Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
12:00 AM 10th July 2024

Wonderfall: Northern Music Scene Could Face Crisis As Research Reveals A Drop In Musicality In The Region


The North of England has produced incredible talent that has significantly influenced not only music, but popular culture, globally.

From The Beatles, Oasis, Corrine Bailey Rae and, more recently, Youth Music Awards winner English Teacher, some of Britain’s most-loved bands and artists hailed from the North.

However, new research from Youth Music, the UK’s leading young people’s music charity, has painted a stark picture of the current state of musicality in the north of England. Youth Music’s SONG (Sound of the Next Generation) Report, published today to mark the charity’s 25th anniversary, looks at young people’s relationship with music and found that only half (52%) of young people in the north of England see themselves as musical in comparison to 62% of people in the south.

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. As well as this, only 25% of young people from the North of England have recently played their music in public, and only a shocking 2% had the chance to play at a local music venue, further highlighting the deterioration of opportunities in the region that was once the musical powerhouse of the UK.

The decline in young people playing musical instruments could also have contributed to the decrease in musicality in the North. Young people in the North East, home of cultural icons who are renowned for their musical prowess such as Sam Fender and two-thirds of Little Mix (Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall), are feeling a disconnect when it comes to making music. Young people in the region are nearly a fifth (18%) less likely to be playing an instrument than those in London. 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.

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.

Funding is being diverted to cover basics such as food, shelter and everyday essentials, meaning that music and creative activity are at risk of being sidelined. This feeling is further highlighted in Youth Music’s SONG Report, with almost a quarter (24%) of young people in the North of England disagreeing that all children and young people have equal access to music opportunities.

Youth Music is calling on the new government to prioritise funding organisations outside of London to equalise young people’s access to music opportunities in the region. The charity continues to take concerted action to address regional imbalances with over 85% of its grant funding awarded to grassroots organisations outside London.

Matt Griffiths
Matt Griffiths
The impact and influence of music artists like The Beatles, Oasis and others from the North of England have had on the music industry in decades past is undoubtable, so it is concerning to see the lack of young people feeling supported and nurtured musically from the region.

Let’s be clear, this is not due to a lack of musical and creative talent in the North. There is already great work happening in the region, delivered by our Youth Music funded partners, including the recently formed Northern Music Network and a growing, connected music scene in Yorkshire. However, these grassroots organisations are
having to focus on short-term survival, restricting their ability to plan for the longer- term. The new government must pledge to invest in this vital infrastructure and workforce, providing safe, creative environments for young people across the country.

So called ‘levelling up’ has so far been a strapline, not a reality. Now has to be the time for the new government, working collaboratively with music education and the music industry to step up, ‘Root for Grassroots’ and invest to ensure a more diverse, inclusive and creative music ecosystem across the UK.
Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music