movement warm-up facilitated by Tracy, Sophie Martin shared with us her experiences of working with trauma survivors in Kenya. She offered us a very moving and awe-inspiring presentation about the Healing Hands Project 2009, which she had taken part in alongside other professionals from different therapeutic fields. The presentation included photos and videos of her vocal work with the Kenyan people, both with individuals and groups. The documentary was beautifully interwoven with Sophie’s personal and evocative account of her days, reflections and experiences.

"Journeying with the Rational Voice" by Hennie Pienaar

Hennie Pienaar took us on a rather different journey, the one of ‘the rational voice’. Hennie’s background is partly in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and his intention for this workshop was to find creative ways to reveal and transform our negative mental patterns. Practitioners were invited to confront their unconscious inner critic and irrational beliefs, and to give them a voice, in order to find greater self-acceptance.

"Ambivalence and Alchemy" by Veronica Phillips

In this experiential workshop Veronica invited us to explore the facilitating relationship in VMT by focusing on the developing awareness of the therapist, and the consequent invitations, directions and suggestions offered to the client. The workshop involved work in two’s and three’s in order to explore the different dynamics between the therapist and the client, with the additional support and insight provided by a witness.

"Voice Medicine Work" by Trish Watts

In this gently restorative and poignant workshop practitioners were given an opportunity to look into ways of sustaining their own creative life and sense of balance through a shamanic-inspired process involving voice, breath and movement. The issues of self-care, energy management and stress release were explored through vocal journeys and group sharing. The workshop concluded with a very heartfelt group improvisation.

"Working with Neurological Diseases and Learning Difficulties" by Carol Grimes

In this workshop Carol drew from her significant experience of using voicework with these two client groups. She engaged us in some of the methodology she uses in her groups and introduced us to vocal games that encourage the expression of specific types of sounds, together with their related emotional affect. In particular, we had a lot of fun with a group ‘cursing session’, as well as an extended improvisation with individuals having the chance to sing solo with the support of the group. The practitioners discussed the benefits of such interventions for this specific population.

After this full and informative day, strengthened by a wholesome dinner, we returned to the village hall for an informal cabaret of creative treats offered by and for VMT practitioners. Tracy was our MC for the evening. The performances comprised of a rich and highly entertaining collection of comedy, performance poetry and songs, both original and known, sung a cappella or accompanied by a variety of instruments, including piano, harmonium and accordion.

Saturday 23 October

Back to Top

Castle Acre Village Hall Sign


On Saturday the VMT community welcomed our special guests, invited by the organisers’ committee, and included choir leaders, Expressive Arts therapists, psychotherapists, singers and voice-workers from Norfolk, London and further afield. The day started with a warm welcome, introduction and an opening song. Anne Brownell then gave a comprehensive and highly informative talk entitled The beauty of the dared expression (quote from Alfred Wolfsohn): a brief history and purpose of VMT’.

The talk was followed by a choice of workshops, for both guests and practitioners, all facilitated by senior VMT teachers and trainers. In the morning two workshops ran in parallel, one in the village hall and one in the garden studio.

"The expressive dynamics of song" a workshop by Melanie Harrold.

In this workshop Melanie invited participants to explore the song as a creative container for our own emotional and psychological development by introducing us to the planes of expression, often used in VMT. Working with the planes of expression encouraged us to discover what a song can reveal and express for us, and to enjoy the singing of it as a fully-embodied experience.

"A lullaby to the self" by Christine Isherwood.

Christine began this workshop with an introduction to some of the core vocal and movement components of VMT. This led into an exploration of the three timbres within the sphere, where we encountered ourselves as breathing, sounding and moving beings. From there, participants were invited to sing a lullaby to those parts of the self, which needed holding and comforting. Each person had the opportunity to share their lullaby in a small group exploration, with the others providing vocal accompaniment and support.

After an excellent lunch, where conversation was shared between guests and practitioners, two more workshops were awaiting us.

"The embodied voice": an introduction to VMT by Anne Brownell.

In this workshop Anne invited the group to begin to explore some of the ways VMT engages us in the quest for expression of feelings and personal change. The group was introduced to the vocal timbres and animal postures, using both the speaking voice and singing. Due to the small size of the space and group, participants had an invaluable opportunity to work with Anne individually as well as with others, to address some of their own specific vocal patterns and obstacles.

"Playing with the timbres, playing with harmonies" by Eva Campbell-Haidl.

In this workshop Eva invited the participants to explore the idea of the vocal tube, in the context of a group singing experience. Participants were introduced to the three vocal timbres by working with breathing, posture, movement, articulation, improvisation, sound and song. The group had an opportunity to sing a beautiful African song in a three-part harmony, each time in a different timbre. Participants experienced how the imagery of the vocal tube can connect them with their whole body and how its different shapes affect the expression of the song.

After a very enjoyable hour of tea, cake and conversation, the invited professionals gathered again for the final part of the day: formal performances by VMT practitioners in the village hall. Anne Brownell, Melanie Harrold, Carol Grimes, Eva Campbell-Haidl, Christine Isherwood, Sebastiana Mikulova, Jenni Roditi, and Trish Watts all conspired to enchant their audience, offering an incredible variety of songs from different genres. Many of the songs performed were originals but some known songs were also featured, including an exuberant and roof-raising rendition of “When I need you”, performed by Melanie and Carol, which went down so incredibly well that almost from the start (and certainly by the end) most of their audience were singing too!

After that a fond farewell was given to what seemed an inspired and satisfied public. When the clearing up was done, a celebration spontaneously followed in the local pub and the Red Lion to mark a very successful and exciting day of sharing our work with the wider world.

The IAVMT Conference 2010 concluded on the Sunday after our customary Annual General Meeting and a final lunch together.

To download the 2010 conference report (.pdf format, 596KB) please click here

All images reproduced with permission. ©Copyright IAVMT 2010

Back to Top