Music making and community wellbeing - Bromley, Bexley and Lewisham

The ArtsTrain programme supports thousands of children and young people with communities across the London Boroughs of Bromley, Bexley and Lewisham, targeting those who are not engaged in arts and culture and face challenging circumstances. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - young people section of our online Culture Hub.

Since 2018 Mytime Active has been part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio and this year has worked with the cultural research organisation BOP Consulting to better understand the impact of the ArtsTrain programme on participants, partners and communities. The independent research identified strong outcomes in the development of children and young people’s creativity, self-efficacy, motivation and emotional literacy.

Children performing music in a circle - Case study use only

The challenge and solution

Our research comes at a time of continued decline in creative education in schools across England. A BBC Survey in Jan 2018 showed 9 out of 10 secondary schools had cut lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject. This is compounded by cuts to local authorities which have further decimated opportunities for children and young people to participate in creative activities.

The reduced access to arts and culture makes our report’s findings all the more important. Building the evidence base around the positive impact of arts and culture on young people’s personal, social and emotional development is critical in influencing the decision making of education bodies, funders and commissioners.

For Mytime Active having this independent research has opened doors to mental health charities, new statutory services and specialist education settings, allowing us to secure a number of new commissions.

Funding is a challenge faced by everyone in the arts and culture sector and it is difficult to see how continued investment can be secured without strengthening our evidence base and developing new delivery models to build a more sustainable approach to investment.

The impact

Since the programme launched in 2008, Mytime Active’s ArtsTrain programme has supported over 4000 young people, engaging young people in the criminal justice system, young refugees, looked after children, young carers, young people with social and behavioural difficulties and those with complex and profound disabilities.

ArtsTrain has a proven track record of producing work that is visible and accessible for under-represented groups. Nearly half of the programme participants are recipients of Free School Meals, 44% had a disability, and 43% are from a BAME background.

A year-long evaluation by BOP Consulting of 371 young people involved in 24 ArtsTrain creative music projects found that, as well as learning specific music skills, the programme had a broader, more far-reaching impact on participants.

The report’s key findings include:

•    90% said they could communicate with other people through music following the programme (from 56% at the beginning) 
•    84% said they could could work well in a team (from 55%)
•    74% (from 61%) said they were able to use their imagination to solve problems
•    86% (from 57%) reported that they like to finish something once they’ve started
•    86% reported that they can push themselves to do the best they can (from 56%)

How is the new approach being sustained?

Mytime Active’s mixed-ecology model of funding includes commissioned work from schools, colleges, housing associations and statutory services, alongside external funding from trusts, foundations and national funders such as Youth Music and Arts Council England.

For ArtsTrain to secure future investment, it is important we maintain consistently high-quality, evidence based practice. We have developed a unique model of music-making, co-produced by young people and facilitated by inspiring Music Leaders. This model is adapted to meet the needs and interests of every group of young people we work with. Our practice is informed by quality frameworks produced by Arts Council, Youth Music and The Young Foundation.

Following a project visit, Youth Music’s Programme Manager Carol Reid said “Visiting the project was great, we’ve been doing some work on developing a Youth Music quality framework and I cross referenced the visit against this. There are 20 indicators on there and I was able to tick off every one.”

Lessons Learned

Present and analyse data carefully

We invest time in pulling our data together, being clear on the difference between our activities and our impact and clearly articulating our value. The data is only part of the picture, we provide a narrative, including how we respond to the findings.

Manage the opportunities and risks of partnerships

Partnerships are at the heart of our work but working in partnerships is not always easy. Many of our partnerships take a lot of time and effort, so choosing the right partners and negotiating terms can be critical. Carefully weigh up the opportunities and risks of each partnership, be clear when negotiating terms and make sure you are transparent on areas such as budgets, responsibility and risk.Don’t get trapped in the ‘activity cycle’, allow time to reflect

Don’t get trapped in the ‘activity cycle’, allow time to reflect

We build time into each project to ‘think outside the box’, it is important to face up to tough decisions and flex the programme in response. It is often during reflection where new opportunities are discussed, not all opportunities are right so don’t be afraid of saying no, particularly if these opportunities deviate from your mission.

Transparency with funders is key, don’t bury your head in the sand

We have adopted a total transparency approach with our funders and commissioners. Our experience has been that we have a better chance of solving problems if we identify them early, share the challenges with our funders and explore our options carefully. Keep trying to diversify income – difficult but important, and tell funders as early as possible when there problem; funders are often able to renegotiate or reschedule payments to help. 


Contact: Keith Sykes - Youth & Communities Manager at Mytime Active | 02083231707