You are here: Music-making projects tackling youth violence

Jamil De Dominicis

by Jamil De Dominicis

Grants & Learning Officer at Youth Music

The current rise in knife crime in the UK has re-awakened an old debate about the role of certain types of music in fuelling the spike in youth violence. But for many of the projects we support, music is in fact an important tool for the prevention of violence, giving young people opportunities for positive self-expression and bringing communities closer together.

We’re currently supporting several organisations that work with young offenders and young people at risk of offending (or becoming a victim of crime). Their projects focus both on making music and on providing a positive, creative environment where young people can gain valuable employability and life skills.

Art Against Knives

Art Against Knives was founded after the stabbing of student Oliver Hemsley in Shoreditch (east London) in August 2008. Since then, Art Against Knives has engaged and supported over 1000 young people either involved in violent crime or at risk of becoming a victim.

‘The LAB’ is an early intervention project that provides young people with a safe, creative space to write, record and produce their own music. It also offers mentoring and personal development support, helping young people to manage conflict in their lives and empowering them to make positive life choices.

Check out one of the great tracks made during the project:

Irene Taylor Trust Music in Prisons

Based in London, the Irene Taylor Trust have been running music projects in prisons since 1995. They recently ran a Youth Music funded project with young people aged 15-18 in contact with Newham Youth Offending Team, who are either on community sentences or prevention programmes.

The project has supported young people to write, record and perform original music. Participants have had the opportunity to achieve Arts Award accreditations and received one-to-one support sessions to help them take the next steps into education, employment or volunteering.

The photos below are from ‘Making Tracks’, another Youth Music project run by the Irene Taylor Trust:

7E Youth Academy

Based in Birmingham, 7E Youth Academy’s work is embedded in the local community. The organisation works with young people at risk of offending or being attracted by gangs and extremist groups, engaging them through street-based outreach teams.

Their current project is contributing to a PhD study in partnership with Birmingham City University measuring the impact that a community organisation can have on young people’s reoffending rates through music, art and improved economic self-sustainability.

Young male vocalist performing on stage.

The Power of Music

With this project, 7E Youth Academy are giving young people the chance to play instruments and learn to use recording equipment, while being supported to write poetry and lyrics as a method of self-expression. They’re also aiming to build an online platform to promote young people’s music.

Finding Rhythms

Working in young offenders’ institutions around the country, this three-year project is giving prisoners aged 16-25 the chance to create and record original tracks, working with professional musicians and engineers.

It’s helping to equip the young people with new personal, social, and employability skills in order to reduce their likelihood of reoffending – and it’s produced some amazing music, including this track recorded on location at Swinfen Hall Young Offenders Institution in Staffordshire:

Soft Touch Arts

As part of its ‘Mixt Up’ project, Soft Touch Arts ran a workshop programme with young offenders and ex-offenders at Glen Parva Young Offenders Institution in Leicester, delivered in partnership with the NHS occupational therapy service, targeting offenders with mental health and substance misuse issues.

Since the project began, the Young Offenders Institution has closed down, although Soft Touch are continuing their work with young offenders and ex-offenders at Leicester Prison.

The Crib

The Crib is a youth organisation based in Hackney, north London. They work in areas where lots of young people are at high risk of either being a victim of crime, or becoming involved in crime themselves.

Music is one of The Crib’s most important tools for engaging with these young people and offering a meaningful alternative to gang violence and anti-social behaviour. Their ‘Five O Band’ project built on the ground-breaking idea of getting police officers and ‘at-risk’ young people to form a band together.

Pembe in the studio

Pembe’s story

Pembe was one of the first young people to join the Five O Band. At first she was reluctant even to enter the same room as the police. She’s made amazing progress since then, and now works full-time as a sound technician thanks to the skills she learned from The Crib.