WORLD-leading solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie has urged councillors in Aberdeen to continue funding for a transformational child poverty music programme.
Dame Evelyn, from Aberdeenshire, intervened amid fears Aberdeen City Council will cut funding for the Big Noise Torry programme at its budget meeting this week.
She became an Ambassador for Sistema Scotland, the charity that runs Big Noise, in 2021, and said the ‘expertise, hard work, and dedication’ of the team ‘has literally changed lives’.
Dame Evelyn stressed the importance of music to children and young people’s development and told how it can build “bridges” between the social and academic gap faced by youngsters in disadvantaged areas when compared to their more affluent peers.
The musician said it also builds social cohesion and gives young people ‘a purpose’, which can ultimately prevent them from getting into trouble.
Last week, Dundee City Council’s majority administration voted to axe all funding for a sister Big Noise programme in the Douglas area of the city. Sistema Scotland is concerned it could also face a funding shortfall in Aberdeen due to pressure on local authority finances.
Aberdeen City Council is due to decide its own budget on Wednesday, but no confirmation has yet been received that a partnership agreement to pay 75 per cent of Big Noise Torry’s annual programme costs will be honoured as expected.
Dame Evelyn warned any reduction or withdrawal of funding for the programme would ‘thwart the chance for our youngsters to explore their own creative journey’.
Big Noise Torry launched in Aberdeen in July 2015 and supports more than 750 children and young people from the community.
Through music and targeted intervention, the programmes equip young people with the confidence, discipline, strength, and resilience they will need as they move into adulthood.
Big Noise Torry has been the subject of three independent evaluation reports by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and Education Scotland.
The studies found that participation in Big Noise Torry has a positive impact on educational outcomes as well as broader social and life skills. GCPH public health programme manager Chris Harkins, who led the evaluation work, has insisted that a ‘long-term commitment’ is required to tackle ‘entrenched inequalities’. As well as in Torry, Sistema Scotland runs Big Noise programmes in Douglas in Dundee, Govanhill in Glasgow, Wester Hailes in Edinburgh and Raploch and Fallin in Stirling.
Dame Evelyn Glennie said:
“I would urge councillors in Aberdeen to continue supporting Big Noise Torry and I find it exacerbating that we are still having to talk about the benefits of music participation and plead for funding for transformational programmes like this.
“The expertise, hard work and dedication of the Sistema Scotland team have literally changed lives.
“The mental and physical benefits of music participation are clear. Music engages with how we think, feel and move, and improves the same skills and brain activity that are needed for language and reading – therefore helping to boost academic achievement.
“Music also gives young people a purpose, creates social cohesion, and bridges the social and academic gap between more affluent and less affluent families.
“Any cut to Big Noise Torry’s funding will thwart the chance for our youngsters to explore their own creative journey.”
Chris Harkins, public health programme manager at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, said:
“GCPH has been evaluating Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise programme for over a decade.
“The findings of our long-term ‘lifecourse’ evaluation reflect that Big Noise provides a positive, powerful, unique and distinct contribution to the lives of participants, their families and the within the wider community.
“Big Noise aims to address entrenched inequalities and to affect deep positive social change. The very nature of these aims requires a long-term commitment to the communities Big Noise operate within.
“Our findings demonstrate that Big Noise successfully engages with the most disadvantaged children and young people including those with additional support needs.
“Positive impacts to participant wellbeing, confidence, discipline, pride, aspiration and school attendance are consistently observed across Big Noise centres.
“These findings have translated into statistically significant improvements to post-school destinations.”