Rio Youth Club is for young people aged between 13 to 17 and who are in care or adopted. The club offers young people the opportunity to get together to have fun, try new things, cook and chill out. It also encourages young people to try to think of new ideas to make being in care and being adopted better. The group is co-run by the young people who attend, Devon children’s services participation team, and Devon youth service.
The Soundwaves project at Rio was designed to support confidence and resilience, and to help build communication skills within the group through the use of creative music activities. The young people were offered the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities from playing an instrument and lyric writing to digital mixing and animation. There was an overarching aim for all elements created by the young people to be united in a final ‘piece’ of work that combined a created song with an accompanying animation/video.
Three session leaders were engaged to work in the setting to offer a variety of creative opportunities; Laura Loft, offering acoustic music making and song writing, Adam Copeman, offering music technology and Stuart Dawson, working with animation. Workshops ran over the course of one term, on a fortnightly basis when the group regularly met and were supported by Youth Participation Worker, Meghan Mysa.
Creative spaces were set up in the social area at the club, a relaxed area with sofas and pool tables. Initially, it proved challenging to engage the young people, some of the group were new and there were some existing tensions amongst regular members. Meghan noted:
“Group working will be difficult, for some it will depend on who is in the group, who writes the lyrics, who plays what, this will cause ‘fractures’”
Despite the slightly chaotic nature of sessions due to the high level of anxiety and emotion in the group several young people engaged well with the project. The lyric writing proved popular but to start with many young people choose to write alone as their experiences were so personal. Laura commented:
“Self confidence was a real challenge for a lot of these young people. I got the sense that they didn’t want their own experience devalued when sharing in a group…song writing is a personal and vulnerable thing to share ”
However, with encouragement several young people showed an interest in sharing the material they were writing and were able to describe how they were feeling and the process they were going through:
“I’ve got stuff in my head and I’m getting it down. About loss and death, its better out”
“I’m gonna write a song straight off. I’ve wrote loads of songs. I sing to my dog amber, he listens.”
“Digging deep is kinda hard when you know its gonna hurt, this one’s called ‘fly home’”
Some young people choose to participate only once or twice, some took part on a more regular basis. During those sessions original songs were started and participants were encouraged to think about how they might work together. Several ‘had a go’ at trying things for the first time, some singing, some playing cords on the guitar, some recording what they were making.
Of particular note was one young person, who only engaged for two sessions, but was able to create in that short time a deeply personal and moving account of her childhood, producing a poem called ‘WHY?’ which she then made into a lyric video.
One young person was able to complete a song and called it ‘You cant stop the waves’. She went on to put it to music, and with further encouragement found the confidence to sing and record it. She agreed to share this song and it formed the basis for the content of the animated music film, created by other young people. Her willingness to share the song also provided an opportunity for others to contribute by playing instruments, these were recorded and included in the final mix. Laura commented:
“she said ‘I cant do it, I cant sing, I cant write music’, however soon she was guiding and directing the song on how she wanted the chords to sound, happy, sad, mellow, higher, lower. She knew she wanted the chorus to be her main message…she even added pre chorus parts, and an introduction and an ending”
“It’s better working with a group. It’s been nice and friendly, they’re not taking the mick. I feel more comfortable,” Young Person
The completed song took the theme of surfing the waves as a metaphor for surfing ‘lifes challenges’. This theme was echoed in the animation. Some young people created shadow puppets, speech bubbles and backgrounds for a short animated music film to accompany the recorded song. To create a combined piece of work they had to think about listening to each other and take account of each others feelings. This was an important outcome for the setting; Meghan noted:
“We struggle with parallel play versus grouping…this has significantly improved through the workshops… ”
At the final workshop a sharing took place; a screening of ‘You can’t stop the waves’, ‘WHY?’ and a short film documenting the sessions made by Stuart. Everyone sat together and shared the experience and a sense of achievement. There was a feeling of excitement and a lot of applause and encouragement for each other. The work was engaging and emotive, some commented:
“it was amazing”
“I feel more confident doing stuff, more brave”
“I’ve got a song on Cd and I’ve written three or four songs”
The project has enabled young people at the setting try something new, gain some new skills and importantly has given them an opportunity, and a voice, to express themselves creatively. Laura summed up the feelings of the session leaders involved:
“Projects like these help because they create a sense of self worth, that they are important and that people care and want to encourage and nurture their confidence, creativity and well being”
“…we have seen a growth in confidence and a willingness to share, this is a significant achievement, those that have engaged have done so well, they have taken risks. We would like to run another project like this,” Meghan
Excerpt from the Surfing Song:
“And she said get out of this house and surf man
You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf
That’s what they told me”
Clare Fisher and Jennie Hayes, January 2017