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Matt Salvage

SoCo Supports Live Music in the city

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A new busking project has been launched in Southampton, bringing a programme of live music to the city centre in celebration of the city’s musical diversity.

Commissioned by GO! Southampton, the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), and delivered by SoCo Music Project with support from Solent University, the project offers an alternative platform for artists to perform in Southampton, at a time when the city’s live music and performance venues are largely unable to open due to social distancing requirements.

The busking project kicked off on the August Bank Holiday weekend with performances on Above Bar Street from Polly Gone Wrong and Black Kat Boppers. Forming part of GO! Southampton’s city centre recovery plan, it is one of a series of planned activations aiming to animate public spaces to create a more vibrant city centre experience for visitors, workers and residents returning to Southampton post-lockdown.

As well as live music the performances, which are taking place in approved city-centre busking locations, will also incorporate spoken word and street theatre. Acts, most with Southampton connections, have been carefully selected by SoCo Music Project to ensure a diverse and high-quality range of performances are delivered. Artists are receiving a small fee for performing which falls in line with the values and principles that will be displayed throughout Southampton’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025. The project will not only help to support the music and creative industries, it will also aim to  kickstart a busking economy in the city.

Matt Salvage, Chief Executive at SoCo Music Project said: “The music and performance industries have faced incredible challenges throughout the pandemic. As we start to emerge from these challenging and unprecedented times, we are excited to be working with GO! Southampton and Solent University to bring live music and performance back to the city centre.

“As well as animating the city it provides much needed performance opportunities for artists, introducing them to new audiences and bringing the streets to life with music, spoken word and theatre. We’ve a vibrant schedule over the next few months with something for everyone, we hope you are able to visit the city and discover something new.”

As well as supporting Southampton’s present-day live music industry, the project will also shine a spotlight on the city’s rich music heritage, which is often overlooked or understated, with little known facts to be promoted via the Visit Southampton website and social media channels.

Prof Martin James, Professor of Creative and Cultural Industries at Solent University commented: “From folk song to the rhymes of grime, reggae’s roots to the UK’s new jazz scene, Southampton has a richly diverse music heritage that often goes unnoticed and, at times, has become hidden.

“Solent University has a long-standing interest in Southampton’s music past and present and is committed to supporting a healthy and sustainable music scene that can build on this rich but hidden heritage. We are delighted to be working with GO! Southampton and SoCo Music Project in support of this busking initiative and feel sure that it will bring a fresh focus on the power of the city’s amazing music talent.”

With many of the artists participating in the project ordinarily regular performers in Southampton’s live music venues, it is hoped the initiative will also help to encourage audiences back to those venues once they are able to reopen. UK Music states that, nationally, the core live music industry, which directly generates £1.1billion to the economy, stands to lose at least £900million if it remains closed for the rest of 2020, with 90% of grassroots music venues facing the threat of closure.

Giles Semper, Executive Director at GO! Southampton said: “I’m afraid that our city centre retail core has become more associated with illegal money-raising activities than with welcome activities like busking. We wanted to change that. We are also desperately keen to support the city’s incredible musical talent at a time when its usual platforms have been closed.

“We strongly encourage people who enjoy seeing an act’s busking performance in the city centre to go and support them when they’re back on the bill at a Southampton venue in future. We also endorse UK Music’s ‘Let The Music Play’ campaign, which calls for a bespoke range of support measures for the live music industry.”

Busking performances will take place in the city centre on selected weekends until at least the end of December. Other projects within the BID’s city centre recovery plan include a range of initiatives to facilitate more art in public spaces and supporting ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s new socially distanced community dance initiative, ‘The Grid Experience’.


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A potential lifeline for arts and culture in the UK, the British government has unveiled a £1.57bn package of grants and loans for music and arts organisations.

The British government today (5 July) announced a rescue package worth £1.57 billion to help the UK’s arts and culture sector weather the impact of the coronavirus.

The measures – which follow Thursday’s #LetTheMusicPlay campaign that saw the UK music industry come together to call for immediate government assistance for the live music business – will see emergency grants and loans extended to a range of creative and heritage businesses, including live music and entertainment organisations.

The package, described by HM Treasury as the “biggest-ever one-off investment in UK culture”, includes:

  • A £1.15bn “support pot” for cultural organisations in England, delivered through a mix of grants (£880 million) and loans (£270 million)
  • £100m of targeted support for ‘national cultural institutions’ in England, such as galleries and museums, and the English Heritage Trust
  • £120m capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and construction projects in England which were paused due to Covid-19

The devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will also receive extra funding, of £33m, £97m and £59m, respectively.

The repayable finance will be issued on “generous terms tailored for cultural institutions” to ensure they are affordable, according to the Treasury.

The government says decisions on funding awards will be made in consultation with “expert independent figures” in each sector, including bodies such as the British Film Institute, Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Announcing the package, culture secretary Oliver Dowden – to whom the #LetTheMusicPlay letter campaign was addressed – describes culture as the “soul of our nation”. “I said we would not let the arts down,” he says, “and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”

Further details of the scheme will be available when it opens for applications in the coming weeks.

Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, chair of the UK’s Concert Promoters’ Association, comments: “On Thursday the live music industry came together in an unprecedented way to ask the government for support, and so this announcement is both timely and warmly welcomed.

“We asked for three things, and today it looks like the first of those – a financial support package – has been granted. We’re looking forward to clarification that this package safeguards our whole ecosystem – from our artists and crews, to our festivals, venues and many professionals – and working closely with the government to deliver it.”

In addition to announcing the new funds, the government release says Dowden and his colleagues are “finalising guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors”, to be published shortly. “The government is working with the sectors to get it back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so, and is being guided by medical experts,” it reads.

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, says the organisation “warmly welcomes this unprecedented intervention into Britain’s world-class live music scene. We’d like to thank the secretary of state and the team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for the opportunity to work closely together throughout this crisis to develop genuine solutions to the challenges faced by grassroots music venues.

“This fund provides the opportunity to stabilise and protect our vibrant and vital network of venues and gives us the time we need to create a plan to Reopen Every Venue Safely.”

He adds: “We’d like to thank everyone in the industry who gave us so much support during this incredibly difficult time.”


Job Opportunity – CHAOS Network

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SoCo are excited to be recruiting for a completely new post: CHAOS Coordinator.

We’re looking for a cultural catalyst to support the development and growth of the CHAOS Network.

The CHAOS (Creative, Heritage and Arts Organisations of Southampton) Network was setup 10 years ago to provide connection and collaboration opportunities for creative people in the city. It provides regular space and time for people to meet, share what’s happening in the city, discuss the challenges we face in the cultural sector, and celebrate the amazing work happening in the city.

As we find our way to navigate through these complex times, meaningful connections are as important as ever, and it’s vital that creative voices from across the city’s communities are heard.

This role will play an important part in connecting the threads of creativity in Southampton, reaching out to diverse communities, nurturing connections, and enabling the creative sector as a significant city stakeholder.

You’ll be a great communicator, able to engage with artists, educators, councillors and city officials. You’ll have a passion for the arts and be able to see the big picture. You’ll be efficient, proactive and keen to get on with the tasks of supporting creatives in the city. The role will be split between organising monthly network meetings, administering a newsletter/website and visiting stakeholders across the city. You’ll be working closely with SoCo’s Director Matt Salvage, and although this is a 6-month post, it is hoped that it will be extend beyond this initial period.

The role is approx 2 days per week (12hrs). Download the Job Description here.

To apply – please send a CV and cover letter, telling us how you are right for this role, and send to by 5pm on the 19th June.

Urban Music – Supported by PRS

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We are delighted to announce that SoCo has been successful in an application to the PRS Foundation Open fund to support the development of Urban Music in Southampton.

This funding will allow us to Expand on the work of our Urban Music Development Unit (UMDU), providing artist support, studio time, media development and distribution to support a number of urban artists in the city to reach significantly wider audiences, dramatically raising the profile of urban music in Southampton.

Many young urban artists in Southampton struggle to find meaningful progression routes to develop their musical careers. It’s a challenge for all genres, with many artists in rock, pop and jazz moving out of the city into larger metropolitan centres such as Bristol, Brighton or London. This is often not even an option for urban artists, and so they stop pursuing a career in music all together.

Our aim is to support up to 12 artists in the city, helping them to produce outstanding and innovative new music, pushing boundaries and showcasing the incredible talent in the city. By helping them to raise their game and get the support they need to write, produce, record and publish their work, it will provide the fertile environment for more emerging artists to join a growing urban music movement.

This funding will provide the resource to engage with leading producers and engineers, supporting local studios to also be part of this exciting new movement. We will be effective and innovative with media beyond the music recordings, using video and social media to reach new audiences. We want to work with fresh and creative film makers to capture the vibrance of the urban music scene, producing a high quality end product.

Combined with a project grant from Arts Council England, and support from Hampshire Police and the Southampton/Hampshire Violence Reductions Units, this project will help facilitate substantial artist support, that will include mentoring and coaching, on all aspects of their music careers, including performance, industry, press and promotion.

For more information get in touch with the UMDU team.


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Coronavirus COVID-19

Update – School Closures

18th March 5pm –  the Government has announced that schools in England will close from Friday 20th until further notice. The children of key workers, and children who are vulnerable, will be able to stay in school settings.

SoCo will be in conversation with Local Authorities exploring how we may be able to support young people both in and out of school settings during this unprecedented time. We will also be exploring the development and sharing of online resources and tutorials that will help those at home still engage in positive music activities. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates.

Unprecedented times for all of us…

Here at SoCo HQ we’ll be paying close attention to the advice and guidance around the Coronavirus, working with our partners to keep activities running where appropriate. If music making sessions are cancelled we will endeavour to inform everyone on our social media channels.

Where sessions are running we ask that you be considerate to other participants and practitioners. If you are suffering from symptoms that are in line with Coronavirus COVID-19 (new and constant cough, high fever) then we strongly recommend that you follow government guidance and self isolate, and we reserve the right to ask you to leave the session to protect the health and well-being of other participants and music leaders.

For up to date advice and guidance on how to best respond to the Coronavirus COVID-19 and for more general advice the following links provide a useful resource:

UK Government Latest Information and Advice

Public Health England – What you need to know

Arts Council England – Advice for the Arts Sector

Musicians Union – Advice for Working Musicians

NCVO – Advice for the Voluntary Sector

If you have a specific enquiries please do contact us.

We all hope you stay safe, please look out for those that need support, and don’t forget to wash your hands.

Apply Now! – Urban Music Development Unit

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SoCo Music Project are excited to announce the development of a new Urban Music Development Unit in Southampton.

Extending our work in youth justice, pupil referral units, youth clubs and schools – the Urban Music Development Unit will provide a supportive environment for young people to develop their passion for urban music genres, collaborate with young people across the city, and learn about progression routes in the music industry.

To get started we are recruiting two new members of the SoCo team; a Programme Manager and a Music Practitioner.

We are looking for passionate and dedicated individuals with skills and experience in urban music and supporting young people. The roles will be part time for three months initially, and we are committed to ensuring that we grow and develop the offer for young people in the city and beyond.

Location to be confirmed, but will include some travel to youth settings/schools and may include evening and weekend work.

Click the job titles above to download the job descriptions, and if you are ready to apply send a CV and covering letter (no more than 2 sides of A4) to Alternatively send a video introducing your self and explaining why you want to join us. Feel free to get in touch if you would like more information. We look forward to hearing from you!

Exchanging notes report released

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Between 2014 and 2018 SoCo Music Project was a delivery partner on Youth Music’s Exchanging Notes programme. The programme was developed to see what would happen if young people at risk of disengagement, low attainment or exclusion from school had access to a creative and inspiring music curriculum that was sustained over four years. Youth Music invested in 10 new partnerships and appointed a team from Birmingham City University to research the impact using a mixed-method approach. All funded through the National Lottery via Arts Council England.

Exchanging Notes worked with 974 young musicians, 72 of whom were tracked across four years. The findings from the research demonstrate that music in schools has the potential to re-engage young people in education, develop their confidence, resilience and self-belief, and create a more positive attitude to learning.

Go to the Youth Music website to read the full report.

Advisory Board Opportunity

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SoCo Music Project are at an exciting stage of their organisational development, and are seeking members to join an advisory board to support our transition to Charity.

To read more about our vision and aims read our manifesto.

Whilst we welcome expressions of interest from all candidates, we are particularly keen to hear from those with knowledge and/or experience in any of the following areas:

  • Charity Development/Governance
  • Accountancy
  • Business Development/Planning
  • Marketing/Communications
  • Fundraising
  • Stakeholder Managment

We would anticipate monthly meetings as we transition to become a charity, we would then recruit our Board of Trustees to which we would welcome you to apply should you wish. Our aspiration is to submit our Charity application early next year, with a view to becoming a Charity in April 2019.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can support SoCo Music Project, please contact Marie Negus ( or 07988 683 544) for an informal chat. Following which we would invite you to forward a covering letter (no more than 2 A4 sides), detailing why you are interested in becoming part of our advisory board and how your skills/experience will support organisational growth and resilience by Friday 30th November.

About SoCo Music Project

SoCo Music Project is a non profit music organisation based in Southampton and operating across Hampshire. Started in 2008 by two directors, Matt Salvage and Jon Haughton, SoCo is now an organisation with a regional reach and a reputation for high quality engagement activities. We are at an important stage of our development as we transition to become a charity.

As of Spring 2016 SoCo has been steered by a management team of four in addition to six freelance Music Leaders and three volunteers working across project management, strategic development and workshop delivery.

With a turnover in excess of £200k per year, SoCo continues to develop engaging music programmes and vibrant creative spaces, supporting social action and creative development through music.

SoCo is predominantly project funded through grants and commissions, we have received funding from Youth Music, Arts Council England, Big Lottery, European Social Fund and Local Authorities. Moving forward SoCo is planning on transitioning to a charity and developing more sustainable income through individual/corporate giving.

SoCo Music Project seeks to engage young people (especially those in challenging circumstances) and vulnerable adults in musical activity in order to develop their creative potential, promote cross-cultural understanding and supporting wider social and personal outcomes.

SoCo Music Project is a music delivery organisation that is dedicated to using music to transform lives. We work with agencies and organisations to reach out to some of the most vulnerable children and adults using highly skilled music leaders who deliver a diverse range of innovative and tailored creative music-making activities. We inspire and empower individuals at the heart of the community, to have a voice and develop and grow. We also encourage and train others who share our passion to bring about positive life-changing moments through music.

Our Aims

  • Deepening engagement and widening participation
  • Developing people and increasing skills
  • Demonstrating impact of the benefits of music-making with young people in challenging circumstances and vulnerable adults
  • Developing creative spaces that inspire and support
  • Developing partnerships & relationships that support an increase in participation
  • Encouraging confidence through effective communication
  • Building resilience to enhance and maintain cultural opportunities locally and regionally

Our Values

  • Inspiring and Empowering people who face challenges in their lives and ensuring that their needs and voices inform and define our delivery programmes
  • Developing and Supporting individuals, using the life-changing power of music to improve skills, enrich lives and connect people and organisations
  • Creativity and Diversity is embedded through our organisational values and supports our aspirations to adopt a musically inclusive way of working
  • Developing Partnerships and being an organisation that keeps itself connected with our local arts and cultural sector and communities so that we can respond and reach where we’re needed with the biggest chance of transforming lives and sharing our approach

These core values capture the essence of who we are and are interwoven through everything that we do as we develop as an organisation and transition to become a charity.