The Kids are Alright | LOUD Bristol Issue FourPosted on: 06 Apr 2022
This article was first published in the fourth issue of LOUD Bristol, 365Bristol's dedicated music magazine. Read LOUD Bristol Issue Four and browse our first three editions here.
The Kids are Alright
The UK’s cultural sector has been forced to hit the reset button in response to the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic. LOUD finds out how the leading lights of the Bristol music scene are helping young people forge a path into the industry post-lockdown.
Historically, the arts have been incredibly difficult to break into for young people taking the first steps in their careers, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalised communities. It can take a lot of groundwork just to meet the right people and get a foot in the door, and even then, there’s no guarantee of any stability.
Of course, if you’ve got access to that DJing equipment, those music lessons, the studio time, you’re already on the right track. If you can afford to live in London on a three- or six-month unpaid internship, you’re golden. For millions of young people in the UK, however, the route is less straightforward.
It’s important to note here that the creative sector took a major hit during the pandemic. World heritage organisation UNESCO estimates that as many as ten million creative jobs have been lost globally due to the coronavirus crisis, while researchers at the University of Sheffield recently reported that the UK’s cultural sector suffered a 60% decline in revenue across 2020 and 2021.
What was already a notoriously gate-kept industry has seen opportunities become even more scarce. On top of that, a government that inexplicably advised creatives to “retrain in cyber” during a global pandemic is unlikely to have filled young people with confidence as they confront the post-lockdown jobs market.
“It's so important for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and under-represented or marginalised communities to know that there are sustainable options for them in the arts”
- Emily Bull, Creative Youth Network
So now, as the UK’s cultural sector starts to pick up the pieces after months of uncertainty, where do we find ourselves? Returning events, finally, look stable. Adored music and arts venues across Bristol and beyond are on the road to recovery, and the dancefloor feels like a safe place to be again. Normality, to an extent, is restored, but support and access for the next generation of artists and professionals is more important than ever.
The pandemic has presented cultural organisations with a chance to shake things up, to reshape the landscape, and teams across Bristol are grasping it with both hands. From leading events brands and venues to smaller, grassroots businesses, the city’s arts community has recognised a window to bring new people into music, and cultivate a fairer, open and more diverse scene.
Team Love, the promoters responsible for renowned events such as Love Saves The Day, Love International and new festival Forwards, are using their platform to provide practical opportunities for young people. Through their Big Team CIC and in-house industry networking platform, Elevate Us, the organisers offer community outreach work, face-to-face mentoring, accessible industry events and talent development projects with prominent, Bristol-based industry professionals.
“The projects have been set up to directly address issues of underrepresentation, and set young people up with vital experience, shadowing and paid roles across our vibrant festival portfolio,” Phoebe Holman, Producer at Big Team, tells me. “There’s also a focus on collaborating with other organisations across the city to create meaningful pathways for young creatives to follow their passions and thrive in professional environments.
“We’re working hard on community engagement, firstly to understand what young people’s needs are and where the gaps are in terms of entering the industry. We’re striving to create supported and accessible opportunities that have real longevity.”
Top: Kwazi performing as part of a Bristol Beacon showcase (Photo: Tom Ham)
Bottom: Congo Natty speaks at a recent Bristol Beacon industry event (Photo: Dominika Scheibinger)
Elsewhere, there’s a real push to create space for young people at Bristol Beacon, with the landmark venue recently launching their own artist development programme, Future Proof. Over the course of 18 months, the scheme will support a group of 18–25-year-old musicians taking the first steps of their creative journeys. Sophia Allison, who’s overseeing the project, says the team are “looking to craft independent plans” to facilitate the development of each person involved.
“One person might be looking to DJ in a venue, someone else might want to be behind the scenes at a festival. We’re trying to connect people with professionals who can offer practical support and guidance. It’s about utilising our network to prepare young people to move forwards.”
Bristol’s grassroots music scene is more than pulling its weight to cater for young people across the city, too. Noods Radio’s newly established community interest company, Noods Levels, is working to ensure young people are contributing to the ever-evolving station’s output through a range of technical and artistic roles.
Alongside a series of industry events providing education and guidance for young people, Levels will be offering hands-on experience and setting up young people to secure paid positions later down the line. Project Lead Izzy Cross believes that Noods’ development as an independent, DIY station has enabled them to offer practical resources for young people, using their experience to inform and improve their outreach work.
“For well over a year, we’ve been asking ourselves ‘what could we have used to make this process easier’, and ‘what would have been really helpful for us in the station’s early days’,” Izzy says. “That real life experience of how difficult it is to start from scratch gives us a much broader understanding of what it takes to pursue careers in music.”
As well as creating jobs and facilitating creative pursuits, there’s a drive across Bristol’s musical community to make the scene more inclusive and equitable for everyone. Leaders of a range of projects are dedicated to making young people feel welcome in creative spaces, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, economic background or disability.
Emily Bull, Head of Creative at Bristol & South Gloucestershire youth arts organisation, Creative Youth Network, is “massively encouraged” by what’s happening locally right now. “It’s brilliant that things are starting to happen again post-pandemic, but the most important thing is that the organisations and the people running them are really up for diversifying and offering opportunities to those that otherwise wouldn’t have access,” she explains.
“It’s so important for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and under-represented or marginalised communities, to know that there are sustainable options for them in the arts as they move into adulthood. Whether it’s for a career, or as an audience member, feeling like you’re welcome in a music venue is massive.”
Emily’s sentiments are echoed back at Team Love. “The power of diversity comes from celebrating different perspectives, cultures, heritages and backgrounds. We can’t just be showing that on our stages – it needs to be present in our workforce and in our audiences, too,” Phoebe says.
Major job interview secured wish me luck xxx https://t.co/AzQtT070nw— George Lyzander | CLIMAXED (@GeorgeLyzander) November 22, 2021
Many of the programmes launched since the start of the pandemic have already led participants into paid roles. Team Love have hired directly from the outreach work they’ve been doing, with one participant joining the marketing team and another as an assistant producer for Big Team, while 20-year-old George Buckthought has secured a job at Black Acre Records as a direct result of the label’s Pathways programme.
Having earned a place on the course in 2021, George says their experiences gave them the confidence and know-how to work towards a career in music management. “The programme gave me so much valuable insight, which not only opened a lot of doors for me, but also set me up with this network and community which I can lean on and learn from going forwards.
“I was actually at university while I was on the course, but the hands-on experience has been so much more beneficial to me than studying ever was. I was able to learn what it takes to put an event on, learn about the business side of things, tour management, everything. That practical experience is so important today.”
It speaks volumes that this piece doesn’t even come close to covering all the bases with regards to youth projects operating in the city right now. In the pages of this magazine alone, we’ve heard from Shall Not Fade founder Kieran Williams about his ambition to one day host label management courses from his city-centre HQ, and caught up with Harbourside Music Management boss Ben Price to discuss his new disability empowerment programme. Elsewhere, the Mix Nights course continues to nurture an exciting community of non-male DJs and producers, while its parent organisation Saffron are also funding the musical projects of seven female and gender non-conforming artists as part of their Springboard initiative.
In stark contrast to the bleak outlook for the broader cultural sector in the UK, the abundance of projects emerging from the ashes of the coronavirus pandemic is cause for optimism in Bristol. For anyone looking to develop themselves as artists, industry professionals, performers, events producers or anything in between, the tools and resources are in place for young people to access valuable support and develop their skills.
If you’ve got a passion for music, guidance and encouragement from those already embedded in the industry can be the difference between carving out a career doing what you love, or falling by the wayside. Thankfully, in the wake of an unprecedented global crisis, there’s a growing crop of initiatives operating across the city offering just that.
For more information on any of the projects mentioned in this article, or to find contacts for the people involved, get in touch with us via email.
Head to Issuu to read LOUD Bristol Issue Four in full, featuring a selection of interviews with some of the city's best-loved artists, venues, labels and more.
Main Image: Noods Levels
Editor - 365Bristol.com & LOUD Magazine
Matt is a Journalism graduate and writer, passionate about supporting Bristol music, art and independent business. Get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.