Partners involved in: Brest métropole / Space*


What is a song? Music and lyrics, basically.
What is a songwriter?
Someone who creates that music and those lyrics.
How can you teach someone to write music, and to generate lyrics?
Now there’s a question…

This normally requires active creative thinking from the teacher and the student. And it gets a bit more complicated when working as a group, with a language barrier, with strangers, online, in two countries, during a pandemic, with a casserole of musical ideas and expectations. 

Put like that, it sounds like a challenge – and it was – but under pressure, diamonds are formed (yes. I know. Corny).

The digital residency between young musicians from Brest metropole & Loca Music (France) and Space* (UK) lasted seven weeks. It taught and shared songwriting skills to fantastic musicians using a mix of traditional and digital techniques to collaborate and create original songs. 

Tangent time. 

‘Creative education’ methods can range from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can teach someone problem solving by reading Bear Grylls’ survival books (until they fall asleep) or you could drive into the wilderness, miles from the nearest bus-stop, and ask them to find their way home (an extremely bad idea for many reasons). In either method your student might not have the best time, and will learn very different things. The point is: there are many ways to consider creative education, all with different outputs. 

When planning the residency, the practitioners and I highlighted desirable targets: engage everyone in group creative activities; write songs; and ensure everyone has a good time. But how can we reach these outcomes without sending everyone to sleep, or dropping them in the metaphorical wilderness? We flipped the dynamic. 

Teacher-lead dictatorships don’t get you far. So alongside the sometimes regrettably necessary time spent teaching new techniques and music tech softwares (shout-out BandLab!), we gave plenty of opportunity to the musicians to lead the way. Collaborative workspaces, oblique strategies, shared goals, and communication. That’s how it happened. 

Education is a process. Creativity is a process. Songwriting is a process. So as songs took shape, and the group relaxed, the creative education could start flowing! The practitioners and I took a step back, supporting the creative development and not leading it, so the learning and outputs for the group were truly their own. 

The residency was captured in a film documentary of the process, soundtracked by the songs written during the project. I strongly recommend you spend 7 minutes watching it to hear how the project took shape from the young people involved. 

As a practitioner, I feel our approach to teaching and supporting creative education was relaxed, giving our young people the platform to shine and make something to share and be proud of. I hope by reading this, and watching the documentary, you learn a few things from our residency that will widen your understanding of creative education. If you have any questions or comments, do get in touch!

Written by Callum Elliot, AYCH Project Coordinator at Space