Being a teenager is never easy, but for Viv it was a particularly difficult time. After he committed a few minor offences, the local Youth Offending Service decided that he was ‘at risk’ and stepped in to offer him some support. That was how he got involved with music-making at AudioActive in Brighton, which helped him turn his life around.
“I had a lot of stuff going on at home and outside of home, as well as inside myself,” says Viv. “I was smoking a lot and doing all sorts of things that you shouldn’t do when you’re young. Because of all that, I messed up school and didn’t get any GCSEs.”
The right sort of respect
One of the Youth Offending team encouraged Viv to give AudioActive a go, but initially he was resistant. “I was already doing quite a bit of rapping and I didn’t want someone else cramping my style,” he explains.
But eventually he started doing occasional rapping at the organisation’s live events. When he saw how positively the audience responded to his music, he gradually began to get more and more involved.
Becoming a music mentor
Viv began studying music production part-time at a local college. He decided he wanted to draw on his own experiences to help other young people, so he signed up for a 20-week course to become an AudioActive mentor.
He’s now 23, with a first class honours degree and a promising career as a music producer. However he still finds time to be one of AudioActive’s most dedicated mentors, running regular music production and rap lyric-writing workshops, and helping to organise live events.
“We help the kids to work out what sort of direction they want to develop in as artists, but also as people,” he says. “Some of them might have problems at school or at home, and if you can get them to express anything, either by talking or through their music, then that’s going to help them.”
The fact that he understands many of the young people’s problems first-hand puts him in the perfect position to give them the support they need.
Learning from the kids
While the young people Viv mentors can certainly learn a lot from him, he says he’s always learning new things from them too. “Working with people younger than I am helps me stay in touch with what the kids are listening to right now, and I’m constantly pushed to try new production techniques, depending on the sort of music they want to make.”
Viv is thankful that he had music to focus on when he needed it most, as well as the support of the project staff.
“I’ve seen a lot of people my age go to jail, and these are often people I looked up to when I was younger. Now, they say to me that they wish they’d done what I did. I count myself very lucky.”
Case study researched and written by Rebecca Davies.