THE JOURNEY SO FAR – 4 YEARS ON!
Written by Ben Vleminckx – CEO
As we head towards Spring of 2021 and move every closer, with bated breath to returning to some sort of “normal” and emerging from lockdown, I am taking some time to reflect on the journey so far.
2020 wasn’t the year any of us were expecting, but I feel a sense of relief and I am bursting with pride for how our organisation navigated through the pandemic. The arts and cultural sector has been devastated by COVID-19 and to be a small grassroots organisation still standing is truly inspiring. I would like to thank our wonderful funders for standing by us and being so flexible and supportive throughout.
Surprisingly Evolve Music is developing new programmes, including our workforce and sector development programme Evolution. We have been building relationships, connecting with new partners and focussing on strengthening our core infrastructure fronted by a new three year strategic plan. We have successfully moved our Families and Young People’s programmes online and responded to the pandemic with our new Sound Store programme for adults who reside in care home settings. Who knew that you could work so effectively on Zoom!
Now that things are beginning to look more hopeful and we plan for returning to face to face in the not too distant future I have been thinking about where it all started and what a whirlwind it has been.
Let me take you back……..
Imagine you are in a hot and stuffy IKEA store queuing for the restaurant to sample some fine (perhaps fine isn’t the right word) Swedish meatballs. By the way, if you haven’t tried them you seriously should!
This is bizarrely where the journey began for Evolve Music.
Beth and I had been working in the community music sector for several years and wanted to reach more people with the work we truly believe changes people’s lives. That’s all we knew at that point. We began with the name (mapping out potential contenders on a napkin whilst eating said meatballs). Evolve Music……… Evolve Music, yes, that’s it!
The name carries so much of what we wanted the organisation to stand for and do. For us it meant forward thinking, experimentation, strategic ambition, inclusion, but most importantly an opportunity to embed co-created practice. A forever evolving way of creating new work with and for communities. Not one output is ever the same. Our name has become even more pertinent over the past 12 months where our delivery methods and working practices have truly ‘evolved’ to navigate the pandemic.
Most people have said to me when playing in bands growing up that a name doesn’t matter, it’s the music you play that will bring in the crowds. Ok, I get that, but to us Evolve Music as a name was living and breathing the values, ethos and vision that we wanted at the heart of the organisation.
Following that day we began a huge journey, one which involved lots of hard work, sacrifice, research and lots of working for free! I am not sure how we paid our bills to be honest, but we did, just! We had to learn fast and do everything whilst juggling other actual paid work too. We had to be bookkeepers, marketeers, fundraisers, administrators, directors and also music leaders. What I learnt during this time was priceless and has been the foundation of my career in this sector.
Would I do it again? Most definitely! Why? Because now I can look back at those early days and think……..We Did It! We took an idea from an IKEA napkin to a fully functioning community music organisation that works with fantastic groups of people and is steered by a hard working board of trustees, dedicated paid staff and a fantastic team of freelance music leaders.
To know our little idea now means so much to people we work with week in and week out is truly humbling.
As I look forward to what 2021 (our 5th year) has in store for Evolve Music I can’t help feeling very excited by what the next 5 years has in store. I truly believe the sector will return stronger and more resilient as a result of COVID, albeit in time. The launch of the Arts Councils ‘Let’s Create’ ten year strategy will, I believe, be instrumental in the increased co-creation opportunities for communities. A chance for people to shape, steer and influence the arts and cultural sector and its landscape of organisations and take it where they want it to go.
After all, us humans all have experiences to share and stories to tell. It is up to us as an organisation to help people tell them!