• by Pete Moser

    Wednesday, 27 November, 2013 - 18:23

“There aren’t enough musicians from culturally diverse backgrounds in the North West who are interested and equipped to work in participatory music programmes”

Over the past 4 years this has regularly been stated as we have tried to set up school programmes, book musicians for training events and community projects. What is the issue? Is it true across the art forms?

In two Creative Partnerships projects produced by More Music the key enquiry question asked about the different experience young people and staff had when the culturally significant work was delivered by an artists from a relevant background. We discovered that the questions asked of the artists were deeper and more meaningful and that the memory of the project lasted longer. We believe that it is vital to try and shift the ground.  

Currently we are running an extensive R&D project with employers and artists in the Northwest and would like to know what the situation is in other regions.

What musicians do you employ who have non UK cultural roots? How much is this an issue for you ? What are you doing to address this? 

Please get back to me at More Music or just post some stuff in here!

Related groups/organisations: 
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The Music Pool's picture

Hi Pete,
This is an interesting problem. We work in Hereford, a rural area with little cultural diversity. In a rural setting, it is highly important to combat any xenophobic attitudes that might be starting to manifest at a young age. We are currently setting up workshops in a local pupil referral unit which will be run by a Senegalese drummer, teaching traditional djembe. When I was speaking to the head of the PRU in question, she was very keen to get someone of a different ethnic background to combat casual racism she had encountered amongst her students. With this feedback, I think it is of vital importance to employ the most varied workforce available.

In terms of how to access a culturally varied bank of musicians, I can't offer advice other than to recognise other aspects of individuality that could alter similar attitudes. For example, there was a young girl in a local PRU who always complained of being overweight and was exhibiting the early stages of anorexia. We organised some singing lessons for her with a woman who, one would politely guess, had a higher BMI than her. It was an entirely unintended outcome but the young musician has not been heard complaining about weight issues since she began these lessons.

Of course it is always important to have a varied and adaptable approach when doing this kind of work but it ought to be more important to focus on providing quality work with what you have and, in the meantime, operate an entirely equal opportunities policy to ensure provision of the richest flavour your local area has to offer.

I look forward to hearing what you think of these comments,
Jack Sibley (Youth Music Project Manager at The Music Pool)

Jacqui Haigh's picture

Our work with BME communities in Bristol is gathering momentum and the Cultural Awareness days (facilitated by Pete Moser and the Ethnic Minorities and Travellers Achievement Service working in partnership with sound splash with our travellers project being delivered by WOMAD on behalf of South Gloucestershire MEH) and set up in partnership with Paul Weston from the Garage threw up some interesting issues for us as an organisation, Hubs and other cultural organisations in the city. The main point was that as organisations, project managers and freelancers wanting to work with these groups we cannot expect people to come to us we need to do far more outreach work within the communities and identify people from those communities to be actively involved.

We are about to start some break through work with Bristol Somali Youth Network in Easton who are an inspiring group of young people who are really taking an active role within their community. I was invited to speak at their youth conference along with other community leaders including local politicians. sound splash will be actively working with them develop their network through training and capacity building and sign posting to other provision in the city.

A comment which Abdi from Bristol Somali Youth Network (BSYN) made as he left Meeting Points Cultural Awareness Day

"My community has no idea that there is this group of people within the city that cares about getting to know us. I am going to go and tell them that there is."

BSYN will also do a presentation of their work in a day being set up as a Somali cultural day here at Colston Hall.

A second project being set up as a direct result of Meeting Points is with sound splash partner basement project and EMTAS working with travellers, mainly young men, who are involved with the local police with dangerous driving.

I am also going to the South Bank to meet a group of young Afghani musicians who are playing there. I am going to meet them after their concert to talk to them about how the setting up of a music academy in Kabul has attracted a huge number of young people. I heard a programme on radio 4 and got in contact on the off chance and am so glad they got back to me.

anita holford's picture

Hi Jacqui, thanks very much for posting this, good to hear - and particularly about the partnerships with musical inclusion colleagues from across the UK - how did that come about?

I'd also be interested to know more about what you're learning about the most effective ways to identify need/find/develop suitable practitioners from different cultural backgrounds.

eg with the Somali network, how did you make initial contact/ get invited to their conference/why? How will you identify potential practitioners, and then develop them? At this stage, do you have any learning/tips for others wanting to work with more diverse communities?

Just fyi and for others who may be interested, I believe the following organisations are working through Musical inclusion with participants from culturally diverse backgrounds:

Sound Splash (Bristol)
More Music, Morecambe
The Garage, Norfolk
Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust

Paul Weston's picture

Hi Anita
The background to the Meeting Points events started with a request from one of our satellite MINC partners based in Peterborough . Being the most popular destination for immigrants has resulted in Peterborough having a rich diversity of cultural communities. Our partners, Beat This, we're concerned that they were not as effective in working in these communities as they would like to have been.
I was finding it difficult to source some CPD for this area of work and mentioned it to Jacqui during one of our informal co-mentoring catch up calls. It turns out that Jacqui was developing something along the same lines and as we have a history of delivering successful partnership events we decided to work on it together.
Bringing Pete Moser in to deliver half of the day meant that participants in both the Peterborough and Bristol events had the benefit of three MINC projects experience and resources to draw on.
Apart from the obvious savings in sharing costs, the Peterborough event has informed the delivery of the In Tune project.