Rewind Presents – “Libraries Change Lives” Award

For the past couple of years Claire Thompson of Skipton Library and I have been working with a bunch of young songwriters on Tuesdays at the Library. Originally under the name “Skipton Songwriters, they’re now Rewind Presents, and an enterprising bunch of young people they are too.

As well as writing and performing music of their own, the young people of Rewind Presents have, amongst other things put on shows, a mini-festival, made a profit on merchandise they’ve designed/commissioned and (even in these days of arts funding cuts) have managed to secure some bits of funding from various places, to contribute to the continuation of the project. They’re an enterprising bunch

For a couple of months now, we’ve had to sit on our hands and hide our excitement about some very exciting news. I’m now very happy to reveal that from thousands of Libraries across the UK, Skipton Library’s Rewind Presents have made the final three of the Libraries Change Lives Awards.

We’re up against two other really interesting projects, Reminiscence Collection (a project using collections of objects, photographs, music and scents to stimulate the senses memories of those suffering with dementia) and The Digital Bazaar (a digital inclusion project in Lambeth)

A few weeks back we were visited by the Libraries Changes Lives peeps. We sat around the big table, talked & enthused about the project, played a bit, workshopped and were interviewed for camera. Here’s what came out of that.

What’s next, well they’re off to big fancy London (today in fact), to the Houses of Parliament no less, to find out how we’ve got on, if we’ve been successful, Rewind Presents will be awarded £4,000 prize money, the Libraries Change Lives trophy, as presented by Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey (anyone got any words of encouragement, or questions you want to ask Ed Vaizey? Tweet ’em!).

The afternoon will include some speeches, a showing of the videos for all the shortlisted projects, a performance of a brand new song written by the Rewind peeps, and a last minute pitch.

Exciting!

Awards, Competitions and The Funding Trap

It’s an interesting one for me this. I tend not to like competitions so much when it comes to music and culture. X-Factor, and The Voice on TV, and Battle of the Bands’ competitions closer to home have a focus on winners and not the losers, as opposed to just sharing the good things. Plus I think the televised star-making shows discourage enterprise in the creative industries, and promote the Lottery style “You’ve been chosen for stardom” approach that the traditional, industrialised music industries seem to favour. There are many (healthier) alternatives, mainly that you can choose to build a career in music, and one that’s sustainable.

Funding is clearly essential for projects such as this; the young musicians involved may make some profit on events and the like, but it doesn’t break-even if you include things like instruments, amplifiers, space, and staffing time. Rewind Presents is partly funded and supported by the lovely people of Connecting Youth Culture (a part of North Yorkshire County Council), the Libraries Service, Youth Music and NYMAZ, who are all coming under increasing financial pressure due to cuts (I’m now at Rewind every other week and not weekly, which makes a big difference). It’s because of that pressure that we’ve been trying to find additional ways to bring in money.

Seeking funding is a time consuming act, and there’s a fair argument that spending time actively seeking funding can detract from the main focus of a group such as this. Also, as this rather elegant blog-post, “The Funding Trap” by Aspire 4U details, sometimes the desire to win funding can shift the focus of a project – you fit the project to the funding-bid requirements rather than focussing on the important stuff. Certainly as a group, I’ve found that the focus of Rewind has shifted somewhat from a songwriting group, to the more public-facing stuff like the gigs, the events, and definitely some funding-searching.

What’s really great about the Libraries Change Lives award is that it is target-neutral. i.e. if we win, there are no tie-ins in terms of the project’s scope, no prerequisites. Simply put, it’s an award to support an already great project. It’s significant this… and if we do succeed, there’s a whole range of things that we can utilise this money for: Recording, a weekend residential, and doing some public facing stuff too.

Exciting times.

So, if you have any words of encouragement, please do tweet Claire, and the Rewind bunch today… they get to the Houses of Parliament for 3pm UK time.

From me here in Singapore all I can say is “Sorry I’m not with you guys… and Good Luck today!”

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