YOUTH workshops which helped to nurture the talents of some of Sunderland’s greatest musicians are turning twenty.
Established bands such as The Futureheads, Field Music, and emerging act Gallery Circus, have all passed through the doors of Sunderland Music Workshops.
They were set up two decades ago by youth worker Dave Murray, who every Saturday since has hosted the weekly workshop to engage young people in music and encourage them to pursue their passions.
The workshops, which have been used as a blueprint for youth work elsewhere in the country, give young people aged 11-25 the chance to learn how to play an instrument, sing, song-write, perform and gives them an insight into the music industry as a whole.
Barry Hyde, frontman of The Futureheads, says the workshops, now based in the Deptford and Millfield Community Centre, were a formative part of his youth.
“Without the workshops there wouldn’t be a Futureheads,” he said. “Me and my brother Dave went along and then a couple of years later Jaff and Ross started coming.”
Barry, who went on to tutor at the workshops, added: “It was one of the best things that happened to me. I did all sorts through the workshops, not just learning how to play an instrument, but song-writing and performing, plus it gives you a confidence in yourself. I even met the Queen through doing my Duke of Edinburgh award there.
“There’s always a new wave of music because there’s always so many different people coming along.”
Today an annual Smile concert, staged in conjunction with Sunderland Museums and Heritage Services, will showcase the young people’s talents with an afternoon of free performance in the bandstand in Mowbray Park.
Dave, who is council youth leader for the north of Sunderland and Coalfields, recalls how the workshops, which started life at The Bunker, began.
“I was told to go into the city centre and see what I could do with young people. I took my guitar along and it all started from there,” he said.
“The idea of the workshops was always to get young people to socialise with each other, rather than standing about on street corners. Music is a good vehicle, but the idea is to boost their self-esteem and confidence and to make them a positive part of society.
“Many elements of the workshops are peer-led. Young people have the magic ingredient because they want to do it.”
Among the current crop of musicians to hone their skills at Sunderland Music Workshops is Lewis Naylor, 20, from High Barnes who is singer and guitarist with punk rock band Fire Lady Luck.
“Being at the workshops was how we met two other members of the band,” said Lewis who has supported The Stranglers and The Futureheads with the band.
He added: “The workshops are a great way of inspiring you to write your own music. There’s not many places you can go to like this in the city, to practice, write music and jam with other musicians.”
nThe Smile concert will take place today in the bandstand in Mowbray Park from noon to 4pm. From 1pm to 3pm, there will be face-painting and badge-making. The concert is free to attend.