Young musicians in Bexley Borough have been hit by a triple whammy since March. First, the Bexley Music Service funded by the Arts Council and run by Bird College was forced to close in June due to the financial impact of the Corona virus. The closure, virtually overnight affected the provision of music education for over 3000 schoolchildren as well as adult students. Second, the pandemic forced the cancellation of rehearsals, performance opportunities and tours in the months that followed. Third and cruellest of all, when the Music Service staff were able to reopen the Service in temporary accommodation in late October, the strain the virus has put on household budgets affected the ability of poorer families to take advantage of the new arrangements.
If that were not enough, research by the National Foundation for Youth Music, the Arts Council and Durham University points to the value of music education to language development in infancy and the later mental health and physical wellbeing of young people. It also aids social interaction and gives young people much needed workplace skills. Yet sadly, as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education has commented, music education generally is in crisis in this country, especially in secondary schools with the loss of 1000 specialist music teachers and falling numbers of GCSE entries. All this at a time when the Durham Commission reports that “young people in the UK have some of the poorest mental well-being in the world”.
The Music Education staff are negotiating new long-term arrangements for provision in Bexley with the Arts Council and have benefited from the assistance of Bird College in the short term. In the meantime, the Rotary Club of Sidcup has launched a Save Bexley Music appeal to raise £60,000 to assist with the provision of bursaries, tuition and instrument hire for disadvantaged students and gifted local young musicians.
The Bexley Music Service has benefited a wide range of youngsters over the years some of whom have gone on to professional careers in the Arts. Eamonn Cox who has appeared in Mamma Mia, Barnum and The Wedding among others, won the Bexley Young Musician of the Year Award, organised by all the Bexley Rotary clubs, in 2010. He says:
“I was fortunate to grow up in Bexley where Music Education was highly beneficial, of an excellent standard and proved vital in developing me as a confident musician, singer and dancer. It has been the foundation for my successful stage career in shows in the West End and in theatres across the UK, also International touring to Paris, Tel Aviv and South Korea
The pictures show Eamonn Cox winning the Bexley Young Musician of the Year in 2010 and Eamonn (centre) in Mamma Mia
To join us in our effort to help Bexley music you can donate by clicking on this link. https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/13992
or text SBM10 to 70085 to donate £10, SBM20 for £20 or simply add the amount of your gift after SBM
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You can also donate by going to the BIG Give Christmas Challenge website and searching for Save Bexley Music or Sidcup Rotary Club Benevolent Trust.