This year marks the sixth anniversary of Tinderbox’s partnership with the Rock Trust, an organisation which works with young people affected by homelessness in and around Edinburgh. Given how established the music group was, we weren’t going to let lockdown stop us working with the young people the Rock Trust supports, so, like so many other organisations, we took to the internet!
For six years, Tinderbox have run a music group in the basement of the Rock Trust building on Albany Street with staff from their drop in service. Whilst the groups have changed over the years – from small groups learning specific instruments to a massive 10-person band – the sense of fun, creativity, and ‘anyone-is-welcome’ has remained constant.
I began working for Tinderbox at the Rock Trust five years ago. Over those years the music people came and went through the music group, some just for a session or two, others for a year or two, all of them eventually moving on to their own accommodation and the rest of their life. In the 6 months before Covid hit, we had a regular group of six young people, with myself and two staff from the Rock Trust. Although coming from very different backgrounds, everyone found a place in our small group, meeting every Monday night. Most people come to the Rock Trust at a time of crisis in their lives, and it was no different for our young people. However, for the two hours in which we met, there was a chance for some respite, and an opportunity to belong. It was also a group with a great deal of humour and fun, the importance of which should not be overlooked. As we wrote songs together; learned pieces that were of importance to those present and sometimes just spoke, we got to know each other.
When the first wave of Covid-19 suddenly hit the UK, things changed rapidly. It was no longer possible to meet face-to-face, and it became apparent just how much of a gap this had left in the lives of our young people who had come each week. But, don’t worry, Tinderbox and the Rock Trust didn’t take long to mobilise! Without much of an idea of what we were doing, we set about bringing the group online. Within two weeks we had set up a Zoom meeting and invited all the former members of the group. Myself, the workers from the Rock Trust, and the participants all had to work it out as we went along, throwing out our session plans, and constantly asking, ‘what if we tried it like this?’. After a while we worked out that the sessions worked best when we mixed up playing/ songwriting/ and quizzes about music, all infused with the enthusiasm, and retaining the atmosphere and humour that had defined the group before lockdown. Four of our young people wrote songs, four of them went on to get their own instrument which they continue to learn, and we played and sang everything – from Slipknot to Eurovision to Elvis. And most of all, we laughed and entertained each other, and kept up our spirits when lockdown and societal ramifications of Covid were at their most isolating.
The Rock Trust Music Group is coming to a break now, looking at starting mid-October with a new influx of participants, as each of our participants has fortunately managed to move onto their own accommodation, or college, and are beginning to stop working with the Rock Trust.