Community Music uses music as a tool for positive change.
As one of the UK’s oldest youth and community music organisations, we offer a diverse and exciting programme of courses, live events and professional training. This includes a foundation degree in music production and business, instrumental and music production tuition, career development and support packages, adult education, music leader training and a whole host of live events from small intimate gigs in our purpose-built theatre to taking part in national events and performance opportunities across the country. The majority of our programme is free.
Our experienced diverse team and industry standard facilities mean that we are able to work both locally and nationally, working directly within the local community running grass roots projects whilst delivering tailor-made training and support programmes that respond to national need.
We work with children, young people and adults aged 8 and up. We aim to provide a safe, welcoming space where young people and adults can explore the music making opportunities available to them, build self-esteem and ambition, and develop a passion for music.
Our music leaders are all professional musicians or producers currently working in the music industry. We train our team in-house and all are fully qualified music leaders and highly experienced.
We work in partnership with a host of local and national companies, institutions and professionals to ensure our provision is of the highest quality. Our partners include the University of Westminster, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service, Mintel and Nomura to name just a few.
Address: The Brady Arts & Community Centre, 192-196 Hanbury Street, London E1 5HU
By Underground and Rail
We are located approximately 7 minutes walk from Whitechapel station (District/Hammersmith & City Lines and London Overground). Whitechapel station is currently undergoing improvement works as part of the Crossrail scheme and will include step freewww.streetmap.co.uk or follow the map below, which shows how to get to us from Whitechapel
The main entrance to The Brady Arts Centre has a permanent ramp with handrails on both sides of the pavement. Access to the theatre space and rehearsal rooms are both on ground level. The main studio is situated in the basement and has an electric stair lift suitable for all types of wheelchairs and mobility aids/vehicles. A smaller studio is available on the first floor and is accessible via a lift.
Guide dogs are welcome. All music production sessions feature software than can be adapted to assist those with visual impairment and the main studio space has a projector and large screen.
The Brady Arts Centre has a designated disabled parking bay directly adjacent to the front entrance ramp.
Customer toilets are located on the ground floor. An adapted toilet for wheelchair users is also located on the ground floor, just next to the café.
I had been offered the job of managing the education project and John Stevens had been approached to be the Artistic Director. I did not know much about John but was aware of his reputation as an uncompromising musician and educator.
His first remark to me was: “So you’re the one I have to get along with” and his words were prescient; we went on to work together for 11 years establishing the NJC education project and then Community Music in 1985: the first community music project of its type in the UK. The National Jazz Centre never opened, due largely to the abolition of the GLC, and is currently a very heavily soundproofed clothes shop.
When John died in 1995 Community Music had grown from having only a few part-time musicians on a government unemployment scheme with no premises, equipment or funding, to become the largest community music project in the country operating from a 30,000 sq. ft building in Clerkenwell with a London-wide outreach programme, accredited training courses, franchises with FE and HE, the first music educator/leader accredited course, business incubator studios for artists and a venue that ran all-night music events.
John and I came from very different backgrounds but by one of those marvellous life-changing accidents of synchronicity we found a common passion in the challenge of democratising music-making that inspired us to create and sustain Community Music through the inevitable ups and downs of its funding regimes. CM, as it is became known, gave more than its name to the Community Music movement. It established a unique working model of pan-genre alternative music provision that fused a hard core of creative radicalism from John with a community-based accessibility that focused on young people from the most deprived parts of London.
As a result it acted as a template and catalyst for many others and attracted funds from a variety of arts and social interest agencies and funders. At the peak of its function as a Manpower Services Commission Managing Agency it employed over 120 musicians in England and Wales and had a fleet of vans transporting them to music workshops and projects in every conceivable type of community-based venue. When it became the Community Music House in Clerkenwell in 1992 it broke the mould of arts training by gaining university accreditation for its courses and created an artist development programme that successfully supported bands such as Asian Dub Foundation to become powerful forces in the music industry.
Community Music began in 1983 when there were no community music projects, no ‘music leader’ training courses, no music facilities in youth centres or out-of-school clubs, no BTECs in Popular Music, no BRIT School, no digital production facilities, no Commercial Music Degrees and no recognition in higher education that music, other than western European classical music, was a valid taught subject. There was also no National Lottery to fund youth music activity out-of-school and no system for funding this new music movement within the existing funding infrastructure.
The Arts Council, in the form of The London Arts Board, broke the mould by recognising the importance of Community Music to the overall music ecology and its innovative models of youth music and training. It took the plunge and funded the emerging project and began an extraordinary and creative relationship that has survived for 30 years.
The 80s were a time of transition in music education and the emergence of Community Music and other community music projects around the country was a powerful agent of change in a move towards the modernisation of music education provision in the UK. There was, simultaneously, the recognition that vocational education needed to be formalised and professionally delivered in the education system. Community Music piloted the first creative NVQs and have created and delivered vocational training models designed for the community music sector.
By 1987 Community Music had demonstrated, on a national scale, that there was an insatiable demand for popular, commercial, underground, world and jazz music tuition amongst young people, and a similar hunger for professional training for musicians to service this need. Even with its minimal funding and resources Community Music managed to provide alternative music provision for tens of thousands of young people nationally, and professional training to hundreds of skilled musicians to become, what are now called, music leaders.
The radical methods of John Stevens’s ‘ Search and Reflect’ music pieces were the bedrock of the professional training. They offered a rigorous alternative to the usual workshop approach that tested and stretched the professional musician as much as the beginner. They democratised group music-making by proving that everyone can participate without fear of failure, if encouraged in the right way, and that all musicians, even the most technically skilled, have as their greatest challenge the need to be truly creative, in whatever genre they choose.
Community Music has always been at the forefront of music technology in community music practice seeing the development of sequencers and samplers as a huge step forward in the process of accessing music-making to wider sections of the population.
In 1987 Community Music started the first music technology course in the community music sector – for young offenders in North Kensington with the Probation Service – using the first generation of commercially produced samplers, an Emu 1200, and created a music production studio with Fairlight and early Akai hardware. This course was pioneering in the sense of the use of technology and its focus on young offenders as part of a programme to reduce recidivism with a major referral partner; the Community and the Music were addressed equally in the same project brief to create a model that was widely replicated and is now commonly associated with projects dealing with young people at risk.
In 1993 Community Music decided to begin an accredited music technology course as a progression for young people coming through workshop programmes. This year-long course began as the Music and Technology Course accredited by OCN and funded by ESF. As a creative approach to music and technology it was revolutionary in offering a direct alternative to the physics-based City and Guilds courses or the almost total lack of modern music on offer in the formal education system.
This course went onto to be recognised and accredited by London Metropolitan University and became the prototype for many to follow in the community music industry.
In the early 2000s the limitation of the Cubase platform and industry focus on Apple and related software such as Logic provided the impetus for a higher level course with more advanced equipment. This also fulfilled the need for an access route to university music education for young musicians who were primarily working with technology in modern urban genres.
Community Music had always had a positive relationship with the University of Westminster and had routed a number of students to their ground-breaking Commercial Music degree course, so they were the obvious partner to approach to create a level 4 and 5 HE course for Community Music’s students, and others, to progress to. The result was a Certificate in HE called Step Up that acted as a possible route into full degree education for students with no formal music qualifications and provided the best industry standard technology and trained tutors at Community Music’s premises.
Our close relationship and networks with the music industry provided a unique platform for students to learn and work within, including the first Internet radio station, London-wide performances and international showcasing projects.
After a few years the course was obviously outgrowing the Cert. HE structure and negotiations with the University created a full two-year Foundation Degree in Creative Music Production and Business. This started in 2006 and has gone on to produce musicians, producers and entrepreneurs of the highest standard and progress a number of students to the university’s degree course.
Community Music aims to show there is no contradiction between structured access and excellence and it continues to prove this point each year with the quality of music and students emerging from the course into the creative infrastructure of the music industry.
Dave O'Donnell, Co-founder of Community Music