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Research Shorts: Merseyside Creative Futures, a new resource and project

9th January 2024

A green logo with the background skyline of liverpool, and Merseyside Creative Futures written onto it

Welcome back to 2024’s Research Shorts series, and to kick things off, I’m talking with Dr Kate Blackstone about her work in Merseyside. In this Short, the academic work is supporting and conducting interviews and drawing out threads from across them, to create an impactful document that can itself be used. It’s great to see this kind of co-produced work in collaboration with young people, it’s a fantastic model for future research too.

The project Merseyside Creative Futures was set up to explore career paths of Liverpool City region Music alumni, aimed at 11 to 18-year olds considering a career in music or the performing arts. The project aimed to increase young peoples’ awareness of their potential in the creative arts, and provide an overall report (which has been published, and you can read here). There is an accompanying website with schemes of work and resources for teachers too.

I asked Kate how they found young people to take part, she explained that the connections came through the alumni of the six music hubs, Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens, Wirral and Halton. Interviews were then ‘transcribed and then abridged into something ‘journalistic’ that reads like a music magazine for secondary school students’, Kate explained she ‘conducted thematic analysis on the transcripts to produce the summary which begins the booklet’.

I asked about the key findings of the work, and Kate explained: ‘Interviewees all had lives rich with music and performance, but not all were solely performing for a living. One of the most confronting findings for us as educators was that qualifications were less important than skills: some of the professionals who we featured even left degrees early to pursue work!’ It’s interesting to note that many music degrees use skills based learning and development alongside critical thinking and enquiry to solve real world problems – hoping to equip students with the skills, confidence and personal development to be able to engage with music in all different kinds of ways.

This project also found that ‘Some professionals referred to unhelpful advice having come from their school, which is disappointing, but unsurprising given the general lack of understanding that exists about opportunities in the creative industries. Usually this bad advice consisted of being told to ‘get a proper job.’ It shows the need for this kind of work to exist, to counter these messages. In the report itself, Kate notes ‘It is  important to note that these accounts are retrospective, meaning that the situation may have improved since then, however initiatives such as Merseyside Creative Futures will continue to provide realistic support and advice about music industry careers.’

Kate explained who the work was for: ‘The main audience are school students. Everything from the design of the booklet to the wording and inclusion of a glossary was created with them in mind. Reflective questions at the beginning of the publication are designed for teachers hoping to build lesson plans around the material. It’s also informative reading for concerned parents unsure of creative career paths!’

Kate told us a bit more about her own practice as a musician, she’s currently doing learning and evaluation for Nucleo North Kensington, research and lecturing in music psychology at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and career development at Young Classical Artists Trust, ‘I sometimes even find time to play clarinet, which is what I trained in before studying Music Psychology at Masters and PhD level!’.

Interview by Dr Sarah K Whitfield – Research Lead for Music Mark

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