Is Kent Music’s Music Lab the Music Centre of the future?
I joined Kent Music last summer when the idea of a new music centre for Folkestone was already on the table. Our Chief Executive, Peter Bolton, had met with the Chief Executive of Folkestone’s Creative Foundation, Alistair Upton, earlier in 2016 and they talked about the potential of the Quarterhouse as a performance venue for young people, but remarked there wasn’t currently a group that met there. This began a series of conversations, bringing in staff from local secondary school, the Folkestone Academy, about starting a new creative music centre to respond to the needs of young people in the area.
Design consultants We Are Huddle were brought in by the Creative Foundation to contribute consultancy on community need and development, and funds from Kent Music’s Music Education Hub grant from the Arts Council were set aside to begin a series of pilot workshops from January on Saturdays aimed at young people aged 12-19. The model that has emerged is different from our traditional music centres, for example in Maidstone and Medway, where a variety of string, wind, jazz and other ensembles rehearse, with individual and group music lessons running at the same time. This works really well for some groups, but when we asked the young people in Folkestone what they wanted, they asked for band rehearsal space, recording and production advice, vocal coaching and the opportunity to relax and listen to and play music. There are no set genres and the sessions are flexible each week. Welcome to the Music Lab!
So far we have seen groups of 30-40 students, with varying levels of ability and from all Folkestone secondary schools, sharing and creating music from a variety of different styles. The young musicians are supported by six expert community music tutors, with the opportunity to record their music using professional equipment. Current tutors are guitarist for Audioweb and Badly Drawn Boy Robin File, vocalist Sophie Radley, singer-songwriter and rapper/MC Oliver Seager, percussionist and drummer Bruce Allen, keyboardist and synth expert Nick Powling and producer and remixer Matt Smyth.
Folkestone Music Lab officially launches after Easter, running workshops every Saturday from 10.30am to 1pm from the Glassworks at Folkestone Academy. The Creative Foundation have offered the Quarterhouse for future performances from the Lab and we hope to schedule some gigs this Summer, as well as more opportunities to work with professional musicians.