Soho House is launching a new youth music initiative

Soho House is partnering with School Ground Sounds for nurturing the next generation of musical talent | Soho House

To mark the opening of Little House Balham, we’re introducing a programme with the charity School Ground Sounds to help young people

Tuesday 23 August 2022       By Anastasiia Fedorova

We often think of talent in terms of individual achievements, a journey one takes alone. But the truth is, no creative is an island, especially in the music industry. Musicians, producers and performers need a supportive community to thrive, especially in the early stages of their career where collaboration is key. With the opening of Little House Balham in south London, we wanted to celebrate the role music plays in the local community by partnering with School Ground Sounds, an organisation that gives young people access to making music and unlocking their creative potential.

‘I started out as one of the young people I work with,’ says Anthony Olanipekun, School Ground Sounds’ chief executive, who has been the head of the charity for a year now. A radio producer, presenter and DJ, Olanipekun grew up in south London. Since his own youth, he has been aware of the role socio-economic issues in the UK plays when it comes to carving out a successful career for yourself, particularly in the music industry.

He studied criminology at university, but ended up having to leave when a run-in with the law landed him behind bars, serving a two-year prison sentence. Upon his release, Olanipekun was determined to focus on his two passions: working with young people and music, and School Ground Sounds was a perfect fit.

The charity is based in Brixton and works with young people aged between 11 and 25, giving them not only access to production and education, but also a sense of greater possibilities through music. Now, Soho House has teamed up with the organisation to introduce the Soho Fellowship programme at Little House Balham. This opportunity will offer 10 alumni access to Soho House and Soho Works to create, connect and work on their journey into the city’s music industry.

Ahead of its first run,  we spoke to Olanipekun about the School Ground Sounds mission and his hopes for the collaboration.

What is the mission of School Ground Sounds? 
‘Our work is focused on young people who are growing up in areas where they face the risk of getting involved in crime or having issues with drugs and antisocial behaviour – but who are also focused on music and want the opportunity, they just don’t have the access, resources or money. Our job is to bridge the gap and help them find paid roles, work experience, and just get them focused on something that keeps them away from that line.

‘Generally, there are a lot of people in the middle ground who are not A-star students, but they’re not having behavioural issues or getting arrested – although it’s very easy to go either way. They just need some support to get to that next step, and this is what we try to do for young people.’

Soho House is partnering with School Ground Sounds for nurturing the next generation of musical talent | Soho House

What kind of programmes are you currently running and how does this work look on a day-to-day basis? 
‘We work in schools with 11 to 15-year-olds doing songwriting workshops, production workshops and just introducing them to the process of creating music. We take them to local studios and get them to record in sessions run by other musicians within the community. 

‘We also work with 16 to 24-year-olds on an artist development programme, where we teach them performance techniques, performance skills, and we get them into studios to collaborate. At the end of the programme, they put on a ticketed show with a live band and some of them perform for the first time ever. At the same time, we run seminars and masterclasses, which are more about learning the ins and outs of the music industry. It shows our participants that there’s more to music than just being on stage – that you can do a lot of different roles during the day. 

‘Additionally, we have an EP Accelerator programme for 18 to 25-year-olds, which involves working with artists between six and nine months to write, record, and release an EP. We cover studio production and marketing, so they get an opportunity to just create their music for free.’

What role does music play in south London communities, and especially for young people? 
‘Music is an important part of life for young people; it’s about self-expression. We found that a lot of those we’re working with discovered their voice in the pandemic. It was really a space for them to keep their sanity as well – music plays a huge part in mental health. We’ve seen our programme increase the confidence of these young people. You see the difference from week one to week seven. Someone who’s never performed by the end of the seventh week is in front of 100 people on stage with a band killing it. 

‘For young people in south London, it’s about community, collaboration and meeting new people. We don’t have youth clubs like we used to, so programmes like this give you a chance to meet other young people who are interested in the same things and passionate about making music.’ 

Soho House is partnering with School Ground Sounds for nurturing the next generation of musical talent | Soho House

What shape will the Soho House collaboration take?  
‘We have selected 10 people from our past programmes who we think are ready for the next step in their career. This is a year-long partnership and the aim is that by the end of the 12 months, we’ve got these young people working within the music industry, developing ideas, and creating and finding mentors. They receive free memberships and will be mainly working in south London spaces, like Brixton Studio, and Little House Balham.’  

What is the potential of the programme in your opinion? 
‘This partnership with Soho House is coming at a perfect time, because it gives young people who’ve come through our programme already or who are currently in the final stages a place to go next. It gives them access to new networks. 

‘It’s a space for them to feel a sense of creative freedom and to be inspired by their surroundings. It’s great for Soho House to be working with us to give back to the community. We’re going to be bringing really grassroots, fresh ideas. 

‘Sometimes being in a space that you can’t imagine yourself in helps you picture what your life and career could look like. You begin to believe in yourself. On a representation level, it’s about showing people that they belong.’  

Soho Fellowship is part of House Foundations, Soho House’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) programme. Find out more here.

Soho House is partnering with School Ground Sounds for nurturing the next generation of musical talent | Soho House
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