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Inclusive Practice in Action – roundup of Sound Connections’ annual gathering

We recently set about programming our most ambitious event yet, bringing together three of our priorities: social justice, early years and youth voice. The result was a hard-hitting day of presentations, workshops and debate with a diverse range of people and organisations.

Jess Thom (Founder of Touretteshero) gave an incredibly evocative keynote celebrating the creativity and humour of Tourettes. During her presentation, Jess implored us to practice everyday inclusion, make small changes in our day-to-day work, and make workplaces spaces in which people feel able to be themselves. Jess also highlighted the social model of disability emphasising the importance of creating adjustable, flexible environments that can be adapted as needed. Jess’ calls to action perfectly set up a big theme of the day: inclusion as an ongoing, never-ending process of removing barriers that takes attention and commitment every single day.


Following on from Jess’ session, highlights included:

  • Youth Worker and journalist Ciaran Thapar shared his knowledge about Drill music and presented it as an opportunity to understand and engage with the challenges young people are facing, rather than something to penalise people for. He shared ways to integrate Drill in schools and youth centres, and talked about its role in confronting and changing traditional power structures
  • Susan Young unpicked how whiteness and ‘niceness’ lead us to ignore how racism is systematically engrained in education. She asked us to bring humility to our work, be alert to covert racism and white privilege and accept that discomfort is necessary for growth
  • A panel of Wired4Music members shared their insights about supporting young people to progress, and got participants thinking about the very practical ways to connect people to the right opportunities. The panel suggested that people creating music opportunities need to think about making music spaces feel more like home
  • The social model of disability was a theme across sessions run by Raw Material and Drake Music. Drake Music also introduced the concept of the Aesthetics of Access, whereby access requirements are used creatively as an integral part of the work rather than an ‘add on’, and access requirements are seen as a creative opportunity
  • Emma Hutchinson from Music House for Children got participants thinking about what inclusion means in an Early Years context. She talked about understanding “what makes young children tick, how they respond to music, and the subsequent pathways that I needed to develop to nurture musical outcomes”
  • Two Music Education Hubs – Tri-borough and Essex – delivered sessions about innovative new approaches they are taking to make music more accessible and inclusive, with Tri-borough focusing on their ground-breaking Early Years training programme and Essex talking about digital learning, community music schools and targeted recruitment in ‘cold spots’ as strategies for widening access
  • Finally, youth-led organisation Blaze and Sound Connections shared tips for recruiting young trustees – for young trustee Jacob Roberts-Mensah his top tip was around combatting imposter syndrome through training and mentoring from more experienced trustees


Some of the pledges attendees made as a result of the day are:

  • “Not to teach but enable responses – invite rather than instruct”
  • “Encourage more bespoke, responsive, collaborative practice”
  • “Involve young people within our organisation’s structure and communications”
  • “Don’t expect young people to show up to something you wouldn’t show up to yourself”
  • “Work more with our studios to offer an open, safe space for young people”
  • “Explore practical ways to make our grants accessible”
  • “Consider whether the workforce reflects the community and young people it works with and if not work to change this”
  • “Enable a culture within projects/activity where adults show vulnerability too”
  • “Learn more about the structure of care for people experiencing poor mental health”

We also used the day to start sharing and developing ideas around a Manifesto for Musical Inclusion and Social Justice. This is something we are working on to explore and dig deeper into what inclusion and social justice are, and how they manifest within our practice backed up with practical examples, training and resources. If you are interested to find out more then take a look here. We’d love to hear your thoughts.



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