Beyond the screen…

Over the past year, the world of music has changed beyond recognition. For now at least, the days of crowded gigs with everyone bundled into stuffy venues seem a distant memory.

But music lives on.  Along with the other performing arts, it has shown it cannot be quashed quite so easily. The world of music, of performance, is reimagining itself. It literally will not be silenced.  Instead, it has morphed into a new shape, adapting to our strange new world.  Forced into a box it has found new ways of bursting out, irrepressibly, into people’s lives.

When the world changed last year, CCYS changed with it. After the first 2020 lockdown, we returned to clubs tentatively, with reduced numbers and a keen eye on what could work. Before Covid, the bands used to meet in the rehearsal room, a compact space next to the recording studio. Clearly, there was no way they could social distance in such a small area, so rehearsals moved into the main hall, where musicians could keep two metres apart and singers could belt out their melodies into an open space.

Senior youth worker Laura Carter took one look and said, “Why don’t we do this all the time?”

So we took the decision to make it a permanent arrangement. It had more of a performance feel about it and, as such, we began live streaming sessions on Facebook almost immediately.  Suddenly, instead of spending weeks rehearsing, building up to a live gig once a month or so, the young people were able to perform via live stream every week, spending part of the evening practising before putting out three or four songs.

Chief Executive Dave Savage calls it an excellent stepping stone for young people wanting to start gigging as it makes it easy for them to become involved. The band sessions themselves have slotted into the same times as before, with the rock band meeting on Tuesday nights and the Audio Active beat bands on Thursdays. In addition, a new Monday night club is being devised, led by Edd Mann (Head of Creative), to encourage song writing and recording.

While clubs were open, the live streams ran throughout the summer and autumn. When the current lockdown ends, we’ll return to these weekly performances, which will be streamed on YouTube. Poetry, drama and quizzes will be added into the mix.

A bonus by product of moving the performance area to the main hall is that the studio and rehearsal rooms are now available for other activities. The Arts Council has agreed to fund a refurbishment project, knocking down the wall between the two to create a bigger studio. Along with the now permanent live stream stage, this will make Dormans an attractive venue for other bands to rent out for their own live streaming and recording activities. The efforts we’re putting into helping our own young people will have the knock on effect of raising Dormans’ profile as a music venue.

While we wait to be able to play music again, we continue to run virtual youth clubs in small groups, and are busy making plans for a future youth music and arts festival, at least some of which is likely to be online.

Well, if it’s good enough for Glastonbury…