by Author Future Yard CIC

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SOUND CHECK - FUTURE YARD's Gateway to Careers in The Live Music Industry

FUTURE YARD is a brand-new, 350-capacity space in Birkenhead. Opening during a global pandemic certainly came with its challenges, but allowed our team to plan and build in many different ways. This new community venue will bring some of today’s most exciting new national and international artists to Wirral, while at the same time providing key early performance opportunities for emerging local musicians.

Our building re-imagines the role of a live music venue, providing live industry training and a regional hub for artist development. FUTURE YARD celebrates diversity and champions inclusivity. With the vital assistance of its growing community, FUTURE YARD will continuously work to ensure that live music is accessible to all. One of the training programmes we were able to launch during this restricted period was our SOUND CHECK scheme.

SOUND CHECK is a 12 week programme created by FUTURE YARD to provide entry level training opportunities for young people interested in live music. Learning is centered around three main skills:

  1. mixing live sound
  2. lighting
  3. event management

 Additional to this, the programme covers elements such as branding and marketing, event curation and lighting design. The skills are learnt through practical training sessions with industry experts, along with opportunities to shadow these professionals during live performances at FUTURE YARD and finally through putting on their own event at the venue.

SOUND CHECK is accredited at Arts Award Bronze level. Each participant has their own blog to update, which evidences all activity and progress. The blog is then used as the portfolio submission for the Arts Award.

We built the programme with very clear outcomes in mind:

  • Build actual skills in the tech and management areas of live music through hands-on learning.
  • Highlighting the many different careers that they could enter into in the live music industry and what it entails, looking at it in the context of multi-scale events from grassroots music venues through to festivals and arenas.
  • We want to empower our participants, building their self-belief, confidence and resilience.

We measure the progress of the participants through self-evaluation and mentor evaluation in their 121s, along with in-session evaluation from the professionals that they have worked with through this programme. This is further evidenced in the participants own blog that was kept updated as we moved through the programme.

We began the SOUND CHECK training programme in October 2020, when restrictions enabled us to allow participants in the venue. Due to social distancing, we reduced the number in the group from the agreed 14, down to 7. During the drought of gigs, FUTURE YARD was very fortunate to host a series of performances that were shown online and provided the first shadowing opportunities for the group, before we were able to allow audiences in our venue.

Unfortunately, when restrictions tightened, we were unable to deliver training sessions, so during that period we kept in touch with the group through weekly zooms to offer support and a work on blog activities.

The restrictions meant that our 12 week programme was significantly extended, with the group’s event taking place in May, in line with the Government’s road map.

Our first group of SOUND CHECK participants all significantly leveled up on the group of skills that are needed in order to successfully create and deliver a live music event at FUTURE YARD. We saw such a pleasing improvement in the knowledge related to the first two outcomes and it’s been a very rewarding experience to see the group grow in confidence and support each other as a team, which ties in with our third outcome. The positive progress of this group is reflected in their 121 mentor sessions.

Gaining the skills involved in sound and light engineering was difficult, which made it all the more rewarding when I found myself able to successfully do the tech for a set of live performances from a local band 'Denio’. 

Ellie Collier, SOUND CHECK participant

The final 121s with all participants highlighted the highest level of skill is in the area that they led on for their event. All participants voiced the desire to continue to learn and to be involved at FUTURE YARD. This has provided us with a very useful steer on how we deliver SOUND CHECK in the future.

We have developed SOUND CHECK in to a wider programme in order to continue to support our participants after they complete the initial twelve week programme and in order to also provide them with professional opportunities. The goal for our SOUND CHECK participants is to employ them as freelancers or to hire them through the Government’s Kickstart scheme, providing actual career opportunities for our young people.

You can read more about SOUND CHECK over on TPI Magazine here and the interest goings on in Birkenhead, with FUTURE YARD taking centre stage here in this recent Guardian Music article.

Applications are now open for the next round of SOUND CHECK, starting in the Autumn -