The first Staff in the Spotlight of the 2021 is an interview with our Research & Evaluation Officer Remi, who joined us 2 weeks before lockdown!
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Youth Music.
I'm a Research & Evaluation Officer, I collect and analyse data that measures our impact as a funder and the projects that we fund. Part of the Research and Evaluation Team, we use evaluation to support evidence-led decision making that champions inclusivity and challenges barriers to participation. Our approach to cross-team working is strong at Youth Music, having strengthened as we’ve expanded and adapted over the last year. Even though I’ve been here for around nine months now, I’ve been involved in various research projects, crunching data on the reach and impact of funding streams and working within a team dedicated to reinforcing and evolving our organisation-wide approach to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. My currently being within the 18-25 age group and sharing my insight and voice within my role, for me, further exemplifies our environment where those with lived experience drive change. Outside of work, I spend my time with music (of course), film, riding about and exploring my hometown of London.
You started at Youth Music two weeks before we transitioned into working from home. How have you found starting a brand new job remotely, and do you have any advice for people in similar situations?
I’d not even brought in a cactus for my desk yet… It’s an intense experience to join a new team and adapt to a new working style simultaneously and I would advise not to resist your working behaviour changing, roll with it. Different environments demand different habits and behaviours; communicate with your team, don't fight it and most importantly, don't fight yourself! Your learning style will also need to adapt, take time to determine what methods and approaches work for you whilst remote working and always check in with your team.
Tell us about what drew you to working in research, and what prompted your interest in Youth Music.
Whilst studying my English Literature degree, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of ‘reading between the lines’, examining the voice, and identifying a person’s intention and message through different forms of expression. Whilst not directly linked (which it doesn’t necessarily need to be), I then worked in market research for a few years, conducting focus groups, interviews at exhibitions in various countries and undertaking large quantitative research projects. I quickly understood the importance and necessity of data-led decision-making, and that you can never hope to serve the people you work for without listening to them at all stages. What prompted my interest in Youth Music is its clear determination to amplify the voices of young people, to hear their lived experiences and to thoroughly listen. Every day I work with data that demonstrates the social, personal and musical benefits of the projects that we fund for thousands of young people throughout the country. In collecting and analysing this data, we support an equitable approach to decision making, which relies not on bias, and seeks to address the need exemplified by data.
Are you involved in making music of your own? Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
I’m grateful to have been brought up in a musical family. From an early age my grandad has sang along to B.B. King on his vinyl player and belted out Jamaican gospel at whatever time of the day. I’ve been involved in various bands, from that one high school experiment you never talk about to a Brasilian Bateria. These days I simply sing and write at home, hoping to perform again when it’s safer to. Some of my biggest musical inspirations have to be Nina Simone, Michael Kiwanuka, Curtis Harding, Jeff Buckley and of course, the beloved Father John Misty.
Alongside music, you have another pretty big passion... tell us about your bikes and what you were doing before Youth Music.
Where do I start!? Motorcycling is one of those hobbies where it might look intimidating from the outside, but once you give it a go, you'll realise it's not just for bearded men in tight leather waistcoats on Route 66. Before YM I worked in research for a motorcycle manufacturer, testing concepts in markets around the world and shaping the specification of future generations of motorcycles. I've been riding since I was a teenager, taking myself to university, work and exploring the country with a true sense of freedom. Bikes I've had include a '96 Honda CBR600F, a Triumph Street Scrambler and I'm currently riding a Yamaha XSR700. What I'd say to anyone doubtful: you get to experience landscapes and communities in a totally unique and inspiring way - you'll always meet a kind someone in a pub that wants to buy your pint after a rainy 100-mile ride and listen to your story so far.
What’s been the highlight of your time at Youth Music so far? What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
There's been loads! The ongoing support within our team throughout the last year has been astonishing. We’ve collectively accomplished so much to be proud of, from setting up the Emergency Fund earlier in the year to publishing research, including Reshape Music and A Blueprint for the Future which explore the compounding barriers young people face in the industry and present a call to action. Most recently I’ve been speaking to individuals involved in our Next Gen programme and our conversations have been eye-opening for me. It's been deeply impactful to learn more about the unique journeys of these young professionals in the music industries: their interests, strength, experiences and their inspirational goals for their future and career. Despite the barriers they face, which have been exacerbated over the last year, they are resilient, determined and vocal in calling out the disparities within the industry – rightly so.
Next year, I can’t wait to get out in the field to visit teams and their projects! I learn so much about the impact they have through the evaluation reports they submit. Nothing beats seeing a glimpse of the amazing work carried out in person, though. And I’m very much looking forward to my commute over Tower Bridge in the morning, too.