In Middleport, we currently have a youth gang problem where young people are getting involved in anti-social behaviour and being groomed by older kids to take part in other crimes. We wanted to create a different ‘gang’ for these young people to be a part of, and we wanted them to be encouraged to achieve positively in that group. We think that encouraging our young people to form music bands could change their pathway in life. So, we came up with the project ‘The Players Academy’ and partnered with local community group Fegg Hayes Futures.
Middleport and Fegg Hayes are two of the most deprived areas in Stoke-on-Trent. Access to music tuition is limited mainly due to income but also from disengaged parents and a lack of public transport. There is no community facility in Middleport, making music tuition even less possible.
We started off the project, sending music teachers into local schools to run taster sessions on different instruments as well as music production. We learnt that, logistically, trying to teach good quality music skills is very challenging with large numbers of children. So, we found ways to split the children into small groups and rotate the activity that they were learning in order to keep the children engaged and enthusiastic.
We then ran a summer program where we taught young people how to learn their preferred instrument, and we encouraged them to form into bands, complete with names and logos. Our teachers performed at the start of each session, which really helped to inspire the kids for the session. They then worked towards an event in which they would perform to their families. Even though many of the children had learnt the skills to play the song they had learnt, they also needed to build the confidence to perform, so we encouraged them to perform at the end of each session to their peers, in order to get some practice with performing. By the end of the summer program most of our children performed to their parents and it was so emotional seeing them achieve it!
The next part of the project focused on the most engaged children and we taught them yet more skills with their chosen instruments. We had another performance, but this was at a professional performance venue with a stage and lighting! The kids were very nervous but they did an amazing job!!
We are now into our final stage of the project, where the children will record their own music CD and make a music video. We are so excited about this part as we also hope to take the bands on tour around the local schools to engage more children for the project so that we can continue it next year!
Thank you to The Foundation for Youth Music for supporting us to make this possible and for helping us to build stronger relationships with our young people!