by Author rachel parsons

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Dispatches from the HotHouse

 Greetings from More Music!

Having been a bit stressed about getting behind with the more paperwork side of my job, it’s been good having a bit more time freed up to do more Project Management stuff so I feel that I am more on top of all my admin, planning, budget and development work.

The ‘Next Stage’ Music Industry event last week went well both at Lancaster & Morecambe College and More Music. All the guests were great and their feedback following the event has been extremely positive. We had people travelling from Blackpool and Manchester to come for the Sony showcase opportunity and event at More Music in the evening which was due to us partnering up with Jeff from Unconvention (who was fab!). There will be a report to follow with feedback from all the partners and organisations involved, but it went very well. The panel, expertly chaired by Jeff Thompson, was informative and well balanced and because the guests came from a wide range of musical backgrounds with varied experiences, the discussion offered the young people an honest insight into the industry and practical advice on how they could progress in music.  Having Eddie from Sony up to do the showcases added prestige to event and a very real link to the industry. He is keen to keep working with us and we have talked about him coming back regularly so that’s a contact that can be developed and if we ran the event again, as we plan to do, he is keen to get more involved in the panel discussions too to offer advice on song choice, professionalism, styling etc. I also invited Claire Windsor up from the RSC in her capacity as first sound engineer, to make sure the panel wasn’t all male. She has the same passion as me for providing positive role models for girls in the industry and also said she would be happy to come back again, as did Jeff etc. see eval/report.
Speaking after the event, Course tutor  from Lancaster & Morecambe College, Louis Davy said: “We were very fortunate to be able to offer our students this opportunity and they all seemed to love it. Rachel Parsons has been fantastic in arranging this for the students and it is great to have this link between ourselves and More Music.” And feedback from the students at LMC has also been very positive,  HNC student Jack Wingad said “It was great. Very informative and reinforced what our tutors have been teaching us and had us engaged from start to finish.”

Bay Youth Voices is going well, we have built up a group of 10 this term which is the most we have had. I still need to go into schools to promote it though and have discussed a plan with Nicky in regards to this. I will try and get something booked in for the week after half term and lead in to January as well. We also have a gig booked for them in December so we have a goal to work towards which always adds focus to rehearsals.

Young Leaders - we have recruited some new young people this term so the group is quite vibrant after some of our older young people leaving in the summer. This is really positive as the group has a nice new vibe and energy to it. They have been really busy and helped out very well at the open day (I was off sick, and they covered extremely well for me, covering the ‘rock room’ by themselves!). The older young leaders are taking on more responsibility now in regards to organisation and leadership and there are about 5 new younger members who have joined the group too. Any minutes from meetings can be read on the young leaders FB group. Following the Industry day at which key members of the group co ordinated all the showcases and acts at both LMC and More Music, they are organising the Halloween gig for Friday this week and then after half term we have an action plan as to where to go out for some more consultations to try and reach those harder to reach young people that we didn’t consult later time. We will also be thinking about who to recruit for next term in line with the YM activity plan.

Stages - all ace, we have had regular numbers of around 40 this term and the team is working very well together. We have been routinely reviewing the last week’s evaluations before each session starts which has led to better planning and the team being more prepared for any slightly out of the ordinary happenings that might occur e.g., preparing for any young people needing more one to one time or what to do with big groups of new comers. Lots of new people who keep bringing new friends and the project is blooming. Lots of new participants keeps the project fresh which means Stages is still relevant to the young people and is delivering what they want. This term we are focusing on filming and recording this term as well as providing lots of ‘next stage’ masterclasses (both with our in house skills and things like the industry event) with the theme of choices. The plan is to film the gig this Friday along with recording it live so we can produce a high quality film of the gig that can be used both by the young bands as a promotion tool and by us for advocacy and marketing.

Friday Night Project - all good too and numbers are back up to 40ish now after the strange, disjoined term in the summer. FNP runs much better when there are no disruptions in the term as we discussed before the start of the term so we will continue to aim for this every term. Shane has started his art project too which is a good added element to our offer and we are getting some younger participants feeding in to the project that Ash has previously worked with through the Beatvox projects in primary schools. Now they have reached yr 7, they can come and I think that this is something we could use to promote/recruit if needed as there must be a whole new breed of younger beatboxers in yr 7 classes all across Morecambe now. However, numbers are good so recruitment is not an issue at this point of the term. I have also started teaching a bit of violin as one of the participants said she wanted to learn, so there was a magic moment with a strange mix of a beginner violinist, piano and bassist, 2 guitars and a cajon player all playing together for the first time like a mini orchestra. Reflecting on this, FNP a very cross genre project, covering hip hop, beatboxing, MCing, rock, classical, indie, instrument tuition, art, group singing, music production, lyric and songwriting and band rehearsals whilst also providing a safe space for young people to relax and socialise on a Friday night and a cafe which offers young people a free hot drink and toast. As a team we strive to be flexible in our planning and delivery approach in order to meet the young people’s needs and we recognise the importance of adapting the session to the need of the ever changing population of the West End. I am aware that I need to get you a post code breakdown/analysis for FNP and will do that this week, but the majority of young people who attend the session are from the Morecambe area and its becoming apparent that many of them are living in care or supported housing, so, though not all the young people who attend the session present as the original more ‘urban’ at risk young MC’s that we worked with 6 years ago, they aren’t ‘middle class’ kids by any stretch of the imagination and are growing up in very challenging circumstances.

Stages live gigs - Its the Stages halloween gig this friday. There seems to be a bit of a buzz about this because of the opportunity to dress up for Halloween, so we will see. There is a gig at the Yorkie ( a local venue in Lancaster)  the same night with one of the bands that normally play at stages gigs, so we will see how popular they are! The young leaders have also started to plan and book the christmas gig in advance as a strategy for building audience numbers. There is a good mix of Stages/FNP acts playing along side some older bands who have been through Stages and now attend college. This is also a kind of partnership strategy for building our audience as we develop the links between More Music and the LMC music department.

Arts Award - is coming along well in young leaders/FNP and Stages and I have nearly finished assessing your LYVE discover ones. Not all of the LYVE can be passed because of gaps in the booklets and missing evidence but I will ask the tutors if they can chase the young people up if they really want the award. Bronzes will be moderated at christmas now as I have to have definite names before I can book one and I have only just got these now as it takes some time at the start of term. I am going to run a portfolio session in half term for people to complete theirs so they don’t have to rush them towards the end of term. We also have a core Gold group of 5 who have big plans to take over really haha. In relation to AA and young leaders, they are looking into ways they can develop their record shop idea and we are launching a DIY fanzine in December called ‘ Stages-Pages’, which will feature local band profiles and features, gig reviews (inc. MM ones which will count towards people’s arts awards), up and coming events for the local area, a musical advice column, alternative hairstyle of the month, art work and creative writing features …. :) both things also tie into the whole social enterprise idea, and we have been speaking to someone who has funding available for ideas like this to make them sustainable.

I have also set up projects at the Foyer and with Unique Kidz that both started 2 weeks ago and are going well with Ash and Leroy delivering on both. (sadly not me!). The Foyer is part funded by them and part by us as part of our Greater Together delivery and the Unique Kidz project, they have bought us in to deliver quarter 3, (Oct - Dec 2014) of their Curious Minds funding Strong Voices project. This is off the back of the successful Arts Award project we delivered in the Spring term for My Place, which is positive partnership development.

And that’s what has been happening whilst you have been away,

What I do need to know quite soon is what we plan to do next term in terms of Stages and FNP. If funding permits, I feel that I would be a mistake to ’take a break’ from them for a term as they are both going very strong and are providing very positive and creative projects and a safe space for around 100 young people each week. I feel very strongly about trying to keep both Stages and FNP going next term and so If we need to be creative or look for other funding routes I will do so. I also need to know for the brochure deadline!