Church Housing Trust funded equipment for a music studio for residents of a Westminster hostel, and we were pleased to attend the grand opening recently.
The 68 residents of all ages have high support needs, including drug and alcohol misuse, mental ill health, and offending histories. All have a history of rough sleeping in Westminster, and many have been excluded from other services.
Engaging people who have complex trauma is one of the biggest challenges for staff and support workers. Service manager Natalie commented that: “We have tried everything under the sun to get our guys out of their rooms, and away from begging and using substances.”
The initial idea of a music studio was universally popular with the residents, so staff planned the refurbishment of a storage room and Church Housing Trust raised funds for equipment and a specialised support worker to run music sessions.
At the official opening, the audience treated to live acoustic music, poetry, and DJing from the residents, plus a rowdy round of karaoke from the staff. Finally the studio’s name, which had been voted forby the residents, was confirmed as ‘Changes’, an homage to the recently deceased music legend David Bowie, and the transformative power of music.
The fully equipped recording studio will be open every day for tasters and drop-ins. Residents can play and record music as a means of expression and informal development.
The positive response to this has been overwhelming. Studio manager Cleo, who combines a background in sound engineering with tutoring disadvantaged groups, hopes that eventually all of the residents will get involved in some aspect of the project. She has already led several one-to-one sessions with some residents, who have recorded themselves singing, playing music, and rapping.
The studio offers a range of opportunities for residents to get involved or to benefit in other ways according to their interests and abilities. King George’s radio station and podcasts will be the background to the hostel’s peer-led hub and breakfast club, open mic nights will now be recorded and CDs produced, while the art club will assist in cover designs and advertising.
Natalie added: “Providing residents with something without wanting anything back is the way forward. The studio will provide a space for them, open door, encouraging self-worth, expression, informal engagement and development. It will give them something they can be good at and proud of.”