Flow Maugran is a percussionist living in Adamsdown who, when she’s not making clothes and crocheting accessories, runs classes in drumming for people of all ages. For the third Splottlight piece on local artists, Inksplott caught up with Flow to find out more about what bangs her drum.
Inksplott: So Flow, you have two creative businesses, which are both quite different. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Flow: Teranga Percussion is my business name for drumming and I also have ‘Go with the Flow Clothing & Accessories’. I like to spread everything around, but the drumming business came first.
Inksplott: Tell us about Teranga Percussion
Flow: Teranga Percussion is a hand-drumming group I established around 2006. The idea when I started was to get together to play West African rhythms, incorporating singing as well. Over the years I detached myself from that and now it’s much more about community playing. It doesn’t have to be complicated; artists think sometimes it has to be very technical and intricate. With drumming it doesn’t have to be that, especially if you want the community to participate. Trying to get the community to play. Understanding….but being creative with it. It’s not just about teaching someone to play and that’s it, it’s about how to get together and play together and I’m concentrating on this in particular.
Inksplott: Who comes to your sessions?
Flow: I teach one-to-one or groups of any age. The youngest I teach is five years old and the oldest I’ve taught is probably in their sixties. The name Teranga is out of respect for where I started to learn drumming, which is in Senegal. I kept the name because first it means ‘welcome’ as a loose term. It’s what it’s about – welcoming people to play.
I have a group on and off. It’s a mix of children and adults and the point is TO PLAY! Not to be serious about it, but to play and have fun. That’s where it is at the moment. I don’t know where it’s going!
Inksplott: And the business is local?
Flow: This is one of the reasons that I love my house in Adamsdown; I can do this at home. Despite the fact it can be very loud, I can teach at home! There is a timescale though, between 1pm and 5pm but I’m only teaching Thursday to Saturday afternoons. I’ve carefully considered the timeset because I understand what it’s like for my neighbours. It’s important to be considerate.
My landlord is really supportive which is really good. My neighbours also understand. There are also two other drummers in the street!
Inksplott: Blimey! It’s drum-central! What about your other business?
Flow: The other thing I do is crochet and knitting, but that inspired images in people’s mind. Usually an idea of a grandmother knitting horrible jumpers. It still has that image! We need to change this.
This is a legacy from one side of my family, which is very common. A lot of grandparents would teach knitting etc., to their children. Anything to do with craft.
I specialise in it because I love it. It’s very therapeutic. Same as drumming – the repetition of things. I also see the link between everything in terms of rhythm. The way we move, the pattern. If we take the way we live, we wake up, the things we do. It’s similar with music and art in general. It’s all about patterns.
Inksplott: How did you get started?
Flow: I primarily started with selling, doing markets or special events. Free form crochet – there’s not a specific pattern – it’s a technique! Start with a pattern and expand. I did a few workshops here and there the last few years; how to crochet, how to knit, how to use simple material and being creative with it. I think that with craft we buy supplies and equipment to make something else, but with very little recycled materials you can make something. The primary thing is imagination. It sounds obvious!
Just using pieces of thread and making something out of it. You need a bit of technique but it’s not about knowing each stitch of a pattern. If you know the basics of how to move your hand and find a rhythm, with a few stitches you can make…well, it’s up to your imagination!
If there’s one thing you can do with creativity and heart it’s having no limitation. No boundaries! Creating your thoughts. It doesn’t have to follow a set pattern. Use it as a base but create your own.
Inksplott: Sounds like you encourage creative free-thinking through both of your businesses?
Flow: I hear “I’m not creative, I don’t have rhythm…” I think it’s the mind talking saying I can’t do. It’s about changing the mindset so that you can hear your rhythm. When you walk or breathe, listen to your heart. Sounds cheesy but it’s actually true!
It’s the same with crochet and knitting – finding ways of doing something with simple materials. People tend to see the finished product first but if they start seeing the process, showing them the steps, they realise ‘I can do this!’. Any artist who started, started somewhere. The experience and practice comes with time.
I teach the three Peas, especially to children. When they struggle, I say first is to practice, then persevere and then have patience. I added another because play is very important, being playful.
Inksplott: You live in Adamsdown. Tell us a bit about how you came to be based here.
Flow: I’ve lived in Adamsdown for ten years now – ten years this year – wow! I was looking for a quiet house and I visited the one in Adamsdown and liked it and stayed there.
I left and came back to Wales a few times. I’m French-born with Caribbean heritage which is very important to me. I used to live in Roath but Adamsdown is a bit more cosmopolitan and mixed. People are down to earth. Generally it’s like, there’s no fuss. On Clifton Street, people are in the shop and they say hello. There’s no froth around it, I suppose. I like that direct way of being. People have an idea of it as being a bit rough but I think this is a misinterpretation. People work really hard and they get tired and it shows on their face. I like the area – it’s nice. It’s why I stayed.
I like the fact it’s not too shiny round here. And I love my house!
Inksplott: There are loads of artists living in Splott and Adamsdown. Do you think that there’s an artist’s vibe or creative community?
Flow: If I’m completely honest there is a lack of communication and honesty between everybody in terms of art. It’s like a block. Don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the weather!
In terms of venues, Adamsdown in particular has an image that is not shiny or the façade where people expect to be happy, but actually people are just real, more than other places in Cardiff. I’m not criticising bad or good, it’s just what it is. I think everybody stays in their corners because it’s hard sometimes.
Inksplott: How do we see more art and creativity grow locally?
Flow: Simplicity. Giving more opportunities for people. I teach but it’s to people who can afford it. It would be nice to have more opportunities for people to do art, people who can’t always afford to pay. We probably have to push people to do that. If they work ten hours a day they may not want to also do something creative. Go to people to say ‘it would be nice to have something regular’. Works better in the longterm. Also getting people to know each other in the art context. Being a bit less formal. If someone is creating an art piece they are entering into a bubble of thoughts and creativity, so they feel more relaxed and open to others. One of the purposes of artists is to heal people in many ways. As soon as we create something, we let go of something, from negative to positive.
It would be nice to have something more regular; to give the option to join in. A pattern again!
It is at the moment a bit austere and dark, so it would be good if people came out and got together. There is a lot of misunderstanding and misconception about people at the moment. I feel a lot of people are scared. There is a lot of anxiety out there. If we start to communicate show emotions through art it might help us to understand each other better. More engaging, less prejudice.
Let’s get together and do something (artists). Perhaps in the future would be good to have a gathering of artists who want to talk. It doesn’t have to be a particular project, just a starting point. Getting together and talking about what we can do in Adamsdown, Splott and Tremorfa. Especially in these areas because it’s needed more here than perhaps Penarth and Pontcanna.
Also more for the older generations. There are lots of things for children and adults but in terms of activities for the elderly, not so much. As soon as you are classified as old, it’s horrible, that’s it. We put them away and don’t consider them. Even classifying people as ‘elderly’.
But elderly people have so many stories of their lives, experiences, skills. Crafts that are passed on. They could teach that or share it. Giving recognition to the older generation.
I love listening to older people’s stories. They have them to tell. Even if it’s not a super global story, even if it’s just local stories. What would be interesting to do is having an elderly person tell their story and put it in a book. Discover stories about the places and the person.
Inksplott: Great ideas, thank you. Finally, and I ask everyone this, have you got a funny story or a secret about Splott or Adamsdown?
Flow: Hmm, a funny story. Well I don’t know that it’s funny, but one day there was a yellow car that just appeared in front of my house. I can’t remembers the exact day it turned up. It was like the car fell out of the sky! It stayed for three or four months. Everybody was talking about it! The police came and tried to find out who owned it and where it came from. It was the big story of the street! It was so bright! No one knew how it came to end up on the end of the street. Everyone would say ‘Wow, it’s so bright!’ Every time I went into the room where I teach, I would see the yellow car. But after around six months, bit by bit the car went. First of all the wheels, then the trunk was open and people looking in it. Two guys came and took the car away. Don’t know if it’s a story but to me it is because everyone was wondering where this bright yellow car came from.
I feel sorry for the owner but at least the car got recycled! Reminds me a lot of places I visited where people just take what they need. Piece by piece, it’s taken away and gets recycled. But it was so yellow!
On Clifton Street I used to go to the internet café and I saw one of the guys running the place after a year or so and we said ‘Hi’ straight away. Because I was a regular. It was so nice, recognising someone. We acknowledged each other as living in the same area. The Portuguese Bakery on Clifton Street as well, I love it! No fuss, direct. People sitting all over, standing up. Good food, great coffee and no fuss. I really like this.
The diversity, there is a great mix in Adamsdown and Splott. It’s very mixed.
One more story! At the end of the street used to be a man with a dog and the dog was so clever! He used to open the door and the dog used to come out and the dog would have his leash in his mouth and was egging people on to take him for a walk. That dog was smart!
Inksplott: Flow, thank you so much for the interview. It’s been fantastic talking to you.