Community Action South West (CASW) is a charity based in Barnstaple that offers a range of services to young people and their communities. It focuses on alternative education, health and well being, youth and community work and outdoor activity.
Through Daisi’s Soundwaves project, CASW has been exploring a new way for the organisation to engage with young people aged 11-16 who do not access mainstream education, offering them new opportunities through music. The young people may have been excluded from school due to displaying challenging behaviour, have special learning needs, be school-phobic or have medical conditions that prevent them from attending school. They are part of the North Devon Personalised Learning Service (NDPLS).
Through a new partnership with an urban style music studio called Yard 1, CASW were able to offer the young people a music course one afternoon a week which included playing musical instruments, basic music theory, music production, recording and songwriting.
Small groups of between 2 and 4 young people were offered these opportunities in 6 week course blocks. Sessions were fully funded to include those who did not have access to music lessons, and transport provided for NPLS staff and the young people to and from the studio. It was hoped that engagement with music would give the young people ways to use music in their lives in the future, and boost self-esteem.
The project had the following aims:
- greater interest in learning through new opportunities presented to the young people
- a new partnership between a music studio, CASW and a Pupil Referral Unit (NDPLS)
- improve the quality of provision in North Devon for excluded young people
- make active the small music studio built into the NDPLS building through staff training and encouraging the young people
- young people able to take on a leadership role in the NDPLS studio
- introduce young people to inspirational musicians who can also act as role models and mentors in order to help young people make positive life style choices
The young people began to shape the sessions: the original content was revised to include tuition on guitar, keyboard, drums, percussion, saxophone, clarinet and trumpet. Digital music making singing and song writing were also covered, and theory was dropped. Motivation and attendance were a challenge, but for those that pushed through, patience and resilience grew.
The three organisations learnt some valuable lessons, including:
- Taking young people into a professional music environment changes the way they act.
- The best results are achieved if NDPLS teachers are not present at the same time.
- Using the skills of each participating organisation is very important in maximising outcomes.
The project has informed CASW’s development, and the arts are now fundamental to what the organisation delivers, especially in relation to the National Citizenship Service. It is also now planning to include artistic expression alongside physical activity. A future Barnstaple project will include a music offer.
One challenge for the project was the changeover of chief executive at CASW. Any changeover involving a large staff team and many projects needs extra time, and so for a while, CASW was less involved in the partnership. The NDPLS studio has had to wait for new equipment to arrive, but plans are in place to bring the studio to life as a result of the work learnt through the project.
“It’s all a creative process and everybody can be creative. We’re just giving them the tools of how to go about that.”
Jim – Guitar Tutor and Yard 1 musician
“If I were to scrutinise the project as a whole, the base of young people we’re in contact with is too small. No matter how good we are at teaching and no matter how good the tutors are inspiring the young people, if music’s not their thing they’re not going to continue it. We’ve had a few young people who are definitely continuing, but we would have hope to have had more, and in a larger pool of people we would have had more.”
Tom Watkins, Yard 1 studio manager
“CASW are using us, Daisi are using us, and the partnership too - we’ve been able to invest in our facility more as well, so we’re creating a better facility for the area as well.”
“Some of the young people are already continuing with their passion, they’re finding out that music is very accessible, and it’s an excellent way of engaging with their free time, and also getting peers to be involved as well, so we hope to see that spill out into NDPLS and for them to want to have future projects.”
Lyn Brown, Director, Community Action SW
“Still sing the song to myself in my mind. Loved playing the drums too”