What’s the point of community music?

Whilst tucking into some good Nigerian nosh in Dalston, I was encouraged by a good friend to write a blog post advocating community music. I was quite surprised that the information I shared was brand new. So I have listed the impact community music has on society, why it’s not just a group of people playing music, writing songs and going home, oh, no! There’s loads more to it then that!

Community music (arts) projects are vital because they can include some of the following:

• engage with people and involve them deal with demanding and sometimes onerous issues such as discrimination, deprivation and inequality
• gives people who are often subject to social exclusion the opportunity to gain greater levels of self-esteem and seek paths to employment – the Respect mentoring project strives to help young people at risk of anti-social behaviour to reassess their life choices in a non-threatening way
• can help people celebrate achievements; the “Down Your Way” intergenerational project I am helping deliver is celebrating the regeneration of Castle Vale
• consult creatively with local people – creative ways of consulting with the community can engage excluded groups –
• non-threatening path to lifelong learning – engages people disenfranchised with education system
• raise the profile of an area – presents positive image of an area celebrating its uniqueness, community arts can be become good news stories
• develop community capacity – involvement of local people in organisation of community projects develops new skills such as project management and fundraising, which are transferable to other community initiatives
• stimulate cohesion amongst neighbourhoods – brings together group who may have expressed conflict to develop a project, develop skills and work toward a common aim

Nearly all of the projects I have delivered had addressed some of these issues and I feel really privileged to be able to work in a sector that has such a profound impact upon people’s lives.

Information mainly tweaked from Flying Start notes. Thanks Helen!



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  1. Matt Hinks says:

    Good stuff Bobbie. The only addition I might mention is that community music projects need to acknowledge the’less heard from’, and sometimes quite hidden EXISTING infrastructure of voluntary activity that normally includes music and groups of people such as you describe. For instance, in my experience, some of those projects focussed upon social inclusion only work with those who are excluded, thereby creating a project that is exclusive in its inclusivity! Too many community arts projects are parachuted in without the resources to plan the intervention properly. Participation is so much more effective when properly ‘owned’ by as much of the community as possible, especially, as you rightly say, through building social capital.

  2. Matt Hinks says:

    PS why do i appear as a frog?

  3. Matt Hinks says:

    now a cartoon gothic church…im confused…it’s not even a frog its something else…a lizard?

  4. musicwork says:

    It’s interesting to read this list and consider what the characteristics of ‘community music’ might be here in Australia. Well, in Victoria in particular as that is where I am based. For starters, community music seems to be most clearly defined as ‘singing’. There is a huge and thriving network of community singing projects – training for community singing leaders, and lots of choirs. Some very innovative ones, and with many different musical cultures represented. The kinds of contexts you describe for community music projects might happen here under a ‘community cultural development’ umbrella (although they are far more likely to be drama or visual arts projects than music). There seems to be very, very little community music that uses instruments, other than the well-established, tried-and-true networks of community brass bands, and community orchestras. More innovative, responsive projects tend to be short-lived. I feel that the work is under-represented (in terms of practitioners) and tends to suffer from that lack of representation or status. And there is no central hub (such as an organisation or training facility) from which the practitioners could fan out, and through which they could be identified. It’s a very different landscape. I believe there is lots of good work going on, but it has no profile. Or perhaps it is all known simply as ‘music education’. And at the end of the day, music has this reputation – god knows where from in this savvy age – of being somewhat less ‘accessible’ for newcomers than a group-mosaic project or something (not to knock the mosaics, but many people seem to to treat them as the pinnacle of collaborative arts practice!)

    I wonder what the territory looks like in the rest of the world?

    Great post Bobbie – keep them coming!

  5. Bobbie says:

    Hi there!

    Thanks for your comments! Matt you are totally right – and community music organsiations are keen to get facilitators who lead these types of things aware of to be represented by them.

    G – thanks for the detailed answer – loving it! Didn’t realise community music in OZ was vocal heavy! Wouldn’t it be interesting to get a google map type thing showing differences etc.

    B

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