Music For The Mind Case Study: Louis

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During Covid-19 SoCo delivered Music For The Mind, an online weekly songwriting programme for service users of Southfield, a specialist mental health inpatient service, as part of our Southampton City Council funded Community Learning programme. Participants explored various lyric writing techniques and activities and, following the easing of restrictions, recorded their original compositions at Hightown Studios.


Tell me about your musical background and interests

When I was about 14 or 15 I found Drum’n’Bass and fell in love with it. I just love the heavy bass lines. I just remember going to a Drum’n’Bass rave and there was a guy on the mic and I thought, you know what, I’d love to do that, and that was sort of the turning point for me.

I started writing lyrics when I was 15. The older I got the more focused my lyrics became and they started being about me and my life or the lives of others. I started off writing for Drum’n’Bass and wanted to be a Drum’n’Bass MC and did an open mic at a club in Basingstoke. The guy who runs it asked me if I wanted to headline the next show. So I was quite happy about that but unfortunately alcohol got in the way – I was quite drunk and had to leave. I think I really found hip hop at around the same time too.


What activities did you take part in and how did they impact you musically and personally?

First off, I found Jim really accommodating – he seemed like a really nice guy. We had zoom meetings every week going over different techniques of writing and some other activities. It changed the way I looked at things and I think I have improved – more like the use of language. You can be more abstract with your lyrics is what I got from that. It was good to give me another way of looking at things. It’s given me the opportunity to go in a different direction and I’ve written quite a bit lately. It’s always interesting to hear other people’s opinions on things, especially when they know what they’re doing.

It was good to get in the studio and to see how it worked – the production side of it. It was really nice getting in the booth and getting a proper mic – the whole process really. It definitely supported my confidence. Performing on the mic in front of people, even though I’ve done it years ago, it’s quite different. When you’ve been in hospital for 3 years it knocks it out of you but getting in the studio, yeah, it’s amazing! Very empowering. I got in the booth and they’d give me a bit of feedback and then I’d get back in the booth. Getting in the studio and just hearing positive feedback from people that’s what really did it for me.

I just love music, listening to it, making it. Getting stuff off my chest is good you know. It feels like a release of negativity. I can put it out in a song rather than sit and deal with it. Music definitely helps when it’s been a struggle.

“From the very beginning Louis was engaged, enthusiastic and keen to show me the lyrics he’d previously written and what they meant to him. I’d noticed that there was a real lack of confidence not only with his creative work but with social interactions with me and we spoke a lot about how lyric writing could help to improve his wellbeing. As the sessions went on his confidence notably progressed and he started instigating more and leading topics and areas of discussion. When he took part in the recording session at the studio he was really buzzing and focused on learning specific recording techniques and the whole process. It lifted his confidence and gave him the ability to look at his own talent and his own music and to understand what he needed to do at that time to make it the best it could be.” – Jim Chorley, Community Music Practitioner, SoCo Music Project

What do you want to do next?

I write lyrics pretty much every day and I’ll be going down to a friend’s studio in Portsmouth after the lockdown to record. I wanna do open mic nights and eventually do some gigs. That’s the foundation because I wanna be traveling the world sharing my music with people.


“Louis was really keen to get involved with SoCo due to his passion and talent for music. The programme facilitated this passion brilliantly, providing him with the confidence that his work was of an excellent standard as well as guiding him to consider different techniques for songwriting. Jim was really adaptable to the direction that Louis wanted to take. Having the opportunity to record his own work in the studio was a real high. Taking away a high-quality recording I think really improved his self-esteem and showcased his talent to the rest of the unit.” – Lydia Lansdowne, Occupational Therapist, Southfield


Hear Louis’ track, recorded at Hightown Studios, below:

International Guitar Month

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April is International Guitar Month; there is no better time to improve your guitar-playing skills, pick up a guitar for the first time or even introduce yourself to the history and cultural significance of this prestigious instrument.

If you want to give yourself a good introduction to the guitar without necessarily having to purchase or borrow one, then here are 10 ways you can celebrate International Guitar Month right from you phone or computer.

However, if you are interested in learning the guitar and have one handy, then you can follow this link to the SoCo Academy website, where you can find a full range of guitar tutorials, introducing you to chords, scales, songwriting and more. All you need to do is sign up to gain access to the full library of lessons.

Job Opportunity – Community Music Practitioner: Adult Learning

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SoCo Music Project – Community Music Practitioner/s


TITLE: Community Music Practitioner

CONTRACT: Freelance

HOURS: 0-6 hours per week (may include some unsocial hours)

SALARY: £15 – £30 per hour

LOCATION OF WORK: Southampton and surrounding areas


SoCo Music Project are looking for a Community Music Practitioner/s to join our team to lead on the delivery of our Southampton City Council funded Adult Learning Programme for 2020/21. There are 4 roles available and applicants may be interested in one or a combination of these contracts. When applying, please indicate which of these you are applying for.


  • Adults with mental health issues. 3-month programme @ £700
  • Adults with learning disabilities. 3-month programme @ £700
  • Adults in recovery from alcohol and/or substance misuse issues. 6-month programme @ £1500
  • The elderly and those with dementia. 6-month programme @ £1800


The Community Music Practitioner/s will work closely with the Project Manager to deliver accessible music-making opportunities that develops skills and supports improvements in the health and wellbeing of the above participant groups.


The key purpose of this role is to utilise accessible instrumentation, techniques and technology to increase access and opportunities for participants facing disabling barriers. Weekly sessions will be delivered face-to-face where possible (or remotely through online platforms) and will enable participants to explore music through performance, technology and composition.


We are looking for a Community Music Practitioner/s with practical experience of leading or assisting workshops with one or more of the aforementioned participant groups or in community settings, both in group and ‘one-on-one’ settings. The successful candidates must have experience of planning and evidencing the impact of music engagement with vulnerable groups.


Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check is essential for this post.


The Role

  • To work with the Project Manager to develop the Adult Learning programme
  • To provide engaging and relevant music-making opportunities for adult groups in a variety of settings (supported accommodation/community spaces).
  • To plan, develop and provide activities that will support participants to progress in their musical/creative interests.
  • To provide evidence and evaluation that demonstrates the impact of the project, and to ensure the project is providing the best support for participants.


Personal Spec:


Access to own transport to attend sessions and meetings based in and around Southampton.



  • Excellent musical skills (performance and/or music production)
  • Experience in project working, planning and service development.
  • Experience of working with vulnerable adults, community groups or in community settings.
  • Able to work creatively and responsively.
  • Confident report writing and presentation skills
  • Ability to structure music sessions that respond to interests of participant group and that support progression
  • Strong people management skills
  • A positive and enthusiastic approach to work
  • Be able to communicate clearly and listen and understand people’s needs
  • Ability to work weekdays and to start in September/October 2020



  • Experience in Community Music
  • Degree level qualification
  • Music Qualification
  • Youth Work Qualification
  • Experience of using online tools to deliver remote sessions



To apply please send a CV, references (these will only be contacted if your application is successful)  and evidence of your community music practice (Evidence might include a statement about your practice and your influences, a link to a video a project you have worked on, a sound or performance outcome of a project you have worked on, an evaluation report about a project you have worked on) to by 5pm on Tuesday 1st September 2020.


SoCo Music Project is an equal opportunities employer.

Approach to Vocalisations at Rosewood Free School

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Future Sounds – Rosewood Free School

Reflective Blog by Ignacio Agrimbau, SoCo Music Project


Reception class teacher at Rosewood became particularly interested in developing a series of 1:1 case studies, but also to find ways to combine their sensory integration and physio work with group interactive music-making. Following feedback of vocal improvisation sessions concerning engagement and interaction, Esther was commissioned with the expansion of the school curriculum to include a full section on vocalisations, to which we have contributed to.

Esther has since been put in charge of expanding the Rosewood curriculum to emphasise aspects of vocalisations. Ignacio has supported this with a piece of writing in which he outlines his approach to vocalisation in interactive music facilitation.

Reflections on Vocalisations

My approach to vocalisations does not follow a clear scheme or system. It is a combination of my training in performance and improvisation, some text composition, my training in intensive interaction, and some readings on SEN-D pedagogy and music therapy. It is tricky to remember the stuff that I assimilated over the years. But above all it wasbuilt on practice, following some quite influential experiences or readings.

I first started experimenting with the kind of vocalisations that you heard me doing in sessions in a very different context. It was when I was mostly working as a composer, and I was part of a group of musicians giving concerts on what is usually known as ‘sound poetry’. In other words, poetry that barely has any semantic sense, but it relies on the sensations and references of the abstract sound of the language, and the intentionality with which it is performed. That was explored by Italian and Russian futurist sound poets and composers, as well as throughout the Dadaist movement in central Europe. There were many re-incarnations of that, but I do not know them very well. I remember I was very impressed by an article that somehow summarised the aesthetic and technical principles of sound poetry performance. It was written by Jon Erickson in 1985:

I found the principle of ‘language of presence’ more helpful than most of the readings I did on intensive interaction or music therapy. It is mostly because it focuses on the expressive impulses behind vocalisations, rather than the technicalities of how interaction unfolds or how the voice is produced.

My favourite intensive interaction author is Phoebe Caldwell; she’s been a huge influence. The literature coming from music therapy, community music or specialist music education usually focuses too much on ‘singing’, and sees vocalisations from that angle – which can be a bit limiting, as it risks projecting a model to understand the different uses of the voice based on neurotypical cognitive mappings.

Although we know that different parts of the brain become involved when we sing, we don’t really know how that plays out with individuals with PMLD. Still, there is some very interesting stuff about how music motivates vocalisation. In my experience, I found that sometimes sustained instrumental sounds can motivate vocalisations from PMLD participants more than the voice. I never figured out the reason for this, but it might have to do with the fact that sustained
instrumental sounds are associated with intonational rather than speech like utterances in a very instrinct level. I am sure there are writings out there about this. Here are some I know:

At school you have a copy of ‘Approaches to Communication Through Music’ by M Corke. I respect it is a pioneering but, as it discusses intensive interaction in a music-making context, but I did not find it helpful. There is barely any discussion of what actually happens during the moments of interaction, and discussion is concentrated on the type of activities that frame those moments.

Some people approach vocal interaction entirely from an angle of vocal production experimentation. Again, that approach can be useful, particularly to expand the repertoire of vocal sounds, but provided that is sensitive to the impulses that motivate vocalisations. The great aspect of this approach is that you can connect with children at the level of sensory experimentation; this can be revealing particularly when regardless of the harshness or softness of theutterance, the drive behind the vocalisation is sensory exploration. Yvon Bonenfant, who for a while did some research at Rosewood, specialised on that.

Finally…there are other professionals that interpret intonational, or blurry speech-like vocalisations as prototypes of melodic constructions based on core tune types. They are (hopefully!) aware that children do not always intend them this way but interpret them like that in order to include them in compositional processes. You can pick up on the core gesturality of a vocal gesture and make a tune or beat out of it, and in such a way you include that participant in themaking of a composition.

I have used this method a few times, but in most cases I kept it quite literal, so that it was very clear to the participant that the new bit of the piece was based on her input. Other practitioners take it much further (the most extreme example I know was a blurred downward vocalisation from a girl with SLD which turned into a definite, harmonised and orchestrated melody performed
by the full BBC symphony orchestra and a huge choir). That might sound amazing, but there is the issue of mediation and focus. Who has done ‘we hear’, how close does the end result feel to the child, and who are we playing this to?

Tales of the Young Person’s Orchestra

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We are excited to announce an innovative partnership with the Southampton-based SÓN Orchestra in association with Turner Sims.

Tales of the Young Person’s Orchestra is a collaboration with SoCo Music Project and SÓN. This exciting project will see delivery of an inspirational and inclusive musical experience for young people with Special Educational Needs in Southampton and Portsmouth. The project, which will run from January 2019 – April 2019 will encourage participants to compose original music whilst exploring different sounds and expressible possibilities of orchestral music.

Experienced music leader/composer Ignacio Agrimbau (MA, PhD) and professional classical musicians from SÓN will collaboratively design an inclusive music-making programme that is responsive to the possibilities, talent and preferences of the students participating. These supported creative music-making programmes will take place over the course of 24 music workshops in three Special Education Needs settings, namely Springwell School, Mary Rose Academy and Avenues College – Post 19 college of Rosewood Free School.

Marie Negus, Development Manager for SoCo Music Project states that:

“We are delighted to have been awarded funding by the Radcliffe Trust for this programme.  This provides a unique experience for young people, who wouldn’t usually experience the sounds and expressive possibilities of different instrumental families of the classical orchestra. I’m excited to see and hear how they formulate their own musical ideas from this experience, culminating in performances in the settings.”

Throughout this partnership, SoCo Music Project and SÓN will work together using their extensive experience in developing engaging music programmes for young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEN/D) and ambition to nurture the next generation of musicians through education and outreach.

Robin Browning, SÓN Artistic Director:

“Since SÓN was founded 3 years ago, we’ve been on a mission to change lives through music across the south. We’re passionately committed to the power music has to impact young people’s lives, because all our musicians know, first hand, how much it has brought to their own world, and love sharing this with others. The chance to collaborate with SoCo – one of the pioneers in music outreach all over the region – is a wonderful opportunity, and I’m looking forward to building projects of real, lasting value together.”

For more information contact Marie Negus – 



The ICE Project – CAMHS Holiday Workshops

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SoCo Music Project were recently asked to deliver a holiday music engagement programme for young people as part of The ICE Project, a partnership between Hampshire Cultural Trust & Hampshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust), promoting the use of arts for positive mental health.

The overall aims of the The ICE Project are:

  • To use arts & culture to promote positive mental health; raise self-confidence and self-esteem and inspire other young people
  • To create an outlet for young people to creatively share their experiences and opinions
  • To use art in its various forms to create a conversation that improves understanding, compassion, people’s views and knowledge of the subject
  • To give vulnerable and at-risk children and young people the chance to experience and participate in extraordinary arts and culture

We sensitively crafted and delivered a series of music sessions that were designed to not only educate and inspire, but to enable interpersonal relationships between our participants to form and flourish. As always, our approach holds our participants at the heart of its design, and we delivered activities that took into consideration our participants needs, their musical interests and challenges that they may be facing in relation to their mental health. We ensured that these activities would gently challenge and empower them whilst developing them both musically and personally, providing a creative outlet for expression.

Sessions explored creating music compositions using music technology apps on iPads, drumming exercises, Songwriting, poetry and lyric writing and singing exercises. To create a safe and supportive environment whereby participants felt confident and happy to explore and discover their own musicality and to take creative risks, we introduced various music games, which we used as icebreakers to help relax the group and to teach participants useful music terminology.

Our participants’ confidence increased as their familiarisation with the others in the group, and the music leaders grew. This enabled them to engage whole-heartedly. A culture of respect and honesty was present throughout the sessions, which encouraged strong peer support amongst our participants, and friendships to blossom. They crafted some wonderful music compositions, which can be heard in these recordings:

Reflection time in the sessions fostered exploration of positive expressions from the young people about their experiences, with them seeing untapped musical creativity emerge and them having a heightened awareness and understanding of how music had been and could continue to be a tool for self-expression.

Some quotes from our participants:

“I feel very proud of what I created and I didn’t know I could achieve this”

“I felt able to open up and stay true to myself. I felt valued, I didn’t have to change myself to fit in”

“I felt I belonged in this workshop and participated. I worked well with everyone”

For more information about SoCo Music Project visit and for more information about The ICE Project visit

The ICE Project is co-funded by Artswork, Hampshire CCG and the Coles-Medlock Foundation.

SoCo’s work in Southampton Schools contributes to Youth Music’s landmark national study

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We are delighted to share a powerful and insightful interim evaluation report that highlights how sustained involvement in music-making can have a positive impact on young people’s attainment, engagement and wellbeing during their school life. We are especially proud that our work at Rosewood Free School features as a Case Study in this report.

Exchanging Notes is a four-year action research project, funded by Youth Music (national charity investing in music-making projects for children and young people experiencing challenging circumstances) with Birmingham City University appointed to carry out evaluation of the programme. Exchanging Notes explores pioneering new partnerships between schools and music providers, of which SoCo Music Project are leading one of seven projects in the country.

At SoCo Music Project we are working in partnership with two school settings in Southampton. Our experienced team of music leaders are working closely with subject specialists, class teachers and support staff to develop nurturing and creative environments, new resources and teaching models to support young people’s musical development and wider outcomes. At Rosewood Free School, where students have profound and multiple learning difficulties, many sessions are one-to-one, tailored around individual needs. At the Inclusion Unit at Woodlands Community College, young people at risk of exclusion have worked towards individual learning plans with activities including music technology, instrument tuition, composition and songwriting.
Our journey so far has been a challenging one at times, amidst funding cuts and pressure of schools’ performance measures that, in some cases are squeezing the arts out of education, but it has been heartening to witness and evidence some phenomenal and life-changing outcomes relating to young people’s musical, educational and social development.

For more information about our work through Exchanging Notes please visit here

The Exchanging Notes programme comes to an end this summer, but this project is just the tip of the iceberg of SoCo Music Project’s engagement programmes for young people in challenging circumstances and vulnerable adult groups in Southampton and the wider Hampshire area. We deliver programmes that transform lives for the better; using music as a powerful tool to develop skills, nurture creativity and improve the wellbeing of our participants. We strive towards increased inclusion and connectivity and as we develop our work to further increase access and participation we are keen to explore new partnerships and work programmes.

For more information about our programmes, and specifically Exchanging Notes, please contact Marie Negus

Exchanging Notes Case Study: SoCo Music Project and Rosewood Free School

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Exchanging Notes


We are embarking on the final and fourth year of our Exchanging Notes Project, which has seen some phenomenal outcomes (musical, personal and social) for young people with PMLD at Rosewood Free School and young people in the Inclusion Unit/LINK Group at Woodlands Community School, both of which are in Southampton. In addition to this, the positive outcomes have had a ripple effect within the settings in which we are working and it’s with this in mind, that we are delighted to share this case study of Ashley, from Georgie, his Class Teacher:


Rethinking music-making

Rosewood is one of only a few schools in the country which caters specifically for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Many of Rosewood’s students have complex additional needs – including physical, visual or hearing impairments – and may only communicate non-verbally, using sounds, signs and gestures rather than words.

As a result, these young people face a lot of barriers to ‘traditional’ forms of music-making.

Georgie is one of the teachers at Rosewood who’s been involved with the project. She says Exchanging Notes has transformed her practice and changed her whole outlook on music.

That’s been a real turning point for me,” says Georgie, “[rethinking] the preconceived idea of what music needs to sound like – and it’s been wonderful.”

Putting students’ needs first

The project has used a mix of one-to-one music-making sessions (led by SoCo’s specialist music leader Ignacio and supported by Rosewood’s teaching staff) and group sessions with the whole class (led by Rosewood’s teachers using the new skills and knowledge they’ve learned).

The one-to-one sessions have given students the chance to explore different sounds and instruments. Over time, Ignacio and the teachers have learned more about how each young person responds to sound, how they make their own sounds and how they prefer to interact with others – things which can vary greatly from one student to the next in a PMLD setting like Rosewood.

Ignacio has been able to draw on the teachers’ knowledge of the individual young people, and their expertise in recognising body language and behavioural patterns in students who are non-verbal. This has helped to build up a picture of each young person’s needs so that the music-making sessions can be tailored accordingly.

Music-making in practice

In the one-to-one sessions each student is encouraged to explore and improvise, using their device of choice to make music in whatever way works for them, which may be quite different from the traditional way of playing.

This might involve experimenting with acoustic instruments – tambourine, guitar, wind chimes and washboard among others. SoCo have also brought a wide range of music technology in to the sessions, including sensors that trigger sounds based on the young person’s movements, and iPad apps that can sample and sequence different sounds.

The young people may choose to join in with the music-making by responding to sounds that Ignacio makes – making a vocal sound of their own, or a movement like hand-tapping or finger-clicking. They can also use their movements to ‘conduct’ Ignacio’s playing, for example nodding their head up and down to signal a higher or lower note.

Rosewood’s students have had the chance to demonstrate their music-making skills beyond the one-to-one sessions – both during group sessions in class, and at special events including a memorable end-of-year performance at Winchester Cathedral.

There, a group of young people from Rosewood rehearsed and performed a piece in collaboration with the Southern Sinfonia chamber orchestra, plus performers from local choirs and other schools.

Zoe, headteacher at Rosewood, recalls: “There were so many special and very moving moments throughout the performance. For me the moment when two conductors, batons poised, watched and waited for our students to finish will be a lifelong image of respect.”

In the project’s final year the school will partner with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and work towards further recordings and performances.

Transferring music-making to the classroom

As well as working with an exciting range of partner organisations, Rosewood’s staff have also enjoyed several training sessions with external music-leading specialists.

“Our headteacher’s always tried to bring music in,” says Georgie, “but with Exchanging Notes, it’s grown and grown. It’s given us ideas, because it’s all well and good us teachers saying ‘we’d like this to work’, but you need professionals to come in and say ‘this is what can happen’. We couldn’t have done that on our own.”

Zoe agrees: “I’ve seen the whole staff team grow and develop, using music outside of the Exchanging Notes sessions with our students.”

Throughout the project, Rosewood’s teachers have been able to observe and adopt techniques from Ignacio’s music-leading style. They’ve also learned new practical skills, such as how to use various music tech resources to help students make and record their own music.

And the project has helped teachers become more confident in their ability to interact musically with students, and more willing to ‘have a go’ even if they don’t consider themselves very musical.

“I’m not the greatest singer!” says Georgie. “We can all be a bit inhibited, but if I can model to my staff by just making a sound or using my voice in different ways, it actually makes everyone else feel more comfortable.”

Beyond music teaching

The new ideas and expertise the staff have gained through the project have in fact made a difference across the whole of Rosewood’s curriculum, which is specially geared towards young people with PMLD.

“There’s a buzz around using music, and the profile of using music to extend learning has developed across the whole school,” says Zoe.

Outside of the dedicated music-making sessions, the staff at Rosewood use music in various other ways at different points in the day – for example to signal the start or end of a lesson, to energise students or to help them calm down.

Overlapping skills

The Rosewood staff have also discovered that Ignacio’s music-leading approach has some similarities with the specialist skills they’re used to using while teaching young people with PMLD.

For example, the school team are all trained in the use of ‘intensive interaction’ techniques, where they change their style of interaction to match the learner’s needs, and give the young person the opportunity to lead activities as much as possible. This closely matches the way Ignacio reads and adapts to each young person’s emotional state, and uses techniques like ‘mirroring’ the sounds a child makes.

Making this connection has helped the teachers feel more confident leading music sessions, and has helped both parties – SoCo and Rosewood staff – to learn from each other.

Ignacio has been able to meet regularly with the teachers and learning assistants during the school day to share reflections and experiences of what’s worked well in the music-making sessions. As a result, SoCo have been able to develop and share a whole new range of music-leading techniques and resources.

Sharing among staff

Each member of Rosewood’s teaching staff will be involved with Exchanging Notes sessions at different times throughout the week, term or year, so it’s important to them to keep each other posted on young people’s progress as a group.

“We discuss as a collective: ‘we tried this musical instrument’ and ‘what did you do?’ and ‘how did you facilitate that?’” says Georgie. “We’re sharing what we’re finding is working.”

Knowing what’s working can be a particular challenge, because some of the students at Rosewood are ‘pre-intentional’, meaning they may not have control over how they communicate in response to stimuli such as music.

“We’re interpreting everything,” says Georgie. “We just want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing. If you get some confirmation from that young person, however small, then you can really celebrate it. Young people’s responses to music have boosted morale among staff.”

The high level of staff engagement helps ensure that the project has a long-term impact. The more music-leading knowledge and expertise the staff develop, the less reliant they become on external specialists, and the more they can pass on to the students who come into their classes in future years.

“We’ve had such a wonderful opportunity with Exchanging Notes,” says Georgie, seeing the progress in the students, having other musicians and professionals come in. It’s shown us what else is out there. We’ve seen the impact, we’ve got the evidence and we can show everyone the progress.”

Ashley’s story

Ashley, 17, is one of the students who’s taken part in one-to-one music-making sessions as part of the Exchanging Notes project at Rosewood. Georgie tells the story of how she’s seen him develop his ability to express himself.

“Ashley came into my class last year,” she recalls. “He’s pre-verbal, he’s on the autism spectrum, and he also has no functioning vision, so there are a lot of challenges in his life.”

Georgie was able to watch video footage of Ashley in an earlier music-making session to see where he’d started out from. This year she’s sat in with Ignacio on some of the one-to-one sessions with Ashley.

“The progress he’s made is phenomenal, especially with communication. He’s been able to express himself emotionally in such a way, it’s been really empowering for him.

“The music has really moved him forward to thinking ‘there’s a world out there, and it’s not just that insular world that I’m in, it’s out there and it’s a safe world’.

“As soon as he hears Ignacio, he knows what’s coming next. He really values Ignacio.”

Ashley has a form of echolalia, meaning he tends to repeat noises and words he hears. But Georgie has seen him begin to develop beyond this and articulate himself more expressively, both within and beyond the music-making sessions.

“He’s now able to bring two instruments together. He’s really exploring, trying to figure out how to make sounds. His vocalising has changed as well; his range of tone has increased.

“I strongly believe it’s because he built up that confidence to explore with a really safe session. He’s been able to experiment in his own way. It’s been very gradual, through that repetition. It’s about making him feel comfortable and confident.

“It’s empowering him to say ‘this is who I am, I can make this music my way, I can show you my emotions’. It’s absolutely lovely.”

Music For VI

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SoCo Music Project is delighted to announce a series of fun and exciting after school music-making sessions for young people with visual impairments. This project, funded by People’s Postcode Lottery, will enable students at Toynbee School to engage in unique workshops that encompass a variety of compositional and recording techniques. It follows a successful programme of creative engagement with Toynbee students last academic year, and will enable them to continue developing their musical journey whilst working towards accreditation through the Arts Award.

This project is part of SoCo’s substantial youth provision, working in Special Educational Needs & Disability settings across Southampton and Hampshire to provide innovative, creative intervention for a range of participants.

With sessions currently under way, Jim Chorley, Creative Practitioner at SoCo Music Project, is delighted to have the opportunity to continue working in partnership with Toynbee School and Global Music Visions C.I.C. to support the development of participants’ creative and social outcomes;

It has been a joy to work with the young people in the VI unit at Toynbee. Their musical creativity and enthusiasm is both inspiring and infectious. I’m looking forward to support the development of their considerable song writing and recording talents”.

For more information about this project, contact

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Measuring the Impact of the Arts

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On the 15th May 2017 The CHAOS Network hosted an afternoon of discussion and exploration about how, as artists and arts organisations, we can better measure the impact of our work. The session came out of a conversation from a previous Network meeting, and it was felt that a focused session, that included representatives from local authority, funding bodies, the commissioning unit and academia would be useful for all parties.

The CHAOS Network began in 2010 to provide an opportunity for creatives in the city to get together and talk, debate, share and promote the cultural offer in Southampton. CHAOS stands for Creative, Heritage and Arts Organisations of Southampton. Its inception coincided with SoCo Music Project taking on a new open creative space in the city and identifying a need for networking for creative in the city. Now a rich community of practice, the CHAOS Network has always been an open forum and welcomes new members from all creative backgrounds.

Creative practitioners and organisations in the city deliver a wide range of activities, many of which have a strong social impact. At a time where accessing funding is becoming more challenging, and local authorities are moving toward more commissioning based models, it’s becoming more important than ever to measure and evaluate the role of the arts in our communities. It is often the case that we can provide stories of how engagement with arts, music, theatre, film and more can improve mental health, enhance life chances, aid recovery, and even save lives. Often, however, these stories are anecdotal and lacking in clear evidence. How can we take these stories, these life improving activities, and ensure we are measuring and evaluating with credibility? Strong evaluation helps us to understand (and to learn from) the effectiveness of our work while also providing evidence of its impact. Where this impact can be aligned to local/regional/national priorities, it can put us in a strong position to access funding, commissioning and contracts that look to address these priorities. This could include a wide number of agendas, such as employability, health and wellbeing and behavior change.

The Measuring the Impact of the Arts event in May was attended by a cross section of artists/arts organisations, local commissioners and academics. A session on evaluation and frameworks was led by David Walters from the Winchester University Centre for Arts as Wellbeing, and city priorities and outlined by Moraig Forrest-Charde from the Southampton Integrated Commissioning Unit and Councillor Dave Sheilds, the Chair of the local Health and Wellbeing Board and cabinet member for Health.

Rebecca Kinge, a Southampton-based community organiser, coordinator for the emerging Creative Places project and Director of The Southampton Collective Community Interest Company was in attendance and has provide some useful notes from the event:

David Walters from University of Winchester gave us summary of his background and experience. Having been a musician he recognised that ‘things happen in an audience’ and he went on to work with gay men with AIDS and HIV in New York City and set up a community choir, where life and death was celebrated. Seeing the powerful impact of music making, he later established a community music venue in Hampshire (CODA Music Centre) which worked with everyone, formal education and informal music making. He then moved into the academic world, setting up a centre to study arts intervention in health and social care.

Points from David’s presentation:

Commissioners are cautious, they need evidence to support their decisions about investing in services. David made a number of points about how evaluation is included:

  • Often evaluation is tacked on at the end because the artist sees a need to demonstrate a particular point.
  • However, evaluation is subjective, and can show unintended outcomes and impacts. An objective evaluation has strength and power.
  • Good evaluation should be unique to every project. Much of the work takes place at the beginning.
  • Evaluation needs to change as you go along. It is important to try and recognise at the start where the pinch points may be, where the evaluation process may need to change direction.
  • Evaluating in an arts context can be challenging, it may not always be clear what the impacts are a direct result of the work that the artist is doing and what is a result of the environment around or some other factor.
  • Reflective practice is to be encouraged.
  • Wellbeing can be subjective. Universities can help with measurement techniques.
  • There are a number of evaluation techniques, quantitative, qualitative and case studies. Mixed methods are increasingly encouraged and seen as valid.
  • Economic evaluation. There is some strong cost benefit analysis of the impact of the arts. Dr Simon Opher made powerful argument about this, see this Artlift case study and BBC article here.
  • David also mentioned evidence that singing can help with chronic breathing and how the perception of pain can be changed.
  • Clearly define what went into a project, so that it can be replicable. Being able to replicate the work is important to commissioners. It is necessary to be clear about the skills that go into a project, and not just those that are particular to an individual who is involved in delivery.
  • Moraig Forrest-Charde (from Southampton Integrated Commissioning Unit) talked about the importance of knowing who the audience is, understanding the commissioner. Commissioners may have very little knowledge of arts interventions, so explain it clearly.
  • Dave Shields (Councillor with Cabinet responsibilities for Health and Wellbeing) talked about the other alternative interventions that may address the same issue, e.g. employment services, policing.

Representatives from the Southampton Integrated Commissioning Unit provided an outline of city priorities. These included the reduction of loneliness and isolation, helping those furthest from the labour market to move towards employment, and behaviour change (including tackling obesity and smoking cessation). As mentioned above, commissioners are cautious and would require strong evidence that arts interventions are effective at tackling these priorities. It was suggested that an advocacy document that highlights the positive work in the city would be useful, and that a priority for arts organisations should be to engage with the wider community sector. Commissioners and councillors are happy to continue this discussion and would welcome communications from organisations and individuals highlighting potential innovative solutions to city priorities.

There are many useful websites and tools that can help us to better evaluate our work, here is a selection:

Other useful tools for evaluation and measuring the impact of the arts/community activity include:

Inspiring Impact

Evidencing Impact Value Calculator (created for social housing but can be applied more widely to calculate social value)

Adrienne Pye, Senior Consultant for Evaluation at the Audience Agency ( recommended the Evaluation Toolkit from ixia, public art think tank

It was agreed that this event was the starting point, and that the conversation should continue. If you would like to be part of this conversation please contact me at: