In Youth Music’s 20 year history, we’ve never seen children and young people impacted by so many transformative events at one time. The significant events of last year have laid bare and made worse inequalities in our societies. Especially for young people already facing barriers in their lives. These challenging times require us to reflect but, most importantly, they require us to act. We wrote in April about plans to change our funding practices across the course of this year.
Thanks to Arts Council England, we can help address unequal access to music head-on through Funds A, B and C. An annual investment of £9.6million of National Lottery funding allows us to prioritise work with children and young people most likely to miss out. This includes children who are disabled, involved in the youth justice system or facing other barriers. From early years right through to young adulthood, the funds open up access for young people to make, learn and earn in music.
You’ll be aware that Arts Council England has a new 10 year strategy, Let’s Create. Youth Music welcomes this ambitious and purposeful strategy, and its outcomes of creative people, cultural communities and a creative and cultural country. We’re just about to embark on a process with Arts Council to align our funding programme to the strategy. Over the coming months, we’ll be working with them to define the scope of our funding programme beyond March 2023.
In the meantime, we’re making some refinements to our funds. We won’t be making big changes to the focus of our funding in the next couple of years. The main differences will be seen in our grant-making processes. We want to make them more accessible, more equitable and more informed by the people we work with.
Involving people in co-designing our work
Equality, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of what we do. The nationwide network of projects we invest in is full of experts, specialists and lived experience. We will be collaborating with children and young people, music leaders and projects as we develop our processes over the coming months. We want to make sure that lived experience continues to influence and guide the decision-making process once the refreshed funds are launched.
When we consulted with you earlier in the year, we asked the question “how do you want us to fund?”. The two biggest priorities were flexibility and fairness, which are at the forefront of our minds as we refine the way we work.
Promoting inclusion through all our funds
We believe that every young person should have a chance to change their lives through music. Yet research shows that many can’t because of who they are, where they’re from or what they’re going through.
To address this need, we prioritise young people facing barriers in the projects we invest in. Alongside that we have a strategic fund called Fund C. This programme aims to improve inclusion in Music Education Hubs, making all of music education more inclusive. There are thirteen Fund C grantholders (who also go by the name of AMIE or the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England). These organisations have recently been awarded a one year extension, meaning the programme will run to March 2023.
We won’t be launching another Fund C programme after this date. Why? For a number of reasons:
- There has been a positive embracing of inclusion in music education in recent years (thanks to the fantastic work of the Fund C organisations and many others).
- Fund C was a strategic programme with lots of criteria and required activities attached. We think that more flexible and locally-responsive programmes are now required.
- We are improving the parity of funding levels across our different funds, to be more equitable in how we fund.
We know there’s still a way to go before access to music is equal for more children and young people. But we want to embed equality, diversity and inclusion across the whole funding portfolio rather than focussing it on one fund.
Changes to Fund A and Fund B
We want Funds A and B to be more distinct from each other, so applicants are clearer about which one is better suited to them. The application process of Fund A is set to be overhauled to make it much more accessible. We’ll also refine Fund B’s application process, building on the improvements we made last year. The way we make decisions on both funds will also change.
With the closure of Fund C, we’re also increasing the Fund B maximum grant amount to £300,000. Whilst we won’t make many grants of this size, it gives more scope to fund larger scale, strategic programmes of work within our open funds.
Catalysing change in practices
As we move to embed inclusion under all Youth Music activity, we will wind down the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England brand. We now have an updated Grantholder Communications Toolkit which supports our whole grants portfolio to champion inclusion and celebrate the impact of the investment. We'll retain and grow the inclusion hub resources that our Fund C partners helped us to create.
In September and October we’re in co-design and collaboration mode. With Arts Council, children and young people, projects and professionals. You’ll start to see the changes implemented from spring 2022. We’re excited to see what comes from this and will keep you posted about the progress we make.