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Music for education & wellbeing podcast [20] TRANSCRIPT: Malaki Patterson, music producer, manager and community musician

AH: Hello, it’s Anita here, and welcome to this episode. In this episode I’m talking with Malakai Patterson who is a Gloucestershire-based creative working in the music industry in a range of different roles. Why I thought you’d be interested, is that Malakai has done a lot in Gloucestershire to support young people facing barriers in access to music and progression routes into the industry. So welcome, and thank you for coming on Malakai. It’s been quite a while that I’ve been trying to persuade you to come on, so it’s really good to have you here. Thank you for coming.

MP: Oh, thank you for inviting me. It’s a pleasure.

AH: Can you start by telling me about what you do in music, in the music industry, community music and music education, because you kind of span all those areas?

MP: Yeah. So firstly I’m the creative director of The Music Works, which is a music charity based in Gloucestershire that engages with young people through music. We work in schools and across various community settings and we have a large focus on working with young people in challenging circumstances which can range from disadvantaged backgrounds, or those with needs or disabilities, or just facing barriers to making music. My industry work comprises of many different things, which has always been the case to be able to make a living in the creative industries. I started out in music production doing sound engineering, but in the more recent years I’ve been involved in management and working in record labels.

AH: How many years have you been working in the industry? That’ll show how old you are. Roughly speaking, it must be a few decades mustn’t it?

MP: Oh, close to, not yet, but close to.

AH: Oh right, and can you tell me how did you end up where you are today, and why is it so important personally?

MP: Wow, that’s a big question because it’s such a big journey. So I didn’t know that I’d end up with a musical career. I just knew that music played a major role throughout my life. And as cliched as it might sound, I’m not sure where I’d be without it. It wasn’t been an easy journey, and at times it seemed hopeless. But perseverance and being motivated helped me break through all the barriers and adversities. I can remember being in school, and my music teacher didn’t understand how I said I love music so much but didn’t engage in his music class, he didn’t ever see me as musical because he’d never seen me playing an instrument. However at home I would always be making like mixtapes or making sounds with whatever I could around the house.

AH: And was that with? Was that with music technology or other things?

MP: Yeah, I suppose. I’m just trying to think at the time, what the technology was at the time. So I can remember when I first started senior school, I just made mixtapes. So I would be recording different songs from the radio and then mixing them between each other on two different tapes and making my own versions.

AH: Oh.

MP: It was really weird what I was doing, really creative. I can’t really explain it, because it was so strange. But I was making these like mixtapes by kind of fusing different songs together, verses and choruses just by using a tape machine and the radio. So I can remember doing that vividly just because that’s all the access I had at the time to be able to kind of like make music I suppose. Because instruments weren’t around my house, or anything like that, so that was the only way that I could really make music.

AH: Was your family musical?

MP: Yeah. My mum used to DJ, but I don’t mean like on CD decks or anything, it’s a Jamaican term for rap. So that was the genre, reggae dancehall. So that had a massive influence on me. And my dad was part of a reggae sound system, so we used to build the speakers that would be used. So for example, the reason why we see dance DJ’s now, whether that be on CDs, USBs or vinyl, is because it was a Jamaican-born DJ called Kool Herc who had a sound system and he developed a technique of mixing back and forth between two identical records to extend kind of like rhythms and an instrumental segment or break. So that had a massive influence on me as well. So around that same time like, that’s why I think I got the idea of recording from the radio and mixing two tapes together because my dad was in this like reggae sound system. So I was really influenced by music at a young age but just wasn’t your traditional musical instrument playing sort of thing. So it was just a different type of music I was interested in. This influence wouldn’t have any correlation to school. When I tried to take my influences into my music lessons, it was a shut-down because my teacher was only interested in classical movements or songs. So he wasn’t able to understand that what I was doing was even music. 

AH: Did you have friends who were into the same sort of music, friends in school?

MP: Some, but my school wasn’t that diverse. So I think maybe in my year group there were maybe three other people from kind of Afro-Carribean descent. So like our culture would be very similar and we’d listen to the same music. But mostly, all my friends, even though we were maybe listening to a lot of modern music, because at the time there might have been like a lot of garage, or stuff like that which a lot of young people were listening to. I would say they were brought up on a lot of like rock, which I wasn’t really, you know my parents didn’t really listen to that so I wasn’t really influenced by rock or anything like that. So I still feel like there was more distance between my musical interest to kind of my white counterpart then. So it was really strange, because I knew I loved music but what I knew as music in British culture, it didn’t exist. So I didn’t feel musical, only when I went home. 

AH: How weird that must have been. So you were in secondary school music lessons and not enjoying them and just not feeling that you weren’t any good at it. 

MP: I was very musical yeah. I think it was maybe like, I think it might have been year 10 in senior school, because I didn’t choose music as a subject, and that was crazy as well. And I can remember there was a new software that came out, I think it was called Music 2000 at the time or something like that, and it was an opportunity you could create music from scratch. So like produce music on a computer, and that really started to kind of get my kind of musical juices flowing. And growing up in the city of Gloucester, you don’t really get much aspirations to achieve in the creative industries. So you don’t even think that a career in music is possible. So as I said, it wasn’t until kind of like garage and then grime music started to build on the underground scene, I started to find any interest in what I wanted to do musically. So when this software come out I found myself starting to make garage beats or grime beats. And again this was all with my home, my community. A lot of the time I’d just like invite friends round and we’d make music together, but then any time we’d go back into school and rap, my teacher just thought I was talking gibberish. 

AH: Did you find any value in … do you think that maybe music theory or the fundamentals about music in school have actually helped in some ways?

MP: That didn’t come until later on. In school, I just did not understand music. It was just like a foreign language to me. And it wasn’t until I started to become a sound engineer in a recording studios, then I started to work with all different genres. So I started off working with folk artists, and then I started learning more about theory of music, and then realised, ‘Oh my god, I know all this stuff already’, it’s just I just know the practical side. It wasn’t that hard to put the two together. But I had to go on that journey myself to understand that. 

AH: So how did you get from being in school, not being involved in music in school, you know what happened when you left school for example? Were you able to begin to make some money from your music, or did it take quite a while?

MP:  So … it took quite a while to start with. So when I left school I just went on a random college course because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t even think that I could go to university, which is strange. I didn’t think it was an option. No one ever told me it was an option. One of my sisters was the first person to go to university out of all my family like you know since my gran coming over in the Windrush generation. None of our families ever went to university so my sister was the first person. So I didn’t think that was possible. So like having an educational route, college was for me was just a thing to pass time. 

AH: Is your sister younger that you then?

MP: She’s a year older, but the difference is, she was like the brainy one in the family. So I just thought, I went to college and as I said, I think it was like a computer course I chose, but then because I had this software I just continued doing music as a hobby at home with friends. And I just started to get better, and I was growing, and at the same time I was growing with that kind of London underground music scene that was emerging, which grime was starting to get bigger and bigger. So I was just ending up sort of learning from watching early DVDs of people in the grime scene making music and I was just like learning from that. So it was just all self-learning really. And then I can remember I dropped out of college in the first year, which my mum wasn’t happy about, but then I decided to get a factory job and then just started taking music a bit more serious. And then I just started developing confidence and then decided to start putting music on CDs and vinyl and then I was selling them independently or putting them in the local shop and getting ‘sale or return’ on them. Little did I know it was just like building a whole community of artists in secret in Gloucester. It was really strange like, you know when I looked around, it was like, OK. There was a community radio station, we had our own show, we were using the youth clubs as places to perform, and we shared music. We had our music in the stores, and then we used to promote our own events. So it’s like we had our own little mini industry. 

AH: I remember that you were involved with that video that came out, was it GL Legends or something?

MP: The DVD, yeah. GL Street Legends, even I can’t remember it, GL Street Legends yeah.

AH: Yeah, so that was really amazing. That was real coming up from the grassroots, people who were DIY producing and producing the music as well as marketing it, and putting on gigs and events.

MP: Yeah. And do you know what, when I look back at different genres of music, especially like black genres, they’re very similar. Like if you look at hip hop or Motown, it’s quite like they’re disadvantaged community areas that people would band together to create art. And it was just very similar to that, where people, a lot of people just came together to make music. So I think we just formed that community, and even like GL Street Legends was, I think there was probably over 100 artists on that DVD. And that’s just strange to know in Gloucestershire.

AH: Definitely. And it was so underground isn’t it? And I hadn’t heard of it at the time, I heard about it afterwards. And I think you and Dread gave me a copy of it. But that had been years ago, you know, it was old by then wasn’t it?

MP: Yeah.

AH: I was really surprised that there was this amazing, vibrant scene going on.

MP: I can’t even believe then we made any money off it. All those DVD’s, we sold-out like twice, and there was a massive audience for it, but it was just all within our community. So yeah, it was really just built from the ground up, and then from there everything, I don’t like to say luck but, I feel like I was just in the right place at the right time with certain things. So I can remember going to Cheltenham, to a studio called Yellow Shark. This is when, I think, probably grime … I felt I should step out to make some more commercial music to try and make money from music. I was just in the studio and I said to the owner: ‘I would really love to master my own music because I’m not happy with the sound the other engineers are using’, and he said: ‘Well, if you know how to use the equipment, you’re more than happy to use it.’ And I said, ‘Oh, wow’, and at that time, this was before I’d been in a professional recording studio. I’d only ever been in a you know home studio with a computer and a mouse and a keyboard. And I said: ‘Would you be happy if I could spend a week in here to learn?’, and he was like, ‘Mmm, OK then, if you are willing to pay the time to be in here’. So I said, ‘OK then, fair enough’. I saved up. I spent a whole week in this studio you know just learning every single thing. Like, I didn’t think YouTube existed then, so I think I don’t know how I was learning, to know some of the stuff, but I just managed it, it was just self-learning.

AH: So there wasn’t an engineer there with you?

MP: No, not at that time. He gave me the basics of how obviously to set it all up, and then when I had that software in that home studio, the kind of basics are all the same as a large studio but it’s just all analogue. So I was able to quickly work out what was what like the recording process and everything. And then he just threw me in at the deep end and said, ‘Do you want to take a session?’. And I was like, ‘Yeah, why not’. And then honestly everything, that’s why I said that a part of it is luck, because I think it’s right place, right time. And then like before I knew it I was working in that studio and then I was bringing in other artists from Gloucester to the studio, and then I started working with them in more of a managerial role because I’d learned kind of how to release music.

AH: Were you able to leave your factory job by then?

MP: Yeah. So probably about three years after I left college, and I was in my factory job, I was only in there for about probably three to four years, and then I left my factory job and then I started to learn about kind of, and I think that’s, I can’t remember what age I met you, but this is since I really started to learn more about community music. I’ve been doing it, it’s weird, but I’ve been doing community music all my life but I didn’t class it as community music. I just classed it as I’m just doing music and it was a way to make a living.

AH: I remember that, but it was your approach wasn’t it. It wasn’t just about working in the community, it was actually about that inclusive approach and the way you work with people. 

MP: Yeah. So from Yellow Shark, the studio, that really developed my professionalism. I mean, through there I ended up working with a lot of big bands, and like artists like Dione Warwick and Martha Reeves and everything like that which really I suppose developed me you know, the professional, in that sense that I learned so much things.

AH: I should think so. The nerves. Wow.

MP: Yeah, and then alongside that, then that’s when I started to do more community music work and I stumbled across organisations like CCP, Gloucester Music Forum. I was trying to remember the name then because its changed so much. And then, yeah, Forest of Dean Music Makers, and then kind of like it snowballed from there. And then I’m sure there’s a load of story between then and now, but …

AH: No, no, that’s fine. And it’s often about people isn’t it? Because I know that Mark Bick, who ran Forest of Dean Music Makers, which then became Gloucestershire Music Makers, which then became The Music Works, was quite central in bringing you into the community music sector, and you picked up lots of skills from him as well didn’t you, as well as those that you picked up from Yellow Shark?

MP: Yeah, exactly that. I mean, I have to say actually yeah, that Mark did really bring me into that community music scene. It’s strange, because I’d never seen anything like it or I didn’t realise I could even go into a school to teach music, or go into a, I don’t know, a youth club setting and teach something. And so he really developed my confidence in that area as well so that was good.

AH: Yeah, absolutely. And it was the music mentoring approach that’s slightly  different to traditional music teaching isn’t it, and is the difference and that you were already doing because that’s the type of person you are, and the type of way you work with people.

MP: Yeah, that’s it. And after a bit of time, I was like, ‘Oh, this is what I do anyway’, so it’s actually not that scary. Like you just said, I was doing it anyway, but just unconsciously sort of thing. 

AH: Yeah, that’s brilliant, what a fantastic story. And a lot of the young people you work with have similar experiences to you don’t they? They’re highly musical, but maybe their potential or their interest and commitment, and their passion for it, isn’t often recognised during their school years. And that maybe they didn’t have lessons, or the only options available to them were traditional groups and ensembles. That might be classical music, it might be rock music, but either way it’s not the kind of music that they want to make. So can you tell me a little bit about the young people you work with now? And what sort of barriers they face?

MP: Yeah. I believe there’s a lot of young people who fall into that category. And there’s a lot of barriers that force young people to be unable to access music lessons. You know one huge factor is cost. Another is representation. They don’t see someone who looks like them maybe teaching the session or something. And last, but not least, just the material or the type of music that is being taught. I would imagine if it was more modern, or more appealing, or culturally appealing, more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds would be interested. A lot of these young people also feel unwanted in these places, because predominantly it is aimed at white, middle-class children. 

AH: Yeah, so what would you say if somebody said, and I’ve heard this said before from places all over the UK, ‘Well, we don’t stop anybody from coming’. 

MP: [Laughs] The thing is, I hear that a lot as well, and the thing is yeah that’s right, yeah you do have an open doors policy, but you just won’t be engaging with those young people we’re talking about because, as I said, they don’t see representation, they won’t commit because of cost. There’s huge barriers, so even though they’re saying they’ll open their doors, there’s those invisible barriers that are put up that young people won’t access. So, the organisation can feel they’re being inclusive or diverse, but until you break down those barriers, I don’t really believe you are being inclusive or diverse you know.

AH: What sort of things do people need to bear in mind about that, you know, for somebody, for example who’s running a weekly music project that is attracting really, not a diverse group of young people. What things do they need to think about and what areas do they need to try to change?

MP: So I always say as well, try and put yourself in the position of the young person. And I have a saying, ‘It’s difficult to aspire to be what you can’t see’. So if there’s a class full of white, middle-class children practicing classical music, and you’re a black child who happens to be from a lower economic group, who has musical influences from different culture and backgrounds, how would that be appealing to you or even make you feel coming into that setting. So it could be even little things about choices of music, genre you use, or the staff, you know their representation. Are you employing staff from diverse cultural backgrounds, you know. Access can be subsidised as well. 

AH: Some organisations specialise in particular genres, so some specialise in classical music, and this isn’t, we’re not trying to slam classical music here are we?

MP: No, not at all.

AH: But there are small things that you can do with whatever genre. You know even if you feel that a particular genre is your specialism, there’s things within that, without changing the genre, but also the issue of publicly funded music education and genres does need to be addressed doesn’t it?

MP: Yeah, I mean, even just going back to my experience, you know. Like I said, it wasn’t until I was probably early 20s until I realised that music theory had a big part to play in my learning, for my professional development. However, if I knew that when I was 14 or 15 I would have probably went to somewhere like Gloucestershire Music. But at that age, it was intimidating for me, because I was like, ’Why do I want to go there?’. I don’t see anyone else there from my background there, I don’t see any representation there, I’m not interested in the music. So why would I want to go there? And it’s really hard to understand that when you’re young when you’re actually like, sometimes you have to come out of your comfort zone, yes, but also organisations have a responsibility as well. 

AH: Yeah, so I suppose that’s where Youth Voice is so important isn’t it? Actually talking to young people in your local area, a diverse range of young people, there may be about what you offer and what you can offer, and asking them how you make it more inclusive. I suppose that leads us on to one of the debates that’s been around a lot recently, which is about the colonisation of music education. There was a seminar organised recently, which involved Jimmy Rotheram from Feversham School, it’s been in the news a lot recently, and he organised this seminar about the colonisation of music education and had a number of speakers. It was absolutely fascinating. So I just wondered if you could talk to me a little about this idea that western European culture generally is so deeply embedded as a sort of pinnacle of achievement. We almost hardly notice it in all sorts of ways in education.

MP: Yeah, I mean you can just see that alone from the whole grading system. You know, when someone aks you do you play music, the question is, ‘What grade are you?’, you know. This is in Britain. However, if you look at, I don’t know, Afro-Caribbean culture, music is all about the enjoyment and the taking part. And it’s very different, it’s like very, very different. So even when I was talking about the community I was involved in to making music, it was actually just the taking part and the involvement of it. There was no achieving, do you know what I mean? It was just about the fun, and being involved.

AH: It wasn’t competitive.

MP: Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Definitely. And I also think within like kind of the British music education as well, there’s also, it’s very formal, this is how you should listen to music, this is how you play music. And, you know, it’s very structured like that. And I think there is a lot of implicit bias if you bring something else to the table. As a society, you know, they frown when you talk about rap, but would champion spoken word. How is rap so different to Shakespeare? He used rhyme, rhythm and slang in all his plays. So I think sometimes there’s an underlying kind of prejudice which is a common thing which we all do as humans, you know.

AH: So, part of the difficulty is around language, and part of the way we can do something about it is by checking our language isn’t it, and just sort of thinking about the language that’s used and how things are labelled. And I suppose an example of that, perhaps, is spoken word. I just wondered what your thoughts were on the spoken word/ rap definitions?

MP: Yeah, for example spoken word is definitely accepted within British society, and I think is highly regarded. But it’s exactly no different from rap and what has been done for the last 20-30 years but which has not been championed. So I do think there’s prejudgement towards it, which is an embedded stereotype, and I think with spoken word you know, it is more palatable to western Europeans rather than rap.

AH: And I know that you have lots of interesting conversations with the people you work with, don’t you, about language and about terminology, and about the difficulties that genres can sometimes present. Young people come into the studio don’t they with lyrics that are maybe sexist or maybe slightly violent, because that’s a little element of that culture, but it’s not all of it, is it?

MP: No, and that’s it like. A lot of that comes from self-expression and that’s how rappers first started. If you look back when rap originated they just said what they saw around them. And I think that’s no different to today. A lot of young people rap about their experiences, what they see, so it’s all self-expression. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and I think it’s important to champion that. However, they can be challenged then to how they develop that, and how they build off that. 

AH: So I wanted to move us on a little to talk about Gloucestershire and Gloucester, and I’m biased obviously because I’m from Gloucestershire, but Gloucester and the creative community have definitely changed in the last sort of five years haven’t they? And I just wondered if you could tell me a little bit about what’s been happening, and it’s partly, it’s relevant to this conversation because it’s partly as a result of this more diverse and inclusive and creative community that’s being developed.

MP: Yeah. So firstly, I just want to kind of raise the fact that Gloucester is very multi-cultural. Barton & Tredworth is one of the most diverse areas in the UK. There’s like over 100 different languages that are spoken in that area alone. So I think if we look at the black and ethnic minority community, there’s a lot in Gloucester already. So now more things are being programmed where it’s more diverse. You’re seeing more people come out and engage with it. So for example like the King’s Jam Festival which we’ve programmed now for the third year, we had 2,000 young people come out to that. Where some of the councillors and everyone said like, they don’t even know where these young people come from. They’ve never seen all these young people in the city centre before, however they come out and engage in that. And I think it’s important that if we do really want to engage with these communities then we have to make sure that we’re programming things that is reflective of their culture.

AH: And tell us a little bit about the sort of artists and the genres of music that are involved with King’s Jam.

MP: Yeah. So it’s mainly all around urban music. So there’s R’n’B, there’s a lot of rap, hip hop, dance and a lot of street dance as well. So that’s stemming also from the hip hop culture. And it is still very diverse. I mean it’s not even all just black artists as well. We still have white artists taking part in rap and you know diverse genres. If you look at urban music now, it’s very diverse you know. You have all different people from all different backgrounds. It’s British culture now I would say, a lot of urban music is just youth culture. So, and that’s what it reflects really. 

AH: And the creative community, the musical community in Gloucester is really changing isn’t it? Because the young people that you work with through The Music Works and particularly the Upsurge programme for artist development, they’re really making great strides and being noticed an awful lot around Gloucestershire, but actually beyond that. Can you tell me a little bit about some of those artists and the changes?

MP: So, some of artists now are making some really huge achievements, and that’s through genres that wouldn’t normally get recognised before. They’re now getting recognised, even actually on a national scale. So one artist who has actually just come off a tour in Australia, another artist has just done an advert for a local brand company, even a local artist in Gloucester, who weren’t on the Upsurge programme, but you know he’s within the Gloucester scene, he’s just done the advert for Apple Music. 

AH: Wow.

MP: Yeah. So there’s a lot happening in Gloucester at the moment for artists of kind of like the urban music scene and everything. However I do think we still have a long way to go. And some progress is being made, but I do still think there’s a lot more to do. So for example, even though these artists are doing a lot, sometimes they’re championed more outside of the city, rather than on the local media channels and everything like that. It’s still very difficult for them to get a lot of support.

AH: Oh, that’s interesting because I see it from an organisational perspective and there’s a lot of investment now in those young artists, from respect really among  funders, you know Arts Council, PRS Foundation, which just didn’t happen before did it? If you look back to when you and Dread and that whole community started that was just absolutely DIY with no funding from anybody, no support from anybody. But now, young artists in a similar position in Gloucester can come to you, can come to The Music Works, and they will get some support and development. So that’s changed, but I can hear in your voice that you’re frustrated, you know, that things aren’t moving fast enough.

MP: Yeah, there is that. Things are not moving fast enough, but then also there’s, so it’s great what’s happening on the ground. There’s a lot more engagement with, like you said, funders and kind of organisations, but at that senior level there’s still a lack of representation and I think that is the next issue now that we need to address.

AH: Yeah, definitely, so that was going to be the next question I was going to ask you. What’s helped you to achieve what you’ve achieved so far, and more importantly I guess, what you’d pass on to other people trying to do something similar in terms of representation and diversity maybe in other areas. I know you feel you’ve got a long way to go, but you’ve obviously learned a lot along the way, so what would you recommend to other people, or what more would you like to happen in Gloucester? So starting with people being appointed, how would that happen, how could that happen?

MP: I think, upon looking for staff, you need to think about how you’re recruiting that staff or who you’re marketing it to otherwise you’re just going to get the same recruitments all the time. And I think you have to think about how that process is being managed as well.

AH: Yeah, good point. And I guess that goes back to that similar to Youth Voice that kind of Adult Voice, that representative voice. You ask people the people in the groups that you want to attract, ‘Where will we put this? What will we say?’, maybe test it with them. Anything else you wanted to say around that?

MP: Well you were talking about my experiences growing up as well and everything, so I suppose I wouldn’t change my experiences because it’s made me who I am. However along the journey there’s been some adversities, so I suppose it’s quite fascinating that I’m still doing what I am doing today just because of everything that was against me. Motivation and determination play a huge part and I think there are still underlying issues that are still prevalent today which I think will still be very hard for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to maybe have a similar journey to mine. And as I said, it’s just I think that there’s a lot of organisations just need to look at what they’re doing and how they’re being inclusive or diverse and not just saying it. 

AH: Yeah.

MP: And I was going to say that’s also reflective of the actual music industry as well. There is a lot of success with musicians from kind of black and minority ethnic backgrounds. That’s the artists, maybe producers, but we need to see again more representation in the senior levels of the music industry. You know, what’s the make-up of the Board? What’s the make-up of the senior team? 

AH: And again you’ve had discussions about that in The Music Works haven’t you, a lot about who’s represented from board level to senior management, to the music leaders, and it’s all coming back to what you said before that it’s really, really important that music leaders come from all sorts of backgrounds.

MP: Yeah, it’s very important. Again it’s, I know I’ve said this word so many times now, but it’s representation. Like a young person sometimes, especially if they’re very anxious, if they can see someone that looks like them, or someone who they think that person actually reflects me, that will also help them stop being anxious to go and talk to that person and start up a relationship with that organisation.

AH: And I’m particularly interested in communications and how that affects young people’s perception of whether music education is for them, and that definitely speaks to that doesn’t it. What would you share with other people about that? We had a lot of conversations about that when we were working together. What sort of things did you share with me, and what sort of things did you want to share with me about communications? What should people bear in mind?

MP: I think it’s that Youth Voice like you said before. I think it’s really important that you talk to the people that you plan on communicating with or marketing to. Just because it’s normally done for that group, they’re never involved in the conversation. However, they should be leading the conversation and then they can tell you, you know, the language that should be used, where they access things or how they access things, or what would they access. So it starts with a conversation with that group.

AH: Yeah, that just made me think about that ladder of youth participation diagram, and you can actually apply that to communications couldn’t you? So it starts with tokenism, goes through consultation, then actually goes up to young people having control and decision making. And actually you’ve done takeovers of social media and things like that, so that’s the pinnacle of getting diverse young people involved in what you do, is by giving away some of your power to them. 

MP: Yeah. Young people’s at the heart of all that we do, so we make sure that they’re involved in every single process. Even with the new studio build that we’ve got coming out in January, they’ve been involved right from the design stage up until now where we’re planning with the builders where we want, you know, fixings, they’re involved with all of the conversations really.

AH: Can you tell me just briefly, because I realise we haven’t talked about this at all, about the new studio which is really exciting in Gloucester?

MP: Yeah. So hopefully the building should be starting in the next month or so, and it’s going to be the first musically inclusive hub in Gloucester. We will have six studio suites, suites which will be made up of recording rooms, rehearsal rooms and a broadcast room. There will be a facilitation room, and there will also be a venue space inside so young people can share their music and perform. We can run events for young people, and it will just be a networking place and a place for young people to come and chill out. So it’s like a one-stop-shop for all young creatives really, so we’re really excited for that. And hopefully we should be open in January 2021. 

AH: It’s so exciting.

MP: Yeah.

AH: And finally, you’ve shared loads of tips and advice, can you try and sort of sum those up for people? Just say three practical pieces of advice, or three things that perhaps you’d like to see happen in music education in the next few years?

MP: Oh, wow, I don’t think I have all the answers to these things [Laughs]. So when I think local organisations and schools to have open and honest conversations about discrimination and how they can truly be inclusive and diverse. Don’t be frightened of certain words like racism, and really understand the barriers that are there for young people to access. So yeah, that’s the first. Second, I would like to see some change to the curriculum so students can learn more wider than just classical music. And that also goes to education as a whole. The curriculum needs a big shake to reflect the diversity of the students that attend now. And then third, oh, maybe for us to start looking at the modern creative industries and how the education system can feed into progression routes for that. Because at the moment I do think that there’s a big void between kind of music education and the music industry. 

AH: Such good tips. That’s brilliant, thank you so much, and we’ve come to the end and it’s been so lovely to talk to you Malakai. And thank you for coming on.

MP: Thank you for having me.

AH: And if you’d like to find out more about Malakai and his work, and The Music Works and anybody else we’ve mentioned, I’ll be sharing links and information in the notes that accompany this podcast. So thanks very much for listening.

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