by Author Sue Ridyard

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Soundtracks: Musical Pathways in Blackburn with Darwen

Soundtracks  is a Youth Music funded project run by Blackburn with Darwen Music Hub. Over the last 16 months, we have been working with Blackburn with Darwen Young People’s Service and Blackburn Youth Zone to develop core music sessions in Blackburn Youth Zone and youth centres, providing opportunities for music making for young people from the ages of 12-19, particularly those in challenging circumstances.

Young people attend evening music sessions during the week and take part in a range of activities which have developed over time in response to feedback from participants and individual interests and needs: developing instrumental skills, band work, preparing for performances, composing original material, arranging music and, in the case of some young people, sitting in and observing a session as a precursor to getting involved as their own confidence and interest grows.

One of the central aims for the project was to develop musical pathways in the local area for young people to connect with music. We wanted these pathways to provide different access points to for young people to engage with music making as well as creating opportunities for the musical progression and development of individuals.

Soundtracks has promoted these opportunities by connecting with organisations who work with young people:

  • Secondary schools
  • Youth Centres
  • Looked after children teams
  • Colleges
  • Youth Zones
  • Holiday clubs
  • Private music providers
  • Alternative Education Provision

Increasingly, new participants have also become involved in the project through word of mouth as young people themselves promote the weekly sessions.

Soundtracks was set up as a partnership project between BwD Music Service, BwD Young People’s Service and Blackburn Youth Zone. The partnership working between these organisations has evolved and deepened through the course of the delivery as the weekly sessions have developed and embedded. In the Youth Zone delivery we have two evening sessions a week and have developed a bespoke music space within the building, also running additional sessions during school holidays. Young people are signposted to music from other Youth Zone activities, from our contact with other organisations, from music service provision and from other Soundtracks sessions.

The partnership with BwD Youth Service has led to us having sole use of Kaleidoscope Youth Centre on Friday nights with two music rooms, a performance stage, as well as a hall, café and ‘chill area’. Kaleidoscope has developed into a young people’s music space where the groups are able to take some ownership of how it is used for music including the planning of performances. The centre has also become the base for some of the music service Saturday delivery, a core performance venue for Soundtracks Band Nights, and is used during school hours to deliver curriculum music sessions to young people who attend alternative education provision.

Blocks of weekly taster music sessions have run at other youth centres within their normal delivery programme, one of which has been brought into the core delivery as a result of the impact it is having in the immediate community.

Performance events have become a significant part of our delivery framework.  Over the past year, Soundtracks performances have taken place at Kaleidoscope Youth Centre, Blackburn Youth Zone and The Bureau Centre for the Arts- a town centre venue which lends itself to creating a ‘vibe’ for young performers. Bands from the project performed at Darwen Youth Festival in July and we have supported guest appearances from young bands from other music organisations including schools and Manchester Youth Zone.

The music leaders on the Soundtracks project have brought different experiences and perspectives to the delivery, and we have been able to structure the programme to include opportunities for different musicians and trainees to work together. This has supported a rich sharing of approaches to delivery in workshops. Training for our team has included regular sharing of practice, but has also involved connecting with the experience of community music organisation More Music who have delivered training for musicians and more recently for a group of young music leaders. In addition, More Music have supported our planning and delivery of Arts Award Bronze and Silver, and welcomed both our staff and groups of young people to events in Morecambe.

We have been conscious throughout Soundtracks of sharing our own journey with other organisations, both locally and increasingly across the region. The network of youth zones across the region has provided a platform for us to share the project and the ways we have been able to to support music making in community contexts. In addition, BwD Music Service have been involved in the NW Reaching Out  Network which is coordinated by More Music- an organisational network that meets to develop strategies for working with Children and Young People in Challenging Circumstances . The learning from Soundtracks will be part of the conversation at the first Reaching Out Conference on 10th November in Manchester.

If you would like more information about the Soundtracks project, contact

Sue Ridyard, Blackburn with Darwen Music Hub