Spotlight - Live Music and Mental Health Innovation Labs

This month's Spotlight is on Children in Scotland, which has been working with Scottish Ensemble and University of Stirling to deliver a series of Live Music and Mental Health Innovation Labs in different parts of Scotland.

Group of children in school uniform sitting and lying on the floor while listening and watching a live performance of musicians playing violins.

Courtesy of Children in Scotland

An Innovation Lab involves people to coming together to create and develop new and exciting ideas. Our innovation labs focused on co-production – children and young people working alongside musicians, youth workers and mental health practitioners. The challenge was to understand how we could remove barriers for children and young people to accessing live music so they could experience the mental health and wellbeing benefits. This meant children and young people sharing their unique perspectives and working with adults to design new live music opportunities that meet their needs.

Co-design isn’t a new idea, but it is hard to do well. There are challenges around power balance, and it can be hard to encourage adults to let go and allow children and young people lead. Our key advice for adults is to stay curious and embrace the fun!

During each two-day lab, our participants also took part in a range of interactive live music experiences, led by a Scottish Ensemble quartet. The performances explored emotions, physical space, and how participants engaged with the performers. We tried to ensure a varied mix of music styles, so our playlist included works by Shostakovich, Phillip Glass and Billie Eilish. Sharing the live music experiences helped the group to bond and work together.

A group of children sitting around a large table covered in paper and pens, some writing, some drawing. They are talking to a woman who is showing them how to create a collage.

Courtesy of Children in Scotland

What did we find out at the Innovation Labs?

The Innovation Labs helped us to understand the key barriers children and young people face to accessing live music. Unsurprisingly, financial barriers were a key issue, but young people also identified a range of other factors including poor public transport, limited events in their local area, and anxiety or other additional support needs. Children and young people also shared ideas about how to overcome some of these barriers.

A group of young people and adults in a large well lit room with large pieces of paper on the wall covered in writing. One young person standing next to drawings on the wall is speaking, everyone else is watching and listening.

Courtesy of Children in Scotland

The session culminated with groups of children, young people and professionals developing and sharing new project ideas. Ideas included the development of a youth-led music venue in Stirling and FusionFest – a family-friendly festival combining sports and live music in Inverness.

Although not without its challenges, the co-design approach was real success, with both professionals and children and young people recognising the benefits.

One practitioner said: “I hope this will enable more collaboration regionally in delivery of opportunities for young people”.

Another identified “. . . we have the power to change the current climate of live music in our local area and provide a better social environment for everybody."

You can read more about the Innovation Labs in our project report. The report contains lots of great learning for people working with the arts sector, as well professionals interested in co-design work. We also worked alongside one project participant to create an animation exploring his experience of taking part in the labs.

A close up shot of some drawing and writing on paper and post its pinned to a wall. The drawings are colourful and show things like a cafe with tables and chair and drinks, a stage with big red curtains and two performers, a ‘Youth Board’ with people around a table, a ‘Kids Area’ with play mats and a basketball hoop.

Courtesy of Children in Scotland

The YMI funding and additional support from The Rayne Foundation has been essential in helping to deliver these workshops. We are now looking for new funding to make some of these project ideas a reality, but we hope the co-design process will have a lasting impact in terms of supporting children and young people to feel empowered and encouraging professionals to consider and adapt existing approaches to their work.

About Children in Scotland

Children in Scotland’s key aim is to give all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish. Our organisation’s work is rooted in children’s rights and a key aspect of this is ensuring that children and young people’s views are listened to, taken seriously and acted upon.