Electric Umbrella is a vibrant, unique co-creation between adults with learning disabilities and music industry professionals. We currently have 60 members that range in age from over 18 all the way up to 60+ from North London and three counties in the South East of England.

We run a diverse programme of events and provide a range of opportunities for everyone to demonstrate their ability. Working together to create, experience and perform music through regular workshops, performances in pubs, studios, theatres, festivals, live radio and everything in between.

We are challenging the perception of people with learning disabilities by empowering and enriching lives through music.

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Becoming a member involves signing up to a ‘season’ of Electric Umbrella at one of our three sites in Hertfordshire. Each season includes weekly music sessions, touring and performances opportunities. All members are over the age of 18 and whilst are of extremely mixed abilities, the experiences are tailored to meet and be led by the needs of each individual. Electric Umbrella works with 60 adults with learning disabilities each week, and members are at the heart of everything we do.

The reach of Electric Umbrella goes way beyond the members we work with each week.  Electric Umbrella has become a community for our members and their families, also encompassing the musicians we work with and hundreds of others that experience the joy of Electric Umbrella by attending our gigs and events.

What is it like to be a member of Electric Umbrella?

It’s all about MUSIC, JOY, FRIENDSHIP, TOGETHERNESS, MAGIC, WONDER and LAUGHTER.

Each week we get together to write and record songs, play instruments, sing karaoke, eat lunch, hang out… It’s just like being in a band! We have visiting artists and workshops and everyone gets their chance to be involved on whatever level they want to. We support each other and are a great bunch of friends.

In the weeks leading up to each big show we take Electric Umbrella on the road performing at day services, schools, festivals, local businesses and radio. We all jump in the bus and bring a whole load of yellow, music and hilarity with us wherever we go. It’s infectious, people can’t help but smile and dance and sing. We always seem to get the party started and there’s always lots of audience participation and laughter!
The big shows and festivals themselves are the product of months of hard work. It’s a gig, it’s an arts event, it’s a sensory explosion. It’s a celebration of learning disabilities. It’s loud and proud, bold and beautiful. Lights, smoke, projections, giant interactive sculptures, music, dancing and live artwork…

How it all began

In 2013, musician Tom Billington and Art therapist Mel Boda recognised a lack of opportunities for adults with learning disabilities to express themselves and represent who they really are, and started running workshops and putting on shows with no funding or support.

“It all happened very organically, we had a small but very dedicated and wonderful group of people who were up for working with us so we just started… we had no idea what it was going to turn into.”

Since then we have run over 700 hours of music workshops, performed to thousands of people at gigs across hundreds of shows including our very own UMBRELLAFEST which enjoyed its second successful year this year.

We became a registered charity in January 2016 and are now looking for consistent funding streams to continue our work.

“What Tom and Mel have created is nothing short of amazing. They have developed an approach that pulls everyone in, where everyone is valued and nothing is impossible. It’s loud and proud, bold and it’s beautiful.” Jo Webb, Producer and musician.

The reach of Electric Umbrella goes way beyond the 60 members that come every week. Electric Umbrella has become a community for the members and their extended families and networks and also encompasses the musicians they work with and hundreds of others that experience the joy of Electric Umbrella by attending our gigs and events.

Directors Tom and Mel.

Electric Umbrella is run by Tom Billington (Artistic Director) and Mel Boda (Managing Director) who have both extensive experience of both community arts, the professional world of entertainment, and supporting adults with disabilities.

Tom is a professional musician with vast experience of being in bands, touring and making records together with writing music for circus, TV and film, community work and education. Tom has an exceptional gift for working with people with complex needs and sharing the joy of music.

Mel is a visual artist and HCPC registered art therapist with extensive experience of community arts management and working alongside adults with learning disabilities.