Bushcraft And Beating Drums

Cormac Byrne and school children drumming workshop in the woods
Acclaimed percussionist Cormac Byrne running a bushcraft camp drumming workshop. Photo: Paul Kirtley

One of the things I love about teaching outdoors is the diversity that it affords.

Throughout the year, I’m lucky to be able to run a variety of courses at a range of venues. Every place is unique and has a different mix of resources that can be used for teaching bushcraft.

More stimulating still (and sometimes more challenging!) is the range of people I get to meet and work with. Prior to working as a full time outdoor leader, I had various jobs and have done my fair share of working in offices. In these roles, you tend to meet the same type of people, with a similar educational and social background, all of whom have similar lifestyles.

Working as a bushcraft instructor, however, I get to meet people from all walks of life, from all professions and at different stages of their lives.

One weekend I can be working with a group of business leaders, the next it is just as likely to be a group of schoolchildren.

And so it was that recently that I travelled to South Yorkshire to run a weekend bushcraft camp for a school. The organising teacher and I had spent some time discussing the aims and content of the camp. She had suggested inviting a percussionist she knows to do some drumming with the boys.

This is not something I’d included in a camp before but it sounded intriguing and I was very open to the idea.

As it turned out, the said percussionist was the reknowned and very talented Cormac Byrne, whose band Uiscedwr won and Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2002 and amongst many other creative projects also plays with Seth Lakeman.

It was an honour to have Cormac with us for the weekend and he did some great workshops with the students each day. It was brilliant to watch Cormac build this piece with all of the boys playing their parts in the percussive whole as well as having the sound of drums emanating from under our camp parachute and echoing around the woods.

Below is a recording I made of their final performance on the last day of the 3-day bushcraft camp, which we’ve made into a music video of sorts.

Everyone is having a lot of fun and it’s worth watching the video just for Cormac playing a metal bucket.

We very much look forward to working with Cormac and QEGS again.

What’s the best campfire music experience you’ve had? Let us know in the comments below…

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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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4 Responses

  1. Leena
    | Reply

    I found this article interesting…drumming is such a part of folklore and campfires…so it was beautiful to see it in a bushcraft session.
    Drumming is so grounding…and so is bushcraft as it centres you with nature…it would be wonderful if one could pick up the rhythms of nature, natural sounds, wind blowing, the birds chirping ….
    wonderful addition to the course…

  2. Lynne
    | Reply

    Good article, but from the title, I was expecting it to be about drums used as a long-distance emergency communication system!!

  3. Marcel (Buck) Lafond
    | Reply

    American Indians have Pow-Wows, Canadian Metis have Jigs and Reels, other Aboriginals have their get-togethers, and all are as noisy. For a big year-end finale, or a family gathering, these are all great. As a regular camping experience, they are too noisy for me. The expression, “The Natives are restless.” makes sense when you stumble upon those noises in the wilderness. But, they are a communal necessity to excite the bee-jee-bees from someone who has had too much pristine silence to bear after leaving the hustle and bustle of city life. 😉

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