Spike Griffiths is Project Director of Forté Project, one of PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partners supported by Youth Music.
Written by Ellie Muir – as part of Youth Music Next Gen
Thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Youth Music has partnered with PRS Foundation to support their nationwide Talent Development Partner programme. Youth Music is supporting Talent Development Partners to provide opportunities for young music creators aged 18 to 25 across England, Scotland and Wales.
Forté Project is a Talent Development Partner based in Treorchy, South Wales. It aims to help young artists across the region to establish, grow and achieve their ambitions. Spike tells me: “Forté’s mission is to improve the chances of our ten chosen acts to achieve successful, long-term professional careers.”
Forté has been active since 2015, running an artist development scheme to uncover and support new music: in that time they have engaged with 50 emerging Welsh artists across South Wales. Spike explains; “each year, Forté Project selects ten acts, aged 16-25, from across South Wales and offers them a year-long programme of industry sessions, creative workshops, mentoring, officer support and a range of unique live opportunities. This is tailored to meet the needs of each artist at a critical point in their musical and creative careers.”
Thanks to the organisations involved in the Talent Development Partner funding, Forté will be able to expand its outreach and improve their artist development scheme for future cohorts.
Spike describes: “Funding has always been vital in helping Forté reach young people who have no direct way of accessing the music industry. Social and economic deprivation is very high within the South Wales regions.
"Repercussions of this are growing disillusionment and mental health issues. Transport links remain very poor with no public night service and therefore our young people often feel unable to reach the opportunities outside their immediate locality.”
Forté strives to address these barriers by creating unique opportunities for young people where access to the creative industries is limited. Spike tells me: “in addition to the ten chosen acts we support, we also help bring live audiences to local venues and offer opportunities to aspiring industry personnel, such as photographers, journalists, videographers, and technical staff. In doing so, we contribute to keeping the Welsh music industry vibrant and sustainable.”
The Talent Development Partners programme will allow Forté to expand its outreach to creative individuals across the region, to create collaborative process’ for performance and music promotion.
Whilst aiming to nurture and support both talent and potential, Forté Project has a strong emphasis on personal skills as fundamental to achieving success as an artist emerging into the Welsh music industry and beyond. “One of the most significant benefits of our project, highlighted by our artists, is the personal development support we offer throughout the year”, says Spike; “we provide our artists with sessions focusing on wellbeing, developing resilience, and building confidence. We aim to equip them with the necessary skills to recognise and address their fears, anxieties, and ambitions in the early stages of their careers.”
Amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, which has inevitably had an impact on face-to-face sessions between artists and mentors and on live gigs, those parts of the programme have been postponed or moved online.
To adapt to these changes, Spike says: “throughout lockdown, we have sharpened our focus on wellbeing. Many of our young people have expressed concerns about the impact of Covid-19. To combat this, we decided to increase our 1-2-1 officer support via video calls, launch our professional mentoring scheme early, and offer more sessions with our personal development coach.
"As the situation has unfolded, we have witnessed increased camaraderie with this year’s cohort: there are more group video calls and creative collaborations taking place.” It is clear that this level of support has been much needed at such a time when it becomes easy to feel isolated from creative opportunities and wider society.
On discussing the impact of funding programmes upon the future inclusivity of the music industry, Spike says; "our ultimate mission is to help young people in South Wales develop new skills and fulfil their potential.
"Without funding from Youth Music, players of People’s Postcode Lottery and PRS Foundation, this ambition would not be possible - young people would be without the range of opportunities and vital support they deserve."