Youth Music CEO Matt Griffiths tours Yorkshire
Our CEO Matt Griffiths has been on the road again – this time on a tour of projects supported by Youth Music across Yorkshire. He kept a diary of his adventures ahead of BBC Music Day on Thursday 15 June.
My latest project visit tour took place this week, this time in Yorkshire. In a packed schedule, I got to see six diverse projects – three in Bradford, one in Hull and two in York plus a catch-up meeting with one of our current strategic partners.
My first visit was to BHT Early Education who run four early years education settings (for children aged 0-5) in Bradford. They’ve recently begun a three-year music-making programme that we’re supporting. On arrival I was warmly greeted by Sonia (the CEO), Dave (the music leader), Karen (the centre manager) and Michelle, a manager from one of the other centres. They expressed their absolute delight in being awarded funding by us – a first for them – and the activities have just started.
I talked to the team about the origins of the programme and how they’ve been operating since the late 1990s thanks to what was then the hugely successful Sure Start programme. They’ve certainly had to adjust to the changing political environment since then but have shown themselves to be a resilient and sustainable organisation. I took part in a music-making session with Dave, the children and the centre staff. Dave is an experienced educator, specifically in early years, and you could see this from the moment he started. A wide variety of singing and rhythm activity together with actions and a lovely rendition of Singing in the Rain complete with umbrellas. I promised to link Dave up with other early years programmes we’re supporting and also with MERYC-UK. He’d also like to get involved with the MEC Early Years Working Group, which I chair, to learn from and share practice with others. The group are performing in the centre of Bradford as part of BBC Music Day. No doubt it’ll be a great success.
Next up to All Star Entertainments to meet Alex and the team including Callum, their apprentice. We met at the offices of Bradford Music Service, who are the lead partner for the Bradford Music Education Hub. The visit started with a DJ session where I was expertly taught by Callum, followed by a further interactive session making beats using my physical movements to trigger different sounds, pitches, dynamics and rhythms. Think X Box Kinect for music-making. Really fascinating. Callum and Dean described how they use this set up in a wider variety of schools, including in special schools working with young people whose physical movement can be limited.
Callum eloquently described his progression journey at All Stars Entertainment, initially as a fifteen year old and now, two years later, as one of their apprentices. Progression in action. Callum also explained how he can be a role model for other young people as his music has helped him take control of his life after a pretty tough time in school, which also led to getting into trouble. Young people he works with now recognise this and are inspired by him. Good luck Callum with your future career.
We finished the meeting with a catch-up together including with Tony Johnson, the head of the music service. It was clear that collaborative working amongst the hub partners is of high quality and very trusting of each other. I got the sense that they each know what they bring to the table and how can they help each other. I also observed Tony’s determination to make sure that the funding they receive from the Department of Education via Arts Council England is carefully targeted, and he described some new programmes they are planning in the Manningham area of Bradford to assist in preventing hate crime. It was also evident how they’re giving priority to digital and music technology, which is also good to see from a music education hub lead partner. More please!
I finished my first day with a visit to Bradford Community Broadcasting. Working with Dan, the project manager and a group of four young people, our task was to record a 30-minute show talking about the success of their ‘Sounds of the City’ project, which we’ve supported over the last couple of years. I was interviewed by Brooke and Sandra about me and Youth Music interspersed with live rapping from TwinTWO (Robert) and Shade (Ant). Brooke and Sandra also interviewed them and each other. Our show will be broadcast on Saturday 8 July. I was really impressed by their professionalism and preparation to make sure the show ran smoothly, together with the inspiring support from Dan – overseeing and encouraging them whilst enabling them to fully take the reins in producing the show. A great way to end the day.
On my arrival in Hull, the taxi driver waxed lyrical about Hull being City Of Culture and how it had generated a positive sense of civic pride amongst local people. I hadn’t been to Hull for years (the last time being when I was running percussion workshops on the Bransholme Estate in the 1990s when I was on the Live Music Now scheme) and it’s been transformed, not just with new buildings but with a renewed sense of confidence as a great place to live and visit.
I was in Hull to visit My Pockets working in the Rise Academy, a pupil referral unit. The My Pockets team – Peter, Sally and Jim – work there on a weekly basis with a group of key stage 3 students (12-14 year olds) who’d been excluded from mainstream school. They’re creating their own composition with rapping, beats, technology and percussion. Dan from the Youth Music team got fully involved – he was on ukulele and I was on the Boomwhacker. In the 90-minute session, the young musicians made great progress – so much so that we recorded the piece in full with all its component parts.
The My Pockets team were skilled in keeping the students focused and did this in short bursts of activity to keep their attention. It was great to see that the team have also employed an evaluator, Kate, who was observing the session, and I was pleased to see that she was cross-checking the criteria in our Quality Framework with what was happening in the session.
Due to a combination of factors, particularly peer pressure and wanting to ‘fit in’, the behaviour of the students can be going really well, then it can get disrupted. James, a member of staff from Rise Academy, is clearly a vital part of the team mix in terms of being a supportive presence both for the students and the music team. My Pockets commented that he provides continuity between the sessions and knows exactly what to do when disruption occurs. A very positive partnership between the My Pockets and Rise Academy teams – great to see.
Next up with Dan to Tang Hall SMART in York. They’re a Community Interest Company formed in 2014 based in what was previously the site of Burnholme Community College, which unfortunately was closed down in 2014. Sue Williamson, the founder and MD of Tang Hall SMART, was the head of music for over twenty years at the school. When it was closed down (which Sue actively campaigned against), rather than be redeployed to another school, Sue took redundancy and founded Tang Hall SMART, which provides a range of music programmes for young people and also adults experiencing challenging circumstances. I also found out from Sue that some of her music leader workforce themselves have also experienced challenging circumstances, including addiction and homelessness, and their employment with Tang Hall SMART has helped them overcome this and make progress in their lives. This two-fold purpose is powerful and proving to make a significant difference in the three years since Tang Hall SMART started.
Dan and I were there to observe the final rehearsal of a new composition mixing together gamelan and rap created by a group of young musicians from the surrounding area with Emily Crossland from Music 4U and music students from University of York. The group will be performing their piece at the COOLture Conversations gig at Hull City Hall this Saturday. The final rehearsal went really well and I noticed the way in which all the musicians remembered (without anything written down) the format and structure of the piece with lots of visual and musical signals indicating when a section would end and when the next section would start. By its very nature, the gamelan sound provides a very chilled, atmosphere coupled with the rap interjections throughout. A really interesting combination, beautifully performed by the group. All the best for your gig on Saturday.
Then to Door 84, also in York, to visit Dan Axon, the founder and leader of the Upfaders music programme. Dan started this 10 years ago. For the first five years he operated as a sole trader and for the last five years he’s been part of Door 84, a youth charity in York where the Upfaders music programme is based. The programme is focused on young people experiencing challenging circumstances and ranges from one-to-one activity through to group music-making. They also put on regular gigs to showcase the work of young people. Dan has developed sophisticated partnerships with health, social care and youth offending agencies who refer young people to Dan where they identify an opportunity for individuals to get involved with music-making as part of their individual plan to overcome the challenges they’re facing.
Two one-to-one sessions were going on when I arrived, one with Junior who has attended Upfaders for some time and is working with Dan on his songwriting. The second was with Holly who attended with her key worker. It was Holly’s first session so Dan introduced her to the technology and the kind of things Holly could work on. I left thinking how important this work is, even more so now bearing in mind the increasing mental health issues experienced by young people. Dan’s approach was sensitive, supportive and astute, tailored to the individual circumstances and interests of each individual that he works with.
I finished my Yorkshire Tour with a useful catch-up with Heidi and Sarah from NYMAZ, one of our strategic partners. They’re doing some great work in North Yorkshire and have provided significant input and expertise for their music education hub, particularly in terms of music-making for children and young people experiencing challenging circumstances and living in a predominantly rural sub-region. Their ambitious digital plans are particularly exciting. A great way to end my tour.
So I’m on my way back to London now via Stafford for an Awards for Young Musicians strategy group meeting with the six music education hubs involved in the Furthering Talent progression programme. And of course it’s BBC Music Day today. We’re delighted to be working with BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra on this, shining a spotlight on young people who’ve overcome significant challenges through their music-making in projects we support. I was delighted to hear Shallise from Raw Material in Brixton telling her story this morning on the Breakfast Show with Scott Mills (listen from 2:48:39) – other stories to follow today.
Yes it’s BBC Music Day today but it occurred to me that actually it’s every day with young people making music and experiencing the power of music across the country. It’s proven to make a difference in their lives socially, personally and musically. It’s precious, important and, even more in these tough times, vital.