In 2011 Cre8 started a music project with funding from Youth Music. Since then it's gone from strength to strength and now represents a key part of our provision, engaging over 60 young people in music-making activities on an annual basis, with a core group of around 30 participants who attend 3 times a week. Many of these young people have been involved for years, developing from complete beginners into multi-instrumental musicians and going on to excel in their music GCSEs and study music at college.
But why do they keep coming back? Is it the music? Ask them, and they'll probably say it's the toast.
As a youth worker based in a community long-term, I'm always interested in what it takes to engage young people in activities that develop tangible skills and make a visible impact on their lives on a long-term basis. As a musician, I understand the impact that music-making can have on an individual. It can be defining; more than just a hobby, it can shape personalities and futures. So naturally when the opportunity arose to combine the two it was a welcome challenge.
Back to the toast.
One of the more interesting parts of my training as a youth work was the theory of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (look it up here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs). The theory suggests that for individuals to experience growth in areas of self-esteem, confidence, achievement and respect of others their basic physiological needs, sense of safety and need for positive social relationships has to be met. To put it plainly: if you want hard-to-reach kids to learn to play music and respect other, give them sofas, support, tea and toast.
Now that's not to say there aren't difficulties that come along with this. Sometimes it's difficult to define whether a young person spent more time learning how to play 'Smoke on the Water' or standing in the queue waiting for a brew. Or when I've forgotten to pick up the chocolate spread and have to spare a member of staff for 10 minutes to go to the shop to avoid all out mutiny. But it works, and the numbers prove it. More importantly, we can see it working. Now that we've been going for 5 years, we can see lives changing. I watch kids who once struggled to sing above a whisper stand up on a stage in front of 100+ people, including families and peers (which is often worse) and smash out their rendition of 'Read All About It Part II'. I have seen kids who have literally beat themselves up when they place a finger wrong on the fretboard, who have learnt patience and perseverance and can deliver the solo from 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love'. And every time they do it, their lives change a little for the better.
It might seem simple. It might seem like an unnecessary distraction. But if there's one thing I would share with people who are struggling to reach the kids who need it the most, it would be: "firstly, give them tea and toast".
Post to the Youth Music Network, September 2016, by Tom Wardle
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