Clash is partnering with Youth Music to host a grime showcase on April 2nd, headlined by Mercury Prize-nominated MC Novelist, as part of the charity’s Give A Gig Week.
In the confounds of Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall, in October last year, an assembly of music industry executives, journalists, established musicians and philanthropists joined a collection of young creatives and entrepreneurs to celebrate music and its capacity to create change at the inaugural Youth Music Awards. Community leaders from around the country were celebrated for their passion and initiative, and up and coming talent was championed, shining what Youth Music CEO Matt Griffiths described as a ‘much needed spotlight’ on young people.
"It’s giving young people hope, init. Especially musicians," explains Seshie Henry of The Beatbox Academy, after receiving the Entrepreneur Award. "It’s hard out here trying to be a musician and develop".
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Celebrating its 20th year at the ceremony, Youth Music – a charity which invests in music- making projects around the country, enabling young people to access opportunities they may normally struggle to access – highlighted some inspiring stories, making it clear there are a lot of proactive people initiating change in their communities. However, one of the reasons these stories were celebrated is because they are unique and similar projects, which provide young people with guidance, creative direction and somewhere to go after school and at the weekends, in those hours in which a lot of young people at a loose end become vulnerable, are few and far between.
Although the Youth Music Awards pointed out that, when it comes to opportunities being created for young people, there is a lot to celebrate, looking forward, and considering the stats surrounding youth service cuts, there is a lot that still needs to be done. Investments made by charities like Youth Music, which is primarily funded through the National Lottery’s Good Causes and the People’s Postcode Lottery, can create momentum and ensure young people are not neglected.
In January, a report from YMCA revealed that spending on youth services in England and Wales has been cut by 70% in real terms in less than a decade, with the loss of £1bn of investment resulting in zero funding in some areas, and local authority expenditure on youth services dropped from £1.4bn in 2010-11 to just under £429m in 2018-19, resulting in the loss of 750 youth centres and over 4,500 youth workers.
Responding to figures obtained by the All-Party Parliamentary Group, supported by Barnardos and Redthread, in May last year, Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones said: "We cannot hope to turn around the knife crime epidemic if we don’t invest in our young people. Every time I speak to young people they say the same thing: they need more positive activities, safe spaces to spend time with friends and programmes to help them grow and develop".
In Birmingham, The Pump - a space set up to support the development of all young people, with a focus on supporting those who experience isolation and disadvantage - is doing exactly that, becoming ‘a beacon and source of inspiration’ in the community. As one of the projects Youth Music has invested in, which have enabled more than 2.9 million children and young people across the country to regularly make music over the past two decades, The Pump has helped develop the creative talents of people like 14 year old grime MC T. Roadz, providing him with access to a studio, where he’s been able to work on his craft and subsequently release his own music.
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"I didn’t have no opportunities to record before The Pump," T Roadz explains. "I came across The Pump through my friend Starzzy, who was an older MC from my area, and he took me to the studio to record my first ever track".
"In my spare time, before I started recording at The Pump, I used to play basketball for one of my local teams and then I played a few county games for West Midlands, but I was always writing music in my bedroom on the side, just with nowhere to record".
Since starting at The Pump, T. Roadz has appeared on BBC Radio 1Xtra, SBTV, Link Up TV and was also featured on grime’s rite-of-passage platform, Lord Of The Mics, subsequently receiving Youth Music’s Outstanding Act Award.
"It meant a lot to win the Youth Music award as it was my first ever award that I received outside of Birmingham and it means a lot to know my music is being noticed," he adds. "Life has changed a lot since then. I now have a high following on social media, which I could have only dreamed for them times, and I’m out every weekend doing shows, interviews, radio sets etc.".
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Eyez is another MC who’s benefited from Youth Music’s investments, attending The Hangleton & Knoll Project’s UStudios drop in sessions to record music, before going on to become a tutor himself. While establishing himself in the grime scene, representing his home town of Derby nationwide, performing alongside veterans like Lethal Bizzle, Eyez also made the decision to invest a large portion of his own time in creating opportunities for young people using his skills and experience.
"A lot of people that I had done these things with, I know they were going through a lot of things, even though they were so young," Eyez explained on the Youth Music Podcast. "It’s crazy, it was like counselling".
Youth Music has also previously provided funding for London-based independent record label, publishing and management company, No Hats No Hoods, which worked closely with some of grime’s second generation, including Elf Kid, Blakie and Mercury Prize-nominated MC and auteur, Novelist, playing a key role in keeping the scene alive in London.
Novelist has since become a prominent voice, both in his community and on a national scale, and represents the talent and work ethic synonymous with grime. He also regularly advocates for the importance of art as a positive creative outlet for young people, telling NME in July last year how he believes "people can get revelation from art".
To celebrate the work Youth Music is doing, and the talent of the young people it aims to support, the charity is hosting its annual Give A Gig Week between March 27th – April 5th and in collaboration with Clash is hosting a grime showcase at Peckham Audio, bringing together artists like T. Roadz and Eyez, who have benefitted from the charity’s projects, and pioneering acts like Novelist, who embody the independent, DIY ideas evident in grime which have altered the landscape of UK music.
Tickets for the Novelist Give a Gig Week show at Peckham Audio on April 2nd are available right now(February 18th) on Dice.fm. Stay tuned to find out who will be joining Novelist, Eyez and T.Roadz on the line-up.
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Words: Patrick Fennelly
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