Gigs 4 Kids promotes the joy of music to children and families in Bedford. The project is a collaboration by Bedford Creative Arts, Music for Bedford Borough, Music Live, Bedford Music Co-operative, the Philharmonia Orchestra, The Culture Challenge, and Pad Presents. The plan is to deliver free live music gigs in all 54 primary schools in the borough, including rock, jazz, funk, classical and more, to inspire the 2327 Year 3 children in Bedford to learn an instrument.
The age group has been selected because the Bedford Music Hub believe that if a child hasn’t started to learn a musical instrument in Primary school, they are unlikely to ever start. Year 3 children are also free from SATs and other exams that may later serve as a hurdle to exploring extracurricular activities.
The project has also been launched to tackle the diminishing number of opportunities for children to learn and experience music, due to major cuts to music provision, charges to families for music lessons, and a rising number of families struggling to get by, especially in poorer communities.
“For children, the benefits of live music are extraordinary. Childhood is the peak time to learn to play, and the experience opens up a lifetime of potential enjoyment and self-expression,” says Kayte Judge, Cultural Education Producer at BCA’s Culture Challenge, “the Cultural Learning Alliance has robust research showing that musical knowledge makes a positive difference to engagement and attainment in children’s’ broader learning, so the importance of music really cannot be overstated.”
In June 2019 Bedford Creative Arts launched a campaign to raise £11,000 in funding for the initiative and in November was very pleased to announce that it successfully exceeded its target by raising £16,999 thanks to support from generous backers. This includes Arts Council England (ACE) who donated £2,555, local businesses and councillors, plus the portfolio holders for Education and Culture, together with Goldington Green Academy and Shortstown School, and finally the many families and individuals who generously contributed.
Now the aim is for every gig arranged, to be followed up with clear instructions for parents about the options for music lessons in Bedford Borough. A bursary fund is also in place to support at least 30 disadvantaged children to access a ‘taster term’ of one-to-one lessons. The bursaries will be allocated on need by a panel according to set criteria.
“From buskers in the playground to rock bands in assembly, we will provide a free gig and a ‘learning to play’ pamphlet for every Year 3 child, along with at least 30 bursaries for those who haven’t been able to afford to try, which will include intensive support from The Philharmonia for those undertaking Orchestral instrumental tuition. Let’s not expect children to want to learn to play before they have heard, seen and felt live music. Instead, let’s inspire children with live music and practically support their early explorations in music,” says David Rose, the Bedford Music Service Manager.
Several gigs have already taken place across Bedford, including the Funkey Monkeys, a brass band, who played to Castle Newnham in March 2020.
Over 50 fantastic gigs have already been booked, which are currently on hold due to Covid-19 and the closure of schools in the UK. However, we anticipate a loud and triumphant return when the schools reopen later in the year.
Photography by Chiara Mac Call