Raw Material is a youth-led educational charity which aims
to help young people reach their full potential through creative
expression. Set up by director Tim Brown in 1994, Raw Material
provides a range of high quality arts experiences and participatory
programmes for young people and adults in Lambeth, Greater London,
the UK and internationally. Raw
Sounds is the music arm of the project and provides
creative media sessions for people accessing mental health
For this month’s blog, I spoke with Hannah Hannah Kemp-Welch,
Sounds Programme Manager, who kindly gave me an
insight into how the service works and the experience of those
JT: Can you tell me a little about how the Raw Sounds
project came about and how it has developed since
HKW: Raw Material's engagement with mental
health work started in 2008, providing recording studio sessions
for young people accessing mental health services referred through
SLaM (South London and Maudsley NHS). The project was called
'Stereohype', and involved the production of original music work
for presentations, events and mental health forums at Brixton's
Ritzy cinema, for service users and professionals to come together
to debate mental health issues in a performance event context.
In 2009 a grant of £10,000 was offered to Raw
Material by SLaM to develop the music work further as a regular
therapeutic service and to include staff training and development
in mental health work. We appointed a project manager to run this
from Key Changes, a mental health project in Islington that
specialised in music work with mental health service users. We
then jointly developed our approach to using music in work with
people with mental illness referred to us by the NHS, in lively
weekly sessions, covering live music, DJ skills, studio production
and film making.
Since this time, the service has gone from strength to strength.
In response to further requests from participants we have also:
- Set up more external performance opportunities - participants
performed 10 gigs at venues spanning from the Royal Festival Hall
to the Brixton Jamm.
- Started an additional Raw Sounds workshop series especially for
women, holding weekly sessions with up to 10
- Delivered 20 artist development sessions to hone skills and
build professional portfolios for participants wishing to pursue
music and media in education and employment.
Participants also progress to be music mentors, volunteers, and
staff. Five of our participants have gone on to higher education,
and five have begun college courses. We also have four service
users currently undergoing specialist training to becoming Raw
Sounds music mentors, working with staff to develop skills
including facilitation and teaching.
'Every week I look forward to coming back to a Raw Sounds
session, it keeps me motivated for the week ahead'
Where do most of the users of your service come
from? What advice would you have for mental health professionals
wishing to refer someone to your service?
The majority of our participants are referred by Care
Coordinators and Occupational Therapists at South London and
Maudsley NHS Trust, although we accept referrals from all boroughs.
We also accept referrals from facilitators of support groups linked
to charities such as Mind and Emergence. If you would like more
information, our brochure may be found here, as well
as a referral form and our contact details.
Tell us a little about your own role at Raw Sounds. What
are the most rewarding and exciting parts of the job?
I manage the Raw Sounds programme in a job share with a
colleague. We run four regular sessions a week in the community –
instrument tuition, collaborative music making workshops, a ladies
group, and artist development recording sessions.
My responsibilities generally fall into three categories:
communicating, strategy and events.
My favourite part of this role is the strand
of our work that takes place in hospitals – which we call ‘In
Reach’. This is where we pack up our DJ-ing kit and take it onto
hospitals wards with some microphones and hand drums, and get the
whole ward involved in a jam session. Budding rappers spit
freestyle into the microphone alongside some of our beats, we hear
some karaoke singing to reggae favourites, and some people like to
have a bit of a dance, others like to select tunes and make song
Wards can often be a dismal place, distressing
for new patients, and monotonous for those who are there for longer
periods of time. My experience of delivering these sessions has
shown outcomes beyond those anticipated – we’ve seen bonds form
between hospital staff and patients during sessions, an uplifted
mood for the whole ward, and perhaps most valuably, we’ve been able
to offer a project to focus on, which can for a time transcend the
hardships of life in hospital and give people hope for the
What has the feedback from those using your service been
like? What are the most helpful and rewarding aspects for them do
We invite the Care Coordinators who refer our
Raw Sounds participants to us, to our end of term gig. One of the
CCs who attended was greatly moved to see a client she had referred
performing a beautiful song she had written live on stage in front
of an audience. The CC stated that the last time she had seen her
client, she was very unwell and that the lady performing on stage
was ‘a miraculous transformation’.
Some feedback from young people
I look forward to coming back to a raw sounds session, it keeps me
motivated for the week ahead'
'I get to
learn in a fun and safe way, and now I don't feel so alone as I'm
able to go to college cause I’ve learnt how to work with
is a uniquely creative collective with the client’s vision at the
forefront of everything.’
I think the most rewarding aspect for participants is to do with
the peer led model Raw Sounds runs on. After a long stay in
hospital, some people can feel a loss of agency. Our programme is
designed to empower individuals and ensure truly relevant and
supportive workshops through co-production and user
Many of those using your service have written and recorded
their own material. Can
you tell us a success story?
One of the young people who attended our
sessions throughout the year began to develop her skills by
participating in our live music group setting. Initially a quiet
and shy young lady,
she was able to complete a full demo of her
work. She was then able to use this demo in an application made by
Raw Sounds for her to join the Amy Winehouse foundation and access
their studio and expertise. Recently this young woman was featured
on ITV News, showcasing her creative works to great acclaim. Her
case shows the massive impact attending regular and bespoke
sessions has on young peoples’ confidence, communication, social
skills and employability. We are very happy to say she is also now
in her first year of university, studying music.
Raw Sounds recently had a concert at Royal Festival Hall
and regularly arrange smaller-scale
particular events we should look out for?
We play a lot of gigs as it’s such a fun
experience for our participants, as well as being a confidence
boosting exercise. Most of our participants write lyrics about
their experience of mental health and are keen to offer this out to
the wider community, finding it both cathartic and therapeutic. We
performed at the Adamson festival last week, and will be performing
at the Institute of Psychiatry’s HERON
conference this week.
We are holding an
open day at our Brixton base on the 6th June, as part of LAHF’s
Creativity and Wellbeing Week – all are welcome to attend! There
will be open workshops demonstrating our methods of working with
people accessing mental health services, the opportunity to meet
our artists, share and discuss practice, and performances
showcasing recent work produced by participants.
Look out for us at the Taking over the asylum
on the 9th June at the Maudsley's ORTUS
Learning Centre, and at Happy Heads Festival in July, again at the
- Visit Raw Sounds website
for further information about the service
- Visit Raw Sounds’ Soundcloud
page, where participants have the opportunity to
showcase material recorded during the programme.
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