FEATURE: YOUNG MUSICIANS PROJECT | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It turns out it’s hard to be in the music business during a global pandemic. Obviously, we haven’t got it the worst – we’re hardly frontline NHS – but whether you’re a venue that’s shut down indefinitely or a band that just can’t get together to practise, it’s a rough time. Imagine if what you do involves getting a bunch of teenagers together every week at Pop Recs Ltd in Sunderland, to play instruments and write songs? That’s what we do at We Make Culture, with our Young Musicians Project. So, this has been quite the adjustment.

A bit of back ground. Young Musicians Project has been running for five years but we took it over two years ago, when it was threatened with closure. Since then our weekly sessions have got really big – often 30 young people a week – and we now record, gig and produce, as well as work in schools and communities too.

One of the reasons Young Musicians Project works so well is that it’s literally open to all. You don’t have to be able to play or write, you’ve just got to be interested in having a go. There’s no pressure to produce either; some people don’t write a song for six months and some never do, but they contribute through some other means – organising, taking photos, designing posters.

But those who do write songs; we treat them like musicians. The group is led by people who know what it’s really like to try and get your work out there – Marty Longstaff (The Lake Poets), Natasha Haws and Beccy Young (This Little Bird). We regularly record in the Field Music studios and run a project for young people who want to record and produce, led by Jordan Miller (Vandebilt) and Eddie Scott (PICNIC). It’s essential that the young musicians we work with know that you CAN be a working musician and live in Sunderland. We want to show them ‘here are the people that are doing that and these are the ways you can do it’.

It’s essential that the young musicians we work with know that you CAN be a working musician and live in Sunderland

And slowly this is paying off. There a definite upsurge in exciting new musicians, bands and promoters in Sunderland again. Artists like Plastic Glass, Faye Fantarrow and Lottie Willis who have come through the project and are now doing exciting things – releasing tracks, doing gigs, getting signed – but it’s almost as exciting to see other musicians who don’t have anything to do with us, doing things too. What we’re doing has to be about supporting a music community to grow and get stronger, feeding musicians into local venues like Independent and Pop Recs, supporting new promoters like Unison, and new platforms like Spotlight Music, and seeing audiences get bigger for local music again.

So, global pandemic or not, this hasn’t been the time to stop. After a quick adjustment over the last few weeks, we’ve found ways to make what we do work. We’re still meeting every Saturday to share what people have been working on; we’re offering free music one-to-ones for young people with our musicians on songwriting, singing and recording; we’ve got plans for online gigs and developing different ways of sharing our young musicians’ music. New people are still joining, too. No one knows what state things will be in when this is over, but we’re determined to be there on the other side.

If you’d like any information about the project, please email laura@wemakeculture.co.uk and check out their social media pages

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