Session #001 - Joe Fox

IMG_2942.JPG

It’s taken a while to get round to this as it has been a busy couple of weeks for all things agitate. We’ve had lots of exciting meetings with representatives from the music industry and are really excited about what we will be able to announce in the new year. Watch this space for more big names, fresh collaborations and some great new music from the agitate collective.

Back to business. On December 1st we held our first ever Agitate Session, with none other than singer songwriter and ASAP Rocky collaborator, Joe Fox. Joe was the first musician to throw his weight behind the project so it was only fitting that we asked him to be our featured artist in our first session. Joe has personal experience of homelessness as a kid and so could sympathise with the power music has to change the lives of people facing hardship and exclusion.

FullSizeRender.jpg

We paired Joe up with two of our most talented young singers, Sarah and Luisa, in the hope that their dynamic voices and introspective lyrics would complement his guitar-led troubadour style. They did not disappoint!

A professional video of the day is currently in production, which will show how the group compiled their two songs, Money Rules the World and Nights Were Made for Loving. The film will also touch upon the similarities in the background of Joe and the girls and how collaboration can help create a communal medium for expression. For now why not check out the video-diary teaser of the day below.

Video diary teaser from our session with @yesjoefox as seen on @LondonLive Short film of the session coming soon! #music #collaboration

The day gave the young people a taste of life as professional singers, having to perform for a film crew, explain their ideas to the session musicians and provide interviews to journalists. However there was little time to rest, as just the next day Sarah and Joe were to feature live on TV on London Live. Needless to day she spoke brilliantly about her career so far and how she wants to step up to the next level with the help of agitate. There are also some lovely quotes from the girls in the Islington Gazette article here.

The day would not have been possible without the help of some amazing people. Sam White and Jack Mealing formed our film crew and captured some great footage that will really help show the project off to the general public. Ben Nash and his company Aural Youth recorded all of the sound on the day and even stepped in to play some bass late on. The girls were able to jam with one of the best session guitarists in the business, Ben Simon, who really helped put them at ease and develop their initial ideas. Finally we have to thank our hosts at the Rosemary Branch, Cec Darker and the Unattended Items theatre company, who provided the lovely venue and even cooked us some delicious lunch. 

If you want to hear more from agitate then it is best to check out our social channels.

We can’t wait to share the songs and video from the day with you. Think of it as an early Christmas Present.

 

Food, Money, Time? - Thinking beyond the cup of tea.

Anyone who works in the homeless sector will know that around this time of year homelessness charities get a massive upsurge of publicity and donations. Perhaps it’s because the general public are keen to induce some early Christmas cheer with their acts of goodwill, or maybe the effect of one-too-many post-halloween / pre-thanksgiving  drinks leaves people wanting to balance their karma before Father Christmas draws up his naughty list.

In reality, the answer is pretty obvious; It’s getting cold and homeless people live outside. As we crank up the heating in our living rooms and offices, it would be in-human not to think of those who have nowhere to go when the weather starts to turn.

However things aren’t really that simple. Not all homeless people live outdoors, in fact there’s a whole range of situations that fall under the term, beyond those who are rough-sleeping. I’ve outlined some below:

-  Houseless - Those living in sheds, cars and caravans.

-  Precariously Housed  - Those living in hostels, overcrowded accommodation, or with friends.

-  Hidden Homeless - Referring to those who do not engage with the council or government and remain unrecognised in official statistics.

-  Rural Homeless - Living away from cities and towns, again hard to track down and provide official statistics for.

-  Street Users - Who might beg or drink on the street during the day but return to shelters by night.

How then can people who want to help do the best thing for those in need? Well, many will say that when it comes to rough sleepers, the best help is given in the form of food and a warm drink, rather than cash - which might be used to fuel a drug or alcohol habit. This isn’t strictly true and the assumption that all rough sleepers are substance abusers is an inaccurate and worrying stereotype. Cash is often used to buy food, camping equipment, new clothes or a stay in a B&B, which many particularly vulnerable people prefer to specialist hostels. However, if you are unsure, the best thing to do is to ask the person what they could use, it might surprise you in what ways you could help. It could be anything from donating sanitary products and toiletries to providing some pet-food or blankets for their dog. If you are worried about the health of a rough-sleeper, or if they appear to be an asylum seeker or have recently been made homeless, the best thing to do is to make a report to http://www.streetlink.org.uk/ who are specially trained to connect rough sleepers with appropriate local services.

As for people who fall into the other circumstances outlined above, it’s my opinion that the best thing the general public can offer is time and awareness. This could take the form of volunteering at a local shelter or charity shop, or simply sharing online articles and petitions that give a voice to those who slip through the net of society. A good place to start  is www.crisis.org.uk, who have plenty of volunteering and fundraising opportunities, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

For the young people that Agitate works with, help could come in many forms. Housing provision for the young homeless in the UK is generally pretty good, although some are still left isolated in hotels or B&Bs when local services are full. What is really beneficial for young people is opportunities and mentoring. If you run a business, why not contact some local charities and see if you could offer some of the young people work-experience? Perhaps you coach a sports team that is looking for new young players who might struggle to approach a club by themselves? Alternatively, things like musical instruments and computers can give young people an important outlet for self-expression, which in turn can help them gain employment and self-sufficiency. A quick google search will throw up the contact details for all of the major youth-homelessness providers in your town or city.

So as we head towards Christmas, spare a couple of minutes to think about the best way to help those in need. Sometimes a box of McNuggets and a cup of tea is great, sometimes you might be able to change someone’s life by offering your skills, contacts and a couple of hours of your time.

If you’d like to speak more about how you can help the young people working with the Agitate Collective then drop me an email at mark@agitatemusic.com

- Mark

Collecting the collective

One of the key ideas behind Agitate was to form a socially conscious music project that allowed space for young artists to develop and market themselves in their own time. We wanted to move away from the model of many mainstream music charities where sessions are dependent solely on meeting funding requirements and providing academic qualifications. Whilst these projects are obviously important, we felt that promising young musicians who had found their voice through charity initiatives lacked the support to take the next step into the music industry.

 

We wanted Agitate to fill this gap by connecting young musicians who lack a stable home or support network with high-quality professionals, with whom they can collaborate and seek advice from as they build their portfolios of material.

 

Taking inspiration from the hugely successful visual art collectives of the 1990s and the self-reliance of contemporary grime collectives, we want to create a hub of young artists that inspire and support each-other’s development. As well as providing sessions where young musicians can hone their craft, we’ll provide an online platform where they can market their material directly to those in the industry. We are currently taking referrals from charities and social services for targeted work. However participants will soon be able to self-refer to the project so long as they are 16-24 and have experience of homelessness or social exclusion. Already, the collective is shaping up to be brilliantly diverse – we’ve heard from artists interested in everything from folk to techno.

 

As a new non-profit initiative, we are busily preparing for our launch event in December 2017. We’ve managed to secure some really exciting partnerships with some major players in the music industry and are currently writing funding bids and seeking out alternative investment. If you think you would like to get involved or have something to offer, whether it’s rehearsal space, production expertise, or if you’d like to be a mentor to one of our young people, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Mark at mark@agitatemusic.com for more information.