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North/South divide to spark music crisis for cities that gave birth to Beatles and Oasis

The musical hotbed that has produced world-conquering acts including The Beatles, Oasis, Sam Fender, Arctic Monkeys and Corrine Bailey Rae is in critical danger of falling silent due to a music-funding crisis

For over half a century many of Britain’s most-loved bands and artists have hailed from northern cities and towns and gone on to help supercharge the UK economy with their music representing one of the nation’s biggest exports.

But now new research from Youth Music has painted a stark picture of the current state of musicality in the north of England, with a critical number having no access to instrument and just 2% of young musicians getting the opportunity to perform live at a grassroots venue.

The charity’s Sound of the Next Generation (SONG) Report, published today (Tue) to mark Youth Music’s 25th anniversary, unearths a north/south divide with concerns that music-making is being sidelined as hard-pressed families prioritise  food, rent and everyday essentials over the “luxury” of buying an instrument.

The research, which polled 2100 children and young people across the country, also found that people in Yorkshire (49%), North West (57%) and North East (52%) are among the least likely in England to feel supported when making music.

The Daily Express’ Strike A Chord campaign is demanding an overhaul of music education, with the current English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and Progress 8 system, which heavily favours children studying maths, science and English, being overhauled to give arts subjects parity.

Over the past decade the number of children studying GCSE’s has plummeted 40% and many schools no longer offer the subject on their curriculum. A-Level numbers are even worse.

The SONG report finds this has created a huge disconnect where despite having home-grown northern heroes such as Little Mix star Perrie Edwards and Sam Fender to idolise, northern children are 18% less likely to pick-up an instrument than those living in London.

The report warns: “Young people feeling less musical, with a decrease in those learning their craft and a slim minority performing in public, has been worsened by the economic shocks from

the current cost-of-living crisis and the bleak social-political landscape.”

It states that as funding across the sector reaches a historic low, many grassroots organisations fostering creativity and musicality in young people are under threat, with 88% of Youth Music funded projects reporting concerns about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children and young people, together with the workforce supporting them.”

AIMING to buck the worrying trend are Brighter Sound, a Manchester-based music development organisation working with around 200 young people every year, with the goal of delivering the next generation of northern artists to the world.

For 24 years they have been creating transformative experiences for young creative talent, but say the current challenging musical landscape is impacting their work – whilst making it more crucial than ever.

The project, which has a multi-revenue funding stream including from local authority, Arts Council and founding supporter Youth Music, says artificial intelligence and fair pay for artists issues are adding further barriers to the meritocracy and limiting young people’s participation and progression in the music industry.

Director Kate Lowes added: “Under-investment at music education level has meant there is a bigger need now than ever for supporting young people into the world of music.”


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