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Taking OffTaking Off

A networked approach to promoting meaningful musical pathways for young Londoners facing challenging circumstances.

Young Researcher Case Study - Adem

Wired4Music (W4M) is a pan-London organisation that works with young people aged 16-25 engaging with music in a multitude of ways. W4M does not target young people from a specific category of challenge (i.e. homelessness, young refugee, etc.) but rather, aims to connect all musical young people in London. This includes but is not limited to musicians, radio producers, promoters and workshop leaders from every London borough. While this certainly does not mean the young people in W4M do not face varied and challenging life circumstances, it’s just this isn’t explicitly the focus of the activity. As such, each member’s journey through music is extremely unique, and presents its own set of prospects, achievements and challenges.

But how do you measure meaningful progression when young people’s start and finish lines don’t often match up?

Considering the individuality of each young person’s journey, I was keen to explore if any common barriers arose when asking W4M members to consider their own personal progression pathways.

Taking Off, Sound Connections’ research project, aims to map organisations supporting progression for young people through music activity in London, and my role was to give specific examples of the young people’s experiences. As one of the Young Researchers, I gathered a focus group of W4M members and talked them through a journey mapping exercise. I wanted this case study to meaningfully and accurately explore the journeys of the young people in W4M. This particular activity asks participants to map out key moments during their musical experience and plans for the future (the ‘start and finish lines’ in the heading above). Once we established where the young people started in music, where they are at now and hope to be in the future, we began discussing barriers to these experiences as well as opportunities that helped them overcome them.

The most common barrier in the discussion was economic deprivation and as a result, limited access to opportunities (due to travel or activity costs) or limited free time (due to having to do non-music related work to support themselves).

One of the biggest tools W4M members sited in combating a range of challenges was the network itself. Being able to call upon a range of skills and abilities allows for sharing of resources and connections. However, one particular young person still noted distance as a huge barrier for them, as they were travelling from outer London. With the expense of travel, access to opportunities, potential partnerships and collaborations become significantly harder for them to take advantage of.

What quickly became clear was that within each individual’s aspiration, they were able to see progression for themselves by working with other young people – either through W4M or externally; that particularly for 18-25s, access to space and time in order to create and develop as young and emerging professionals is paramount. By collaborating and skill-sharing, the W4M members explained they were able to create their own opportunities for success.

It was discussed that as you enter the tail end of being a young person (heading towards a 25th birthday), the type of support you need drastically changes. Rather than simply having projects delivered for them, the young people needed to engineer their own opportunities in order to progress. Having access to W4M, in which activity is completely led by members with the support of Sound Connections staff, has meant that some of the young people have been able to incubate skills that have directly led to employment opportunities.

In discussing the W4M members’ journeys through music (exploring where they started, are now, and hope to be in the future) one thing is startlingly obvious: progression is personal and not quantifiable. What may come easy to one young person may be a huge achievement for another and each moment in each journey is equally valid and important.

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Definition of Indices of Multiple Deprivation

The Indices of Deprivation 2015 provide a set of relative measures of deprivation for small areas (Lower-layer Super Output Areas) across England, based on seven different domains of deprivation:

For more information see: Gov.uk - 2015 Statistical Release (PDF 1.5MB)