The 3Gs Development Trust is a community regeneration organisation serving deprived areas in Merthyr Tydfil. During the summer of 2010 the trust, with the support of WISERD, carried out the Evaluation of Rock project. This four week project was focused on evaluating the effectiveness of culturally based approaches for engaging young people. Although there are a number of initiatives that have previously adopted such an approach in developing community engagement there had been little systematic consideration to date as to its usefulness or effectiveness.
The project was based on the understanding that many local young people, although somewhat alienated from the formal school or college education, have a keen interest and knowledge of the world of popular music. It was recognised that this enthusiasm could be utilised for developing community and civic engagement. The project was structured around daily sessions, commencing at 10am and ending at 4pm five days a week for a four week period.
Previous work on the area carried out by colleagues at Cardiff University had identified that young people, especially young men, were a particularly difficult group to engage with. The Evaluation of Rock project however, demonstrated at an early stage that it could effectively engage with this group. From its inception fifteen people attended the project, six girls between the ages of thirteen and seventeen and nine boys between the ages of eight and nineteen.
Over the four week period group participants were asked to engage with various different initiatives which sought to inform them as to the dynamics and aspects of being a professional in the music industry. Alongside this there were individual instrument lessons aimed at increasing technical skill and sessions on song writing, musical performance, music technology and recording techniques, musical genres and the music industry.
The goal of the project was for participants to deliver a live performance of a song they had written at the end of the four week period. They were also given the opportunity to record and edit their performance in a professional environment as a concrete outcome of their participation and also to provide motivation for continued engagement.
Project Conclusions and Outcomes
In order to monitor and evaluate the project a number of feedback sessions were organised based around semi-structured interviews. The outcomes from these sessions indicated that participants had found the project to be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” as access to a professional recording environment is something that is not available locally and is cost proscriptive. Although the project had not be marketed or labeled as educational, participants felt that they had learned a lot through the process and that it had been very enjoyable. The evaluation exercise indicated that all of the individuals involved left with increased knowledge, self esteem and well being.
The project was also praised by community development workers, who said that the approach utilised had been particularly effective at engaging the so called “hard to reach” and developing a structured and disciplined approach to learning.
Generally the feedback from the Development Trust as a community regeneration organisation indicated that the initiative was a big success and the feedback from all the young people involved had been very positive and they hoped to be able to develop and build on the knowledge generated from this initiative. Many young people believed that music and the cultural industries provided an aspirational impetus to both employment and academic achievement. Therefore, such projects can contribute to nurturing such aspirations and dreams and therefore hopefully social and economic regeneration.
As part of the WISERD Centre for Welsh Politics and Society Seminar Series, Dr Taulant Guma from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University presents emerging findings from the WISERD/Civil Society project on ‘Migrants, Minorities and Engagement in Local Civil Society’.