By Lucy Gollogly
Belfast City Hall was transformed for an all-day music and careers event last Saturday as The Big Music Project Live rolled into town. The building, which was adorned with BRIT award statues and guitars hanging from the ceiling, had the wow factor as hundreds of young people packed in to listen to advice from industry insiders, including Plan B and Northern Ireland born Radio 1 DJ Phil Taggart.
There was also live music on offer from boy band Union J, X Factor alumni Janet Devlin and local bands including Wonder Villains and Ballymena’s Paul Shevlin – winner of the BPI’s Next BRIT Thing 2012.
Belfast hosted the final of four live events, which also travelled to London, Cardiff and Glasgow.
Young people also got hands on experience in all areas of the entertainment industry from performance to production, learning how to create a remix, doing hair and make-up and setting up a PA.
They were invited to take part in workshops run by groups such as The BRIT School and East London Arts & Music (ELAM), who brought aspiring musicians together to write, record and perform a track in a day – something Big Lottery Fund NI Director Joanne McDowell and committee member Julie Harrison were delighted to see in action.
ELAM co-founder Ed Butcher said: “There are lots of talented young people across the UK who have no idea how to start off in the industry. We show them that as well as performance, there are other areas including production, business, events, PR, A&R and marketing.”
Ed added: “The young people we have worked with today have been unbelievable. We have done four of these events now and each city has its own personality. The guys in Belfast are full of enthusiasm and talent. You can see that there is a real music scene here and they turned out today.”
Ambassadors from local partner Youth Action were on hand to direct young people to the various sessions and talks on offer. Ed said their involvement had been vital. “When you come to this kind of event as a young person it can be very intimidating. You don’t know where to go and how to get involved. But we’ve had a constant stream of people brought to us by the Youth Action ambassadors here which has meant we’ve been busy all day.”
Clodagh McDonnell, 15 and Aidan McGuinness, 16, were among those helping out on the day. And although Union J fan Clodagh only managed to catch the tail end of the band’s set, she said she really enjoyed ensuring things went to plan.
“In the future I would like to be an entrepreneur and own a theatre. Today has taught me loads about running a big event. I’ve also been talking to all sorts of people who have told me about their experiences.”
Aiden, who is interested in a career in medicine, said: “It’s not something that comes along very often. It’s a brilliant opportunity. I loved helping everything run so smoothly today.”
The Big Music Project Live is just one strand of the UK-wide project, which uses music as a way to grab the interest of young people and engage with them through activities aimed at increasing their social skills and confidence. Funded with a £4m grant from the Big Lottery Fund, it is a partnership between Global Charities, the BPI, who are behind the BRITs, and youth charity UK Youth.
If you are aged between 14 and 24 and want a career in music, you have until midnight tomorrow (Wednesday 22 October) to enter The Big Music Project’s competition. For details see www.thebigmusicproject.co.uk/competition