Young Devon (www.youngdevon.org) is a progressive charity that exists to ‘change the odds in favour of young people’. Its main aim is to enhance lives and promote opportunity for those least likely to have their voices heard, whilst challenging negative stereotypes and campaigning alongside young people.
Until Daisi’s Soundwaves project, Young Devon had not been involved with music. Through the project called Infusion, Young Devon sought to:
- kick start the Change Academy in Newton Abbot as a music and creative arts hub for young people
- take a new approach: using skilled volunteer mentors to teach and support young people
- develop new partnerships with schools and community groups
- target young people from geographical areas which historically have little access to services for young people
- target and engage the following young people: looked-after, those with physical disabilities, those with SEN, and rurally isolated young people
The Infusion music project was run by project co-ordinator, Laura Forster, and worked with 47 young people between March and December.
Young people were involved in shaping the sessions from the beginning; within the weekly ‘jam sessions’ they were keen to develop skills in singing, songwriting, guitar and bass playing, junk band and percussion, which became the areas of focus.
The young people also used the jam session alongside an added ‘event planning’ session to shape, practice and plan for the final performance which took place in December.
Initially, Young Devon planned for the weekly sessions to include a young women’s group as well as a jam session. Over a 4 week period, due to low numbers and feedback from young people, the team decided to drop the young women’s group, yet the weekly jam sessions went from strength to strength.
Over the summer months, block sessions were offered as Young Devon’s Summer Music Academy. Ten sessions were run, covering event management, song writing, guitar for beginners, percussion and junk band, singing for fun, and music industry ‘101’.
“The buzz in the building was great; it was lovely having the air filled with music and lots of young people enjoying the sessions. As a result the young people have become far more confident in themselves.”
Young Devon final report
Monthly acoustic café events in the café area within the Change Academy emerged and have been successful. Young Devon hopes to continue these next year, led by the young people as a newly formed committee group.
“The sessions’ delivered were enjoyed regularly for a number of young people that have previously struggled with engaging in something positively. It has kick started a musical chapter in the Change Academy and has resulted in us securing further funding to deliver another 15 months of musical and personal development activities for NEET young people.”
Young Devon final report
There were several challenges. Initial recruiting for the project in Newton Abbot was a great challenge – it is notoriously difficult to engage young people in this area. However, the project has built momentum and maintained a good level of participants who often brought new friends along. Another challenge was outreach into more isolated areas; due to transportation of instruments and time restraints this wasn’t possible. Also, this work is intensive, and requires a substantial input of staff time, which was a key struggle within the budget, resolved by combining funding from another project. Recruiting young volunteer peer mentors who would teach and support the young people was not possible at this stage, as recruitment was tough and time not available for training and support.
Yet, as Laura cultivated an atmosphere of sharing skills, helping each other and showing support, this began to happen organically. The project has had two much appreciated adult volunteers, who extended what the project was able to achieve.
New contacts have been made in Newton Abbot through the project, such as Newton Abbot College, the YES centre and the Junction Youth Centre. Young Devon promoted the project through the local YOT team, South Devon College Flex Centre and the disability support services, building relationships along the way.
In terms of legacy, through the Infusion Music project, a group of young people has been equipped with new skills, more friends, greater confidence and more enthusiasm. Access to youth music projects for young people with complex needs has increased, and those who took part in the project now also access other Young Devon projects especially those run from the Change Academy.
“What’s really nice is we have a young person who sets up all the sound equipment and lighting, runs that whole thing himself, we usually have a young person compering the night, and it’s been amazing to see how the young people have really grown with the acoustic gigs.”
“Probably the main thing that’s gone beyond my expectations has been the acoustic gigs - seeing the young people’s responses to being asked to perform, put on events and to organise things. It’s been really amazing seeing how they’ve responded to that, they’ve been really keen, very nervous at times but really keen to get onto the stage and to share their music within a group, with each other and with other young people.”
A reputation for offering a centre for music has slowly grown and it has led to new funding to deliver a further music project specifically to engage NEETs throughout 2014. Young people attending the Princes’ Trust programmes were able to get involved with Infusion Music, and three young people who took part in Infusion will benefit from the Prince’s Trust from May 2014. The young people formed a tight group – and certainly a group that would not have formed otherwise.
“It’s been amazing being able to have music as part of what we do here at the Change Academy, and now that we’ve tried it, it really feels like something that we want to do, something that the young people are asking us to be providing here.”