Wired For Sound - The sniff it up song!

According to Gary Barlow there have been over a million songs written about love..

I know there’s quite a few about hate..dancing..politics..transportation and, as I write this, there’s at least one in the hit parade about a lady’s derriere.

However, as far as I’m aware…there hasn’t been a song about a new flu vaccine for children to be distributed by school nurses up and down the country that is dispensed as a nasal spray rather than a using a needle...

Please do correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure that even Mr. Barlow himself would struggle with this as a stimulus!

When a request came from the Department of Health, via The Children’s Society, for a song to do just this I must admit I was surprised that the children at Wired Young Carers wanted to be involved.

Wired Young Carers have been taking part in a Youth Music funded project at Orford Youth Base, developing their instrumental and song-writing skills.

They were very keen to put their new abilities to good use and gathered around a table collecting phrases and ideas to be compiled on a piece of flipchart paper and agreeing on chord progressions for verse and chorus. At the end of the session, and following a great team effort, the song now known as ‘sniff it up’ was born

The following week the track was recorded at Orford Youth Base and entered into the song competition along with some images of the group in action.

At home young carers often provide physical and personal care such as lifting, washing, dressing and giving medication. They look after practical tasks such as housework, shopping and cooking as well as taking care of siblings. 

They truly are little heroes.

Several weeks after the song was submitted we received the fantastic news that ‘Sniff It Up’ had reached the final stages of the competition. Also, as a reward for their hard work, the children were invited to Whitehall to perform the song at a celebration event for young carers.

Taking a group of children from the North West to London is a challenge.

I myself am lucky enough to have been blessed with three sons...9, 7 and 4. Funny names aren’t they?!

Recently ‘7’ returned from school with a note informing us that the school was planning a trip to London in 2015. The chatter on the playground between the parents was not all positive. Many felt quite strongly that the children were too young for the experience and voiced their opinions at a meeting with the headmaster the following week.

Parental anxiety wasn’t something that we faced during the two weeks we had to organise our trip. Ours were more logistical and financial barriers and concerns such as:

Travelling by minibus to arrive on the day of the performance and in time for the performance meant a 5.00am departure from Warrington.

No private, local minibus companies were available to make the journey due to midweek, school run commitments.

10 children, 2 youth workers and 2 music leaders travelling by train from Warrington to London to arrive in time for the performance would potentially cost £255 per person or £3570 in total.

No hostel availability.

No HS2 high speed train until 2026.

How on earth do you move 10 children around the tube network safely during rush hour?!

It was a lot to overcome in two weeks but with support from Warrington Youth Service, members of the school nursing team and some rather fancy minibus parking we managed to take the flicker of a musical idea from the most deprived area in Warrington right to the heart of government where it won..first prize!

I can only guess at the effect this trip will have on the young people involved, some of who, due to personal circumstances, have only left Warrington once or twice in their lives and never been out of the region.

To be invited to perform a song they had created because the song they had created was valued by the people in charge.. has had a positive impact upon their own aspirations and, potentially for some, completely transformed their sense of place in the world.

All Hail Wired Young Carers! Little, Conquering Heroes!

Sniff it Up!




117 reads


Sophie Appleby's picture

that's fantastic Steve: well done Wired Young Carers! What was their prize?

You mentioned that you were surprised that the young people wanted to be involved in this unusual request, which suggests that your work is very much led by the young people's preferences. I was wondering what your process is for getting the project participants' input on what they want to do? Do they vote on things like this and how do you handle any disagreements?

steve@pluggedin.org.uk's picture

Hi Sophie,

Along with a £300 cash prize..and two days off school!...the group will see their song included in the national DOH campaign. They've also been invited back down to London in the Summer to take part in an international conference with a river cruise, west end show and trip on the London eye thrown in!

I was surprised at the amount of enthusiasm they showed to be honest and yes, most of our work is either led or heavily influenced by the young people themselves.
We don't formally vote on songs etc. The young people often come with strong ideas about what they want to do which we incorporate into their short and long-term goals. Alongside this they are encouraged to help and support each other as part of an ensemble, even if that means performing a song that they don't particularly like. If there's a serious disagreement and someone doesn't want to take part then we try to have enough activities and tutors available to engage individuals and groups in other things, such as music production, DJ skills or just working on a song that they do want to do.

During this trip, one child refused to perform. I could see that his eyes where red and he was getting upset. I sat down and told him that I was missing my family and asked him if he was missing his. He said that he was. He told me about his dad who'd had 3 car crashes in 3 weeks and how they weren't his fault, and how one of them was due to him having a 'mental breakdown' whilst behind the wheel. He's 8 years old and helps to look after his dad. When he's not looking after his dad, he worries about his dad.. but rather than say that.. he said he was missing his dog.

I asked him if he would film the event for me if he didn't want to perform, and he said that he would. At Orford Youth Base there are other arts and craft activities, ping-pong and pool etc taking place alongside the music provision if someone just isn't in the mood or is upset about something at home. Often that's the root of any disagreement. After 20 minutes he was back on form and took part in the second performance of the day

Sophie Appleby's picture

excellent stuff, I shall listen out for the song in the DOH advertising, I'm sure it will be a great help to the campaign!

Thanks for sharing your methods. It's really interesting to hear about your process for getting the young people involved and supporting them in what they want to do (as well as supporting them when they don't feel up to doing something, as with the boy you mentioned).

There's a nice bit about the importance of empathy in the latest Youth Music Learning Report (on page 10): http://network.youthmusic.org.uk/learning/research/youth-music-impact-an... I think your story really shows the benefits of the empathy music leaders have with the young people they work with.