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Expressing themselves through songwriting - Shelby, Phoebe, Kylie and Shona's story

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Shelby, Phoebe, Kylie and Shona took part in a music-making project run by My Pockets at the Astra Youth Centre young carers’ group in Hull.

The girls, aged between 12 and 14, are all carers for siblings or parents who have additional needs or long-term health problems. As part of the project, they co-wrote a powerful song about their experiences.

Songwriting has helped them express their feelings, improved their relationships with their families – and earned them local celebrity status with their track being played on BBC Radio Humberside!

“We got to express our emotions”

The girls recall their reactions when they first found out they’d be writing a song. “It was something exciting to do, ‘cos you don’t really get that opportunity very often and when you do get it, you kind of just have to do it,” says Phoebe.

Shelby adds: “We didn’t know [music leaders] Peter or Shane, and these two random guys came in and started singing with us. And then it turns out they support you with your feelings. They listen to you instead of contradicting you.”

Kylie smiling at the camera wearing headphones

Meanwhile Kylie recalls: “At first I was way too shy to get involved, but when they started doing the ‘Carer’ song, we got to express our emotions, and for me that was a really exciting thing to do.

“We had a session where we sat down and talked about our emotions, and it really helped bring the song together.”

It’s connected us more

Shelby explains how writing the song has helped her grow closer to her family. “It’s connected us more instead of just talking. I didn’t really tell my parents how I felt, but now they’ve realised what’s going on, so we can actually connect instead of arguing ‘cos we’re not telling each other stuff.”

“It was nice as well ‘cos I had both my siblings [Shona and Archie, who also attend the group] there, and they were writing their emotions, so it was kind of realising how they feel, and them realising how you feel. We normally just argued!

“It’s helped us to understand about what happens with parents and stuff, and helped us to understand how other people feel.

You can express feelings in a way that you didn’t really think you could.

Phoebe singing into a microphone holding drumsticks

Time away from troubles

Attending the weekly group has formed a strong bond of friendship between the girls, and given them respite from a stressful home life.

Phoebe explains: “My brother’s got autism. He’s 15 but you never know if he’s gonna come home and have a ‘meltdown’… I had to start being like a second mum to him, making sure he didn’t bang his head or something, to make sure he was safe.”

Shelby has to look after her mum who has epilepsy, and recalls: “One day she just dropped in a seizure. That was really scary, but when I realised there was this place, it wasn’t scary no more… I knew there was family there, but you come here, there’s friends. You can tell them how you feel.”

Younger sister Shona adds: “Every time I come here it makes me feel happy, I have time away from all the bad things that’s happening at home.”

Watch: ‘Carer’

Check out the full video for the brilliant track which the girls wrote together about their experiences of looking after family members.

“It’s helped me find my musical self again”

Kylie is a carer for her mum, who has a long-term illness that’s required several spells in hospital. The project has rekindled Kylie’s love of singing after a really tough few years.

“When my mum went into hospital, every part of me that wanted to sing just disappeared,” she says. “I got so shy singing in front of people… but after a few weeks of doing My Pockets, I finally did sing, and for me that was a big thing. Right now I’m in a happy place… My Pockets has helped me find my musical self again.”

The other girls agree that making music has helped their personal development too. Shelby says: “I wasn’t very confident before, and now I’ve come out of my shell.”

Shona recalls the songwriting process: “Every time it went wrong, I piped up and said ‘this is wrong, we need to put it right’. I’d just put myself out there instead of being afraid to say.”

Music and the future

The girls are enjoying a moment in the spotlight after their radio appearance and a live performance at Hull music venue Kardomah. “I didn’t think we’d be put on the radio,” says Shelby. Phoebe adds: “I feel famous!”

And all agree that they want to keep up music in the future. “I love singing so much, I could never make that not part of my life,” says Kylie, while the project has opened Shelby’s eyes to a possible career as a professional songwriter.

“I can’t sing to save my life but I can write,” she says. “I probably wouldn’t ever stop making music, cause if I did I’d feel upset, so I’d go and write a new song!”


black and white photo of a young man on stage with a microphone

The Sound of
the Next Generation

Check out the full report into the diverse ways young people engage with and value music and music-making, and read more stories from the young musicians we spoke to.