Don’t drop the mic: why music college SoundSkool must not be silenced

“I’m heartbroken,” says Simon Gordon, founder and CEO of SoundSkool, a music industry college in Enfield, north London. “Our education system doesn’t work for everyone, so we step in to give our kids what they need. Where will they go now?” The Guardian reports

Last month, Gordon and his team were told their partnership with the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), which hosts and funds their programme, would be terminated this summer. Unless it sources funding from elsewhere, the college will close in September after 10 years of service. To stay afloat, the college has had to rely on short-term contracts to deliver its work. Now, as the summer wears on and youth violence continues to spike in the capital, SoundSkool has become yet another casualty in the suffocation of public life, and more specifically state education, in austerity Britain.

“There are normal colleges, and then there is SoundSkool,” says leading drill music producer M1onthebeat, or Mozis Aduu, who, while living in care at the YMCA hostel in Hornsey, north London, attended the college with his friend and co-producer MKThePlug, or Marcel Kelly. Despite the recent demonisation of drill music by politicians and commentators seeking explanations for increasing youth violence, Aduu and Kelly, with the initial support of SoundSkool, have been able to make legitimate, innovative careers from music production.

Launched in April 2008, SoundSkool has operated in and around north London, providing a stable base of musical education and social structure for thousands of teenagers with limited options for staying in formal education. “We’ve done outreach work in charities, youth clubs and on kids’ estates, so they feel safe. And we work with industry people, making it about real world stuff, you know? Soft skills, like learning to be on time, being professional. The type of things you might not learn in a traditional classroom setting,” says Gordon.

“Programmes like ours get squeezed, so that you end up running provision with no support staff, no masterclasses, none of the things that make what we do so effective,” says Gordon. “There are fewer and fewer wraparound services available for young people: in education, in youth work, in mental health and wellbeing,” he continues. “It’s not just about the music: we also provide care, opportunities, life skills and, for those kids who need it most, a family.”

“There is a growing population of kids who feel lost, especially in Enfield, in the outskirts of the city,” says Sam Conley, a support worker at SoundSkool. “A lack of early years support or the right primary school education, the strain some parents are under, extreme poverty, many of our students live in care – all these factors have a knock-on effect. In an urban environment you need more, not less community. And now we need it more than ever.”

Read more Don’t drop the mic: why music college SoundSkool must not be silenced

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