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Making music during the pandemic with Kids on the Green

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person sitting on a low wall in a black hoody, brick walls visible behind them
Photo of Aiysha

Written by Amy Mellows, Youth Music Next Gen.

Kids On The Green is an arts therapy fusion project based in West London, which was set up to support young people directly affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. Providing creative classes, this year it has also been helping young people during the pandemic.

Aiysha (15) from Ladbroke Grove talked about the creative work she’s been doing with Kids On The Green (KOTG) during the pandemic and how the project has given her the confidence to apply to Brit School this year.

How has the pandemic affected you and the area?

It’s alright I guess, everyone’s quite busy again. It was difficult in the beginning when everyone was so serious about it. I mean some teenagers still weren’t at that time, but adults were and were keeping their children in. Also, we had to do school and a lot of things online. Then we didn’t go to the clubs that we used to go to for socialising, we basically had nothing. Now it’s all basically back to normal even though it’s still there. It’s a bit weird.

Are you doing your GCSE’s at the moment?

Yeah, I have them this year. It’s very stressful because you can imagine we missed like a few months of school and a lot of learning.

How did you first get involved with KOTG and did you do music and other creative arts before then?

I’ve been with them from the start. I guess before then I had done a lot of creative stuff: singing, acting. I’m part of a band, it’s just me and my friends who all come from different places. One friend comes from India, so we did this song with the Tabla drums that they have there. We had loads of different instruments from different places. I recorded in the KOTG studio before lockdown with the band, I had never recorded anything in a studio before. They have all the software, everything. It was quite a unique experience.

Do you write a lot of music with KOTG?

Aiysha: Yeah actually, during lockdown with Charlotte.

Louie (KOTG Project Manager): Charlotte from Soul II Soul, our singing tutor!

Aiysha: She had this session where we would do singing and song writing. I also did a song for the teachers at school, it was just saying like thank you for everything they’ve done during lockdown and how they’ve helped us.

If there’s one thing you could change about the world with your creative practice what would it be?

I think that people should be more accepting of what you want to be when you grow up, like when people say, “I want to be an actor when I’m older” and people respond with, “You should be more realistic”. They should help you towards that goal rather than telling you to do a completely different thing because it’s less risky.

What have you been up to with KOTG during the pandemic?

I did drama workshops and me and my band also had a meeting with Andrew and Adrian from KOTG to help us with a song that we’ve been trying to write forever. They were helping us with the lyrics and key changes. Then we had to try and download this software so we could learn to fix it ourselves.

Would you say KOTG has helped to progress your musical skills this year then?

Definitely. I’m not that good with software or anything like that, but this has really helped. If you have a question about anything as well, you can just email them and you’ll get help straight away. I also did some spoken word with Louie.

What did you get up to in the spoken word sessions during lockdown?

So first we come up with an idea of what we want to base it on. Then Louie makes us write continuously, even if we have to write ‘I’m thinking I’m thinking’, to just keep writing. Then sometimes you can see how the sentences you’re thinking could already be part of your spoken word piece. Then you just alter some of the other lines and out of that you have a piece of spoken word.

Tell me a bit more about your upcoming radio project!

Louie: So KOTG Radio is this sub arm of the studio and KOTG. It’s going to be a platform where we showcase all of our young people and young artists that we work with, alongside community artists and our practitioners who are artists as well. We’ve got a fully kitted out radio booth and studio. We opened it but then we couldn’t go live with it due to coronavirus, so there’s been a few young people that have worked with it internally and at the moment we are training our staff so that we can deliver the radio workshops. We’re building it to become a really stable platform and a voice for the community essentially, within KOTG’s orbit.

Aiysha, do you think you’ll be up for having your band’s music on KOTG radio?

Yeah!

So what’s your favourite moment and proudest achievement on the project during the pandemic?

Other than the interactive KOTG Zoom gameshow we created and hosted; I’m applying for Brit School. I’m quite scared, but I’ve written some monologues at KOTG with Louie before and I was going to write some myself, because one of the auditions is a contemporary monologue piece. If I get that it will definitely be my proudest moment.

Would you say KOTG has helped you personally and with your confidence to apply to Brit school this year?

Definitely, when I first came to KOTG I was very shy, my mum forced me to go. Now I don’t think you could tell, because when anyone sees me I’m really confident and I have loads of friends there. I literally know everyone.

Has it been helpful to have that sense of community, particularly during the Pandemic?

Definitely, because I know for a fact that if I didn’t have KOTG, if they didn’t have any of these Zoom workshops, then I would literally just have been sitting on my phone, or doing work, talking to no one. I would’ve just lost all of my confidence. When we came back out [of lockdown] I would’ve just been shy again and anti-social. They’ve helped with that.

Finally, what does Kids On The Green mean to you?

It’s a big family and they’ve just helped me through so much. I like how there’s a lot of stuff that you can do and that they can help you. Like say with my Brit school application, Louie offered to help me and read over it. They can help you with anything you need help with, and there’s a lot of opportunities. It means basically everything to me. When you go in everyone will welcome you and that’s what I like about it.

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