We met Tommy at an acoustic cafe evening at the Change Academy, Newton Abbot, run by Young Devon. Young Devon is a progressive charity that exists to ‘change the odds in favour of young people’.
It was part of the Infusion music project, part of Daisi’s Soundwaves programme, which aims to support new partnerships in delivering music projects relevant to specific needs of children in challenging circumstances. The project was led by musician Laura Forster. Music is a new avenue for Young Devon, in its aim to promote opportunity for those least likely to have their voices heard, and Tommy became a key member.
Tommy joined the project as he wanted to sing with other young people. College had given him a taste of this but it had not developed, and he saw this as a chance to explore singing further. He also saw it as an opportunity for his confidence to grow, to meet other young people, perform, and become involved with a project where he had some ownership and the chance to help run events.
“I’ve made quite a few new friends through the organisation and through the group as well; I’ve started getting quite close to some of the people here.”
Previously, Tommy has been involved in a project called Local Heroes, and has been visiting schools to talk about anti-bullying and particularly about homophobic bullying. To have the opportunity to sing and perform has added to his confidence and ownership of having a voice to be able to say what he needs to say. He had also been volunteering with Young Devon at the Change Academy for some time, so it seemed a natural progression become part of the Infusion project.
“It’s a bit of a first for me: I have done performances before but nothing like this.”
“I was very nervous. I didn’t have that much confidence, but being part of the group has helped build my confidence quite a lot. The fact that people are saying I can sing as well, when I’ve always had people put me down about it has helped a lot.”
Tommy has been singing much more since coming to the Infusion project. He came on a weekly basis to the jam sessions and acoustic cafe gigs, even performing acapella. He became involved in planning the final performance gig and is talking about future events that he would like to run within future Young Devon projects. It has been an outlet for him to express himself individually and within a group, making new friends and learning skills.
“I’m more comfortable now singing in front of people on my own, whereas before I’d sing with other people so you couldn’t really hear me. I’ve also got a better vocal range as well by practising and using vocal techniques.”
“The main thing I’ve learnt is the power that I actually have when I sing. I was completely unaware of it.”