Plymouth Music Zone

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Like many others, we were deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of a remarkable young woman who inspired us and so many people through her music and immensely generous spirit and love of life. Lynsey Dart was one of Plymouth Music Zone's much loved former employees. She was a talented apprentice and volunteer with us before moving on to study in London. And she probably taught us more than we taught her.

The Beyond Words project was one of only eight projects in Round 1 funded nationally in 2015 by an Arts Council England Research Grant. 
The two-year ethnographic study explored how engaging with music helps people who have difficulty communicating with words (for example, people living with dementia, autism, learning disabilities, stroke, elective mutism, etc.). The project also observed how music leaders used the 'unspoken' in their practice. 

Tailored music sessions could be crucial in transforming the lives of millions of people whose speech is impacted by learning difficulties, strokes, dementia, brain damage and autism, a new study suggests.
It could enable individuals and their families to feel less isolated or neglected within society, while enhancing their ability to communicate, both with each other and the wider world.
But consistent funding and provision needs to be increased, while health and community providers need to implement a more integrated approach to using music in supporting those impacted by strokes and dementia. 

As part of Plymouth Music Zone’s “Tuning into Transitions” Fund B project, we delivered a number of ‘music booster’ training sessions in special schools and settings. At Woodlands School, Plymouth, Claire Harrison-Poole, one of the teachers who received bespoke training shares her thoughts about the impact of it on her practice. 

Plymouth Music Zone's 'Peer Pick' training was developed in response to our music leaders requesting tailored training and support, without this necessarily being something needed by our whole team. It's been a kind of mentoring with specific aims, and for the most part proved a useful way of quickly getting to the nub or what they needed to know and develop. It was a cost-efficient way of providing training where it was needed. It has also highlighted the usefulness of music leaders having a chance to acknowledge their own unique skills through the process of sharing, and very much a chance to reflect on their practice... 

Plymouth Music Zone has invested heavily in Music Leader training despite all the challenges to fund and support it. It's evidence that we can have 'blue sky thinking' to help us keep energised and committed to our work. At the same time, we can 'acknowledge the clouds' i.e. not everything can be brilliant and we are meeting the challenges of working in increasingly complex and challenging settings.  We have an ethos that encourages reflective practice and encourages us to embrace challenges as opportunities to learn. We constantly strive to improve and build on what we have been doing now for 18 years. Here is an overview of how we are currently doing that through our training. We strongly believe this helps people and funders to remain confident about our ability to deliver top-notch stuff! 

New research shows that music boosts relationships and social bonding leading to improved wellbeing and stronger communities.  Plymouth Music Zone's new independent evaluation “Reaching Out: The impact of music-making on individual and community development in Plymouth” (BOP Consulting, May, 2016) comes within days of a report published as part of Mental Health Awareness week by the Mental Health Foundation that said people's wellbeing is being adversely affected by not investing more time in relationships. 

'Musical Backbones' is all about enriching the development of children and young people with limited access to diverse music education through providing high quality, progressive music opportunities that act as a vital ‘musical backbone’ in their lives. It involves improving the creative, musical and wider development of SEN/disabled young people in special schools and other SEN support units as well as providing a whole after-school strand at our music centre in Devonport.

'Tiny Tunes' aims to provide high quality music workshops for children from 0-5 years in areas of multiple deprivation, where children are at greater risk of developmental delay. The project operates in seven early years settings across Plymouth, especially targeting children with Special Educational Needs and English as a second language in outreach sessions, as well as in Plymouth Music Zone's state-of-the-art multi-sensory room. Tiny Tunes provides 'take-away' ideas and resources for music making for parents and support staff in the settings. A result of this activity so far is to establish Plymouth Music Zone as a centre of excellence for early years music making.

Plymouth Music Zone is an award winning community music organisation that is passionate about its mission to use music as a tool to transform the lives of some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised children, young people and vulnerable adults across Plymouth. As a charity, we work with over 100 partner organisations annually using highly skilled Music Leaders to deliver a diverse range of high quality interactive music-making workshops, projects and performance opportunities helping to engage people in their own personal and social development.

Plymouth Music Zone is an award winning community music organisation that is passionate about its mission to use music as a tool to transform the lives of some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised children, young people and vulnerable adults across Plymouth. As a charity, we work with over 100 partner organisations annually using highly skilled Music Leaders to deliver a diverse range of high quality interactive music-making workshops, projects and performance opportunities helping to engage people in their own personal and social development. Our music education centre is based in the Devonport area of Plymouth but we do outreach work across the city and beyond with the delivery of over 60 group music workshops and intensive one-to-one mentoring sessions to around 1000 people every week.

Central to everything we do at Plymouth Music Zone is showing the impact of our work - first hand, face to face, up close and personal - hearing the voice of those gaining access to life-changing music experiences. All thanks to Youth Music Funding.


PMZ and Plymouth Music Zone awarded Flagship Arts Council Research Grant - 29 May 2015

Plymouth Music Zone and Plymouth University have received special funding to lead a ground-breaking research programme showing how music can help those people with the most profound barriers to communication. 

It’s one of only 8 projects nationally to be awarded an Arts Council England research grant with other winners including prominent organisations such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal College of Music.     

Arts Council England has awarded the ‘Beyond Words’ research programme more than £150,000 over 2 years to study the benefits of using music to reach out to those who cannot or do not speak.  Plymouth University’s Professor Jocey Quinn who will be leading the research team says:

“We are absolutely delighted to be awarded this prestigious grant from the Arts Council Research Grants Programme in partnership with Plymouth Music Zone. We already have a strong bond with PMZ and we see this award as recognition of the way we have built a growing relationship between cutting edge arts practice and cutting edge educational research.  We have called the project Beyond Words and it is difficult for us too to express in words how excited we are at the prospect of this innovative and worthwhile research project.”

Plymouth Music Zone and Plymouth University first began their research work together last year when two Independent Evaluations of the charity’s work in residential homes and a domestic refuge went onto receive regional and national recognition for ‘outstanding excellent and innovative arts and health practice’. Awards included a national Special Commendation from the Royal Society for Public Health in their Arts and Health Awards 2014 given to only 7 projects in the UK. PMZ has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Arts and Health South West Prize 2015 for ‘outstanding contribution to arts and health in the region’, the winner will be decided on 8 June.

Plymouth Music Zone’s Executive Director, Debbie Geraghty, says she’s thrilled at the possibilities of what the research partnership with Plymouth University will do for others:

“Over the past few years at Plymouth Music Zone we’ve seen first hand the powerful impact of using music to reach out and really connect with so many people affected by a whole range of health conditions or challenging circumstances that can so easily make them feel cut off from the world around them – including those affected by dementia, stroke, autism, brain injury or trauma that can all affect a person’s ability to communicate.

This research programme is a tremendous opportunity to show the value of music acting as a lifeline for those who cannot or do not speak.  The results will teach us how to use music to best effect and how to share our learning with creative practitioners in other parts of the country. We hope that helps as many people as possible to feel the positive impact of music and its power to move beyond words”.    

The Beyond Words programme is one of only a handful of research partnerships across the country chosen by Arts Council England to help build an evidence base for the power of the arts in improving health and wellbeing. Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England said:

“This is excellent news and we’re delighted for Plymouth Music Zone and Plymouth University, especially because the high level of interest in the fund from the sector meant we had to make some very difficult decisions.  The studies will help us understand and demonstrate how the arts can make a real difference in people’s lives and hopefully reach out to those who often feel cut off from experiences the rest of us take for granted.  I’m looking forward to hearing more as the project develops."

The funding will cover the full research costs but the charity still needs to access further investment to secure the necessary revenue for the music activities they will be delivering in partnership with health, social care and community organisations supporting the most vulnerable groups across the city.  

Link to Arts Council media release: 

Link to Arts Council England – Successful projects, Research Grants Round One:


PMZ PARTNERS - Music for a Change Published September 8th 2014

There's so much of Plymouth Music Zone's work that no one gets to see because of the often sensitive nature of it. Yet it's the most powerful work we do. PMZ's 'Music for a Change' project is a special strand of music delivery that involves providing 'musical respite' sessions to support some of the most emotionally vulnerable children and their families who may be dealing with particularly difficult or traumatic changes in their lives. From dealing with bereavement to domestic abuse or the profound effects of social isolation. The project aims to give those involved a rare chance to express themselves and build confidence and resilience through the safe haven that is music.

This film talks to some of the partner organisations involved in the project. They all support the work and see first hand the effect it has. They wanted to tell us why they felt it was so needed.  

The 'Music for a Change' Project was funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music. The film was created for Plymouth Music Zone by Amanda Bluglass and Danny Cooke from Bluglass  Pictures.



PMZ SESSIONS - Tyler's Tale Published June 2nd 2014

Plymouth Music Zone uses special musical respite sessions with many young people who may be facing really tough times or going through particularly rough changes in their lives. We try to offer a safe space to allow them to pause the outside world for a while so they can concentrate on how truly wonderful they are. Tyler wanted to say a few words about how it was for him...

Thanks to Music Leader, Anna Batson, who worked closely with Tyler and to all the staff at the Plymouth Domestic Abuse Service and Refuge for the extraordinary work they do. Huge thanks also to the National Foundation for Youth Music for funding this vital work. And to Amanda Bluglass and Danny Cooke from Bluglass Pictures for making this beautiful film giving us a gentle glimpse into Tyler's world...

Soundtrack "To the Dust From Man You Came and To Man You Shall Return" by Charles Atlas




PMZ PROJECT - Shekinah Remix - Brett's Letter Published July 24th 2014

This film follows the story of Brett and his renewed love affair with music...

The 'Remix Project' in partnership with the homelessness charity Shekinah was funded by Plymouth City Council Targeted Youth Work Fund. The project was led by PMZ Music Leaders Laura Loft and Paul White and this video was created by Steve Becket from Befree Media.


PMZ PARTNERS - A lifeline for Louis Published July 24th 2014

In this film a father speaks about his son Louis who ended up  isolated by his disability and had no friends by the time he was aged nine. He says "If we didn't have (Plymouth) Music Zone he wouldn't have anywhere to practise his skill, he wouldn't have any friends or any social life whatsoever." 
This film was commissioned by Plymouth City Council Disabled Children's Team to show at a national SEN/disabled conference to evidence the Power of Partnership in helping young people like Louis. It is an insight into how people can work together for change and how to use music to reach disabled children and young people and maximise the impact on their lives.

 This film was funded by Plymouth City Council who also funds this strand of our work in partnership with Youth Music. The film was created by Steve Becket from Be Free Media and involved PMZ Music Leader Holly Bench and Elise Webster and PMZ Training Coordinator Anna Batson.


'PMZer' CLOSE UP - Josie Newton
Published November 15th 2013

Here's an up close and personal look at the musical journey of Josie Newton - starting as a PMZ participant, she then became a Music Leader Apprentice and then a Music Leader. Take a look at the video to see what she's doing now...

This film was created for Plymouth Music Zone by Steve Becket from Befree Media. Thanks to funding from Youth Music who help young people to progress within PMZ.


PMZ SESSIONS - Performance by City College Life Skills Group 2013 
Published on Aug 20, 2013

Here's a behind the scenes build up with the post 19 Life Skills Group from City College Plymouth. Catch the nerves and the joy as we see snippets of their end of year performance and how it went down - and see if you can spot all the Summer Tunes they picked...

The Life Skills sessions are run by PMZ Music Leader Simon Hackworthy and this video was filmed for PMZ by Steve Becket from BeFree Media. Huge thanks to funders including the National Foundation for Youth Music, Arts Council England and the Clare Milne Trust and to our partners City College Plymouth. And good luck to all those fantastic City College performers!


PMZ SESSIONS - 'Tiny Tunes' 
Published September 18th 2013

Plymouth Music Zone delivers an extensive music programme with the under 5s across the city - from babies to toddlers - in all kinds of places like nurseries, children's centres, primary schools and in our multi-sensory room. These 'Tiny Tunes' sessions are being shown to have a profound impact on young children. 

This film was created to show the kind of best practice being developed by PMZ in this area. It was produced by Fiona Evans. This strand of our work was funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music as well as the Big Lottery and other smaller funders. It is also supported by schools and the parents themselves. 

Have a look for yourself at what it's like - and feel free to sing along if you want to!


'PMZer' CLOSE UP - Brad
Published March 5th 2013

"I went in as pretty much a criminal, come out as a boy who wanted to be successful". Here's a PMZer close up with Brad telling his own story of his time doing one-to-one music mentoring sessions at Plymouth Music Zone - turning from what he calls a 'naughty boy' to creating his own music genre of 'Rap Love Songs'...This is how he did it, helped along the way by Music Leader and mentor Steve Becket who also produced this film with Brad. Thanks to music mentoring funding from Youth Music.


'PMZer' CLOSE UP - Dylan
Published March 28th 2013

Here's an up close and personal chat with Dylan who attends Plymouth Music Zone's after school club, Jam Band, which is a great mix of "random people from random schools" as Dylan says. And "It's a great place to get away from all the madness that happens in the rest of your life". Tune in for other Dylan delights. Jam Band is led by music leader Teri Perkins and Shane Gray. This little film was created by Fiona Evans from Conscious Films. And Jam Band is funded by Youth Music.




PMZ Projects - OAE at PMZ 2013
Published May 29th 2013

This wonderful film is about a special music project that happened at Plymouth Music Zone in May 2013 when 'PMZers' worked with visiting musicians from one of the world's leading orchestras - the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  Watch for yourself to see the magic unfold...

The project was funded by Youth Music and Arts Council England and filmed for Plymouth Music Zone by Music Leader and filmmaker Steve Becket.




Plymouth Music Zone
Raglan Road
United Kingdom
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