Made with Music, an award-winning charity based in West Yorkshire, which provides accessible live music for families of all ages and abilities, has reached record breaking online audiences during the Covid-19 outbreak. By taking its usual mini gigs, workshops, performances, and classes online, Made with Music has reached an average of more than 1,700 children, young people, mums, and dads every day since 17 March 2020* in countries all around the world including the USA and India.
When Made with Music’s founders, Hannah Dilworth and Kathryn Sturman, learnt from friends in Italy and Spain that the new coronavirus was destined to impact heavily on the UK, they started planning how they could keep the charity going and how they could support their varied audience through what would undoubtably be a time of stress and uncertainty. In March 2020, ahead of the official lockdown initiated by the UK government, Hannah and Kathryn chose to cancel their planned programme, promising to move all activity to online channels: Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Hannah and Kathryn developed new ways of engaging audiences digitally in what was, at first, at step into the unknown. They launched four different types of sessions, each taking place once a week: #MondaysMadeCalm, pre-recorded calming pieces of music to give people a moment to breathe; live or pre-recorded early years classes on Tuesday mornings with lots of opportunities for audience interaction; #NewMusic Thursdays to showcase songs written by the pair with the opportunity for audiences to sing along or draw a picture; and Sunday’s #MiniGigs which include acts from the charity’s award-winning series, previously performed at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. They knew they had taken the right decision when their very first early years class reached over 16,000 people on Facebook. Their videos have since been watched for more than 840 hours on the platform.
Hannah and Kathryn didn’t stop there. They were keen to keep working with some of the groups they had been seeing on a regular basis so designed new ways of connection during lockdown. They took their regular Sunshine & Smiles sessions for Leeds Down Syndrome Network onto Zoom; hosted a YouTube watch party for Weetwood Primary School; and developed an offline postcard scheme for Memories Made with Music, an intergenerational project in conjunction with Kirkstall Abbey. Most recently, during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (4–10 May), Made with Music moved their family choir sessions for Leeds Perinatal Mental Health Service to YouTube, allowing their regular mother and baby group as well as many more participants around the world, to see how music can support recovery from post-natal depression.
Kathryn says: “As we saw the virus developing in the UK, we immediately thought about some of the vulnerable people we work with. Many are isolated already so we worried about how everyone would be feeling during extended periods at home. We were obviously concerned for our charity’s future and for our wider network of musicians – it looked like everyone was about to lose all income for the foreseeable future. We knew that Made with Music couldn’t just disappear, so we tried to develop a plan to provide regular content for our extended family. We are really excited by the success of our new online content and are now planning how to roll this out alongside physical sessions in the future.”
A Made with Music participant says of the new digital output: “My daughter and I have attended Made with Music classes since September 2019 and love them – one of the best early years classes we’ve found. Like everyone, we found the first few weeks of lockdown very difficult surrounded by so much uncertainty. Being able to virtually attend our regular music class with Hannah and Kathryn has made such a difference, providing structure to our week and giving us something to look forward to. The format of the class translates well to online with Hannah and Kathryn’s beautiful voices and live performances (rather than a recorded track) and props that are easy to find at home really add to the fun. My little girl loves singing the familiar songs and then sings them (or demands I sing them!) for the rest of the week. I’ve been amazed at how well she has learnt the sign language from the classes and in turn how this has helped her speech.”
Despite the challenges that Made with Music and many other charities are currently facing, Hannah and Kathryn are excited and energised for the future. They are developing plans for new activity, including a training programme for small teams of carers who want to use music in their work with patients, and a recording of all their music and song for people to purchase. To find out more about Made with Music, or to support the charity with a donation, visit madewithmusic.co.uk.
*Data cited in this release is taken from Facebook Insights from 17 March to 12 May 2020. Reach is the number of people who saw any of Made with Music’s posts at least once.
Published in the Yorkshire Post 22 May 2020