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#MusicMark10: Reflections from Hubs and Services across the UK

12th February 2024

White banner with the words 'Music Mark is 10' with the Music Mark logo inside the 0.

In this instalment of our 10th birthday blog series, we spoke to colleagues from Music Hubs & Services across the UK, to hear how their work has changed over the past decade, as well as what they’re looking forward to in the future. Charlotte Payne (Inspiring Music – Central Bedfordshire, England), James Cunningham (Renfrewshire Music Service, Scotland), Emma Archer (Cardiff Music Service, Wales), and Darren Canmore (Education Authority Music Service, Northern Ireland) share their thoughts.

How has your work changed over the past 10 years? Have there been any particular successes or challenges?

Charlotte: ‘Over the past 10 years we have, (like everyone!) been developing our inclusive practice with key decisions being made with the student at the centre. We have worked with some fantastic practitioners who have really helped us develop our own and our team’s inclusive practice, to bring a broad range of inclusive and equitable opportunities to the children and young people in our community.

We have worked across council directorates to support the raising attainment of disadvantaged young people) and those struggling to engage with education through Section 19 support. The strong relationships we have developed across Children’s Services and beyond has meant that we have been able to work with more children and young people, with a focus on contemporary music through Beatboxing and Music Production, Music Therapy and Early Years, both in-house and through local and national partnership working.’

James: ‘The last 10 years have proven to be significant for instrumental music in Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities.

In that time all tuition fees relating to instrumental music lessons have been removed following manifesto commitments from the Scottish Government. The introduction of this policy has removed some of the barriers to participation for learners. This policy of free tuition is also intended to support the provision of instruments and resources for young people who would be unable to learn otherwise.

Alongside this, we have recently celebrated 20 years of the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) in Scotland. YMI provides opportunities for first access to music making opportunities in Scotland’s schools. This funding by Scottish Government is distributed through a formula fund mechanism administered by Creative Scotland.’

Emma: ‘They say ‘change is good’ but 10 years ago when as a senior manager in Gwent Music in the throws of restructure and introducing charges for lessons and ensembles, I don’t think it felt like that. Like many music educators, I think back fondly to the amazing musical opportunities that I had, all free of charge, and easily accessible and wonder how we have arrived here. However, 10 years ago, I don’t think I could say hand on heart that my eyes were nearly as open about truly inclusive practice, equity, range and diversity.

My work over the last decade, including contributing to the development of the National Plan for Music Education in Wales, has challenged me to think very carefully about what it is that we should want for the children of Wales and their access and involvement in music. Now, being part of one National Music Service, all pulling on the same direction has given us all a new sense of pride and purpose.’

Darren: ‘EA Music continues to evolve, and over the last ten years we have seen real change.

The number of children accessing our service on a weekly basis has grown to over 25,000 in approx. 700 schools across Northern Ireland. We continue to diversify our modes of delivery in order to maximise our impact. We are pleased to offer a wide range of options to cater for all sectors, stages and abilities.

The challenges of music delivery throughout the pandemic were felt by all, but we have adapted to ensure that music remains a constant presence for all our children and young people. As a result, technology has become an integral part of our day-to-day working, and what was first a necessity has now become an essential strand of our service delivery.’


What are you excited about for the future in your work?

Charlotte: ‘We are excited to be continuing our development, to keep a focus on our local need and to work in parentship with our school communities.

There is a real strength in us all working together with our local communities and neighbouring music services to enrich and empower our children and young people through music. We are instrumental in the Local Authority’s Culture Strategy and continuously seeking opportunities to work collaboratively with community practitioners and venues, creating new and exciting opportunities as needs continuously change.

We are keen to support and develop creative and industry pathways and nurture our children and young people to become the musicians that they want to be.’

James: ‘I am excited in watching our services evolve to represent the musical interest of young people.  A greater focus on a partnership working with local and national third sector organisations will hopefully allow services to broaden their offer to young people. We are also about to embark on a significant research programme which will directly evidence the impact of music tuition on the wider attainment and achievement of our young people.’

Emma: ‘The future is not going to be without its challenges, however there is a new enthusiasm for the arts and music in particular, through Curriculum for Wales and the sometimes tired tagline of ‘The Land of Song’ seems once again to be less of a distant memory.’

Darren: ‘We are delighted that student participation has not only returned to pre-pandemic levels but has surpassed it in terms of student numbers.

Our ensembles have continued to thrive, and we are excited to bring together our regional groups to work more closely together in the future.

Our partnership with external organisations, such as the Ulster Orchestra, the Arts Council NI and the Benedetti Foundation, enable us to provide exciting music making opportunities for our students, as well as professional development for our staff. We look forward to developing these partnerships so we can continue to deliver the best musical experience for every child in EA Music.’