We’ve all experienced the transformative effect that music can have on our lives. Whether it’s Kurt Cobain inspiring you to pick up a guitar or ‘God Only Knows’ never failing to turn you into a blubbering wreck, it has an indelible power to alter both our future and present. Audio Active know this better than anyone.
Since registering as a charity in 2009, approximately 12,000 young people in Brighton have taken part in free activities that they’ve led. These could be anything from DJ workshops, to live rap jams, to music industry mentoring, to sessions at PLATF9RM official partner charity Clocktower, to targeted workshops aimed at tackling domestic violence.
They’re dedicated to arming Brighton’s youth with musical skills and know-how, whilst giving them a chance to express themselves in a safe, collaborative space. We caught up with Adam Joolia and Tom Hines from Audio Active to chat about their achievements, Rag N'Bone Man's patronage, and the cathartic power of music.
PLATF9RM : Hey! Are there any recurring themes you see in the kids you deal with?
Adam: The common theme is every kid is at risk. Sh*t happens in kids’ lives and it can be a fragile balance. And that’s where you realize the value in what we do; we’re not officially counseling or officially group therapy. We’re giving them safe, positive spaces where they can interact with positive people and create positive things.
Do you find the most troublesome people react to you in a way that they won’t with a more ‘conventional’ service?
Adam: Often, yes. I think that’s because we’re creative-based. We attract people that need to be engaged with in a more creative, less confrontational, way.
Despite the wider social implications in what you do – and the profound effects they can have in people’s lives – it’s clear that Audio Active is a music organisation first and foremost.
Adam: No matter what the project is, we work with them as artists first. We don’t go and meet some homeless kids and tell them that we’re going to help them find a job. We ask them to come and make some music. If we’re lucky, something else might happen along the way.
Surely there must be some times when the lines become blurred for you guys?
Tom: Yep. Especially my position where I’m face-to-face with the kids every day. I get a lot of disclosures and I tend to know what’s going on in their lives, but I never ask. I think that’s something to do with the power of the lyrics - a lot of stuff comes out about their problems so it makes sense they will be more conducive to talking about it. We actually have a session called Room to Rant, which is a therapeutic process for young men where they come to get things off their chest.
Adam: For many people it helps that we’re NOT being counselors, but more like mentors. It’s all about working with people over a long time. In a lot of cases it can take a year or two to build up trust.
I read about a session you run called Break4Change which aims to help child-to-parent domestic violence.
Adam: I think it’s the most powerful piece of work we’ve seen. It was a partnership with some other organisations and the domestic violence charity RISE, who have a hotline for people experiencing violence at home. 10% of RISE’s calls are from parents of teenagers who were being violent and they wanted to do something to help.
That must be such a complex issue.
Adam: Definitely. Half the time it’s people who have witnessed domestic violence, then the perpetrator left and now there’s a power vacuum which they try and fill. Sometimes it’s mental health, sometimes it’s elements of parenting. But it’s very, very, complex.
So what was Audio Active’s role?
Adam: We suggested a session where the person talks about what’s happened, then comes and does something creative with us to try and embed it. You’d be surprised how fun it is. Often, they’ll turn up the first week expecting a b*llocking, then by week two or three realise that’s not what it’s about. We’re just trying to help them use music to work through issues.
How do people find out about you?
Tom: Some come through targeted campaigns; we’re closely linked with the youth workers and organisations in Brighton, so we get referrals. Or it could be me putting up pictures from a workshop at Rap Jam, and a parent getting in touch to say their kid would love to learn to rap. If there’s space and they’re old enough, we always say yes. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a group of kids down the Level and rapping. People wander over and it goes from there.
You’ve quite a few success stories haven't you?
What about Rag N’Bone Man coming on as your patron? That must be huge
Tom: That has definitely helped us and we’ve noticed a spike in interest. Saying that, the kids aren’t that bothered. They’d like to meet him but get excited by it? They’re a bit too cool for school for that!