In 2019 Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers celebrated 25 years of pioneering taiko drum performance. www.taiko.co.uk
In Spring 2020 the pandemic hit and like many arts organisations of all kinds, the rug was pulled out from under us, two already-booked UK tours cancelled along with festival appearances, a high profile performance in Japan as part of the Tokyo Olympics, all of our Dojo workshops postponed....
With very little government support, we have been fighting to keep afloat and keep a hold of our Dojo studio space, while our professional group members have had to find alternative employment, from forestry work to security to potato harvesting.
Rather than dwelling on the difficulties, we have been using this time to forge ahead with positive plans for the future, including the big project of renovating the Dojo, improving the facilities & creating residential accommodation for the workshops, courses and events here.
We are very excited about this project, as we believe it will transform the Mugen Taiko Dojo into a real hub for taiko players and other creative artists from across the UK & further afield, as a place to gather, practice, share ideas, learn & develop.
Pre-pandemic, our performances & workshops financed the overheads & upkeep of the Dojo. The renovation of the Dojo house is part of our grand scheme of preparing for the lean years ahead, as the performing arts sector will undoubtedly be one of the last to recover. Through creating residential opportunities at the Dojo house, we hope to establish another income stream, enabling us to keep our Dojo, and as a result, continue bringing you our energetic & powerful taiko performances in the years to come.
Early in 2021 we started on the building work ourselves - demolition, pointing & rendering walls, sanding, stripping wood, removal of waste etc. - which has created some alternative employment for the players and saved on costs. Later there will also be lots of painting & decorating & finishing we can do ourselves. However, along with the cost of materials, much of the work needs to be completed by skilled tradesmen and for this we need to raise enough funds in order to complete the project. And so we are launching our crowdfunding campaign in the hope that we will be able to finish this project, and create a suitable home for all our taiko activities.
We know we have many friends & dedicated followers who have travelled with us along our taiko journey, coming to our concerts, and attending workshops, and we are very grateful for your support through the years.
We hope that you will join our fundraising efforts, help us recover from the pandemic by building a solid future for the group and the Dojo, for the benefit of future generations of taiko players, and the further development of taiko in the UK & beyond….
We thank you for your continued support and we look forward to welcoming you to our fully refurbished Dojo soon!
From all of us here at Mugenkyo & the Taiko Dojo
<< THE VISION >>
We aim for the Dojo House to become a hub of creativity for taiko players, other artists & musicians. Set in a rural location in South Lanarkshire, the Mugen Taiko Dojo premises has already served us well, and since moving here over 20 years ago, we have hosted weekend workshops, guest teacher courses, week-long classes & regular intensive training, with over 1200 people having attended workshops & courses at the Dojo over the years, from all over the UK & abroad.
The renovation will create residential accommodation in the Dojo to house the participants of our weekend workshops & residential courses: 6 single/twin rooms, and 2 family/group rooms, 4 shared bathrooms in addition to the Dojo toilet, kitchen, lounge & dining room for around 20 people. We also aim to make essential upgrades to the Dojo space itself including sound dampening, decorating & repairs, and in order to improve the participants’ experience while staying here, improved car parking and landscaping the extensive areas outside for recreational activities, outdoor events and camping. Up until now we have been using the Dojo house for basic sleeping accommodation for our members, but we need improvements to make it suitable for the public, including upgrading the water supply from the spring, a pump to increase water pressure, extra hot water tank, new kitchen & bathrooms, and furnishings.
Miyuki’s father, as luck would have it, is a retired architect, and has helped with developing the design, hand-drawing the architectural plans, written building specs, and helped to plan the project timeline for this huge undertaking.
Here are the drawings & layout of the new Dojo house.
<< THE WORK >>
Instead of hiring a general contractor, in order to save money we have been project-managing it ourselves, and doing as much of the basic labour as we can, learning new skills along the way, and hiring in the tradesmen only as & when we need them. So far we’ve learned a lot about treating rot & preventing damp, about water filtration systems, lime mortar, how to point stonework, plastering & rendering, thermal insulation, sound insulation, how to use various power tools & even about field drainage – so much non-drumming-related new knowledge!
We now have a trusty joiner working on the project, a good plumber, who is able & willing to get his wellies on & get into muddy fields to sort out our water supply from the spring, a landscaper who is good at field drains as well as paving, an electrician and an excellent plasterer, who can deal with the range of surfaces, from stone walls to old lath and plaster.
The team is already in place & forging ahead, but the closer we get, as time passes on & the cost of materials go up, so the funds start to run down, despite our cost-cutting strategy.
<< THE HISTORY >>
The founders of Mugenkyo - Neil & Miyuki – first moved into South Priorhill Farm in South Lanarkshire in 1999, along with Masaaki Kurumaya Sensei, who was then living with, performing & touring with, and teaching Mugenkyo in Scotland. Less than a year previous, inspired by Kodo’s apprentice centre on Sado Island, Neil & Miyuki had relocated from Mugenkyo’s original base – a council flat in Old Street, London – to Central Scotland, in search of the perfect place to build their dream Dojo. It was a tall order to find an affordable farmhouse with no near neighbours, close enough to commute from two major cities, Glasgow & Edinburgh, and close to the M74 motorway for ease of access for travelling to our performances. After a year’s fruitless search for a suitable property to buy, they received notice on their temporary accommodation in Glasgow, and, knowing they were away on tour for 6 weeks out of the 8 weeks’ notice given, they were faced with the unhappy prospect of having to look after a homeless Sensei! But as with so much of Mugenkyo’s history, when their backs were against the wall, fate intervened and they came across South Priorhill Farm, then owned by an elderly Yorkshire couple. Mugenkyo were straight off on tour again, and they frantically tried to secure a mortgage which would accept itinerant musicians as first time buyers (not easy!), and did rest of the paperwork whilst on the road, finally securing the deal whilst on tour in Germany – and these were the days before mobile phones & early internet! They actually nearly lost the deal – a cash buyer had offered more money, but the owner promised “I’m a Yorkshireman, and my word is my bond, I’ve promised I’ll sell it to you and I will keep my word”. Thanks to that kindly couple, they finally had a permanent home for Mugenkyo.
Neil, Miyuki and Kurumaya Sensei moved into South Priorhill in early 1999, and at the start, used the ramshackle old barn to rehearse in, with the snow blowing in through the animals’ ventilation shafts in the walls. A jam-packed touring schedule enabled them to save money for the renovation of the Dojo itself, which was completed in 2001, and the very first public weekend workshop was held in November 2002.
Here is the barn before the Dojo renovation in 1999.
It took many more years of hard work to scrape together the funds for the next stage: renovating the reception room & the office, and re-wire the main farmhouse to replace the dangerous old lead wiring. This stage was completed in 2005, and were finally able to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Dojo with the Consul General and Kurumaya Sensei cutting the red ribbon, and representatives from Miyamoto & Asano Daiko – taiko drum makers & promoters – flying in from Japan and Europe.
There were always grand plans to continue renovating the rest of the Dojo house, but it was put on hold as our busy life took over, and the next decade was spent cementing the reputation of Mugenkyo while touring the world, with thousands of performances & workshops, and dealing all the hard work, logistics, office admin, training, line-up changes & problem-solving behind the scenes that goes along with running a professional performing arts organisation.
Neil & Miyuki, by now with two young children, moved out of the Dojo house in 2015, having moved into another part of the Dojo, making living accommodation for the family. Since then, the main Dojo house has been empty – only used as spare rooms for the group members during intensive practice periods, but otherwise have just accumulated years of performance paraphernalia, old costumes, tech equipment, piles of old cases for our many trips abroad, broken drums that might be re-skinned one day…. time for a clear-out!
We had always dreamed of transforming the Dojo into a creative centre with residential accommodation, but events that have overtaken us, lack of finances & lack of time meant that the project kept getting delayed. The enforced break of Covid has given us the time and the Bounceback loan has given us the funds to start on this endeavour – a silver lining of the pandemic for us. We hope that this transformation will set us up for the next decades to come, and provide a secure home and base for Mugenkyo. We hope to create a wonderful space for current & future taiko players to gather & train.
<< THE BUDGET >>
We estimate the full cost of the essential works is £70,000, including materials, skilled & unskilled labour, and furnishings. This is a traditional steading – an old farmhouse that’s over 100 years old, which has had very little done to it since we moved in over 20 years ago. So far we have uncovered a lot of dry rot & damp issues, outside drainage problems, and some rooms we have had to strip out completely to the bare stone walls and dirt floor, taking it to the shell in order to rebuild again.
We have obtained a £50,000 loan as part of the government Bounceback coronavirus loan scheme for businesses, which we had originally hoped would be enough, but with the additional problems uncovered, will not be enough to cover the full essential works.
Here is our breakdown of the projected budget. Some of the initial work has already been done in the first half of 2021.
£7,000 - Underground works: re-route water supply (private supply from a spring), sewage & drainage (now mostly complete)
£4,000 - Roof: repair & remove moss, replace rotten roof timbers (now mostly complete)
£8,000 – Plumbing: pump to increase water pressure, new UV water filtration system for clean drinking water, renew all radiators & pipes throughout, and additional hot water tank (now mostly complete)
£6,000 - Road & parking: expand parking area and repair private road (already begun)
£4,000 - Electrics: new lights throughout, and some re-wiring (already begun)
£12,000 - Windows & external doors: completely replace all
£7,000 - Joinery: replace all rotten timber, new outer stud frame walls & insulation & make partitions to create bedrooms
£19,000 - Bathrooms & kitchens: renew & expand kitchen facilities & renewd & added bathrooms
£3,000 – Repair, rendering & paint outer walls
£3,000 – Painting, decorating & furnishing
£70,000 – Total cost of essential work
£50,000 – Loan obtained from the Bounceback Loan scheme
£20,000 – Remainder we must raise to finish the essential renovation
So, we are looking to raise £20,000 through the crowdfund campaign, in order to complete the above essential works. If we are not successful in raising the full amount, we would take out an additional loan for the remainder, so that we can complete the project.
If we are successful at raising more than £20,000, then we can move on to the additional works which we hope to do eventually, which we estimate to be an additional £10,000.
£4,000 - Dojo space: additional sound dampening, drapes, sound equipment & upgraded lighting & heating.
£3,000 - Outdoor recreation: create camping area, flat grass activity area, fire pit area, outdoor cooking facilities & picnic bench area
£3,000 – Upgrade the road access & parking facilities
<< THE TIMELINE >>
We started work in early 2021, and have already completed the following:
- all outside underground works, re-routing the water supply from the spring, and additional septic pipes to the septic tank
- two cold water tanks in loft, new UV filtration system to purify water, plus a pump to raise the water pressure
- additional hot water tank for more showers and half of the new radiators are now in
- damp problems resolved, including lowering the ground level and putting in drainage in the courtyard garden
- additional drainage in surrounding fields to help dry out house & road
- roof timbers, lintels, floors and walls with dry rot – all replaced and treated
- insulation in all accessible wall, floor & loft spaces
- create a storage & work space in the loft
- two bathrooms are half done….
So as you can see, we’ve completed almost all of the basic repairs, but have hardly started on bedrooms yet, but hopefully, this part of the project will move more quickly. We are aiming for the bulk of the work to be complete by early 2022 & then we’ll decorate, so we should be ready to welcome visitors by spring 2022, as from March our weekend workshops will resume. Then, over the course of the next few months, while the Dojo & house are being used & starting to generate income, we’ll use this income to work on the additional elements: upgrading the Dojo rehearsal space, outdoor recreation & upgrading the road, which hopefully will all be completed by the spring 2023.
<< THE REWARDS >>
We have a wide range of rewards, from a £10 donation upwards, and an opportunity to make your mark on the Dojo with a £50 brick with your name, to be on our “Wall of Fame”. The rewards offered also include merchandise, vouchers for future workshops, residential courses, and also the opportunity to be the first to book the Dojo house for other types of stay, such as a holiday, family gathering or creative retreat.
As an exclusive offer for donors through this Crowdfund campaign, we are offering those booking a self-catering holiday, a 2-hour group or private workshop which can also include a small performance exclusively for you and your family / friends! The workshop is of course entirely optional - you can also stay at the Dojo house just to enjoy the delights of South Lanarkshire!
<< THANK YOU >>
We are grateful for all of your generous support, no matter how small or big, and we look forward to welcoming you to our future Dojo House!