By the IofC UK Communities Team
On the evening of 18 July 2014, something unusual happened at Caux, the international conference centre of Initiatives of Change in Switzerland. A young, up and coming band of musicians, from inner city Manchester took centre stage to perform to an international audience.
The occasion was put together by Music for Cities, a project run by the United Estates of Wythenshawe (UEW), based in Manchester, with support from the Caux Foundation.
UEW is a social enterprise, based in an area rife with social inequality. The charity helps young people to develop a sustainable future that does not involve gang membership, violence or substance abuse.
The first beats of urban rock music struck and Zee was a whirlwind of light, sound and energy, ripping round the stage, the crowd are soon forced on to their feet swaying and rocking to the infectious rhythms of the rapper. The crowd are totally caught in Zee’s magical musical web.
A truly fantastic set, the beats died down as the applause rose. Zee walked off the stage, handing over his new found fans to the Wythenshawe young band who then followed him to rapturous applause. The band burst into their set with high octane and a blaze of light...rapid beats, fast guitar and thumping bass.
For most of the day young techies from the band had been busy building the stage, rigging the huge and complex lighting system, connecting the sound board, oversized amps and the public address system. No small task. No simple task.
The stage was set up efficiently, with happy banter, with enthusiasm. It was constructed by young stage riggers from right across Manchester – professionally done.
After each act the crowd burst into applause, clapping loudly, shouts of More ... More, yells of Encore, feet stomping...
Moss Side is in South Manchester and Wythenshawe is in the southernmost tip of Manchester. They are two areas notorious for young hostile street gangs. The areas form the epicentre of gang culture.
Greg Davis, CEO of United Estates of Wythenshawe said: 'Although gangs are prevalent in many inner-city areas throughout Britain, Manchester seemed to pioneer the youth gang in an attempt to claim it as its own.
'As in most inner city areas, fear, hostility, aggression and violence as almost permanent fixtures, youth gangs rule, gun and knife crime are just a part of growing up. Kids living on these estates are socialised from a very early age exactly how gang culture works. To look at someone "funny" is to risk a beating. To "disrespect" a known gang member is to risk death.
'We are grateful for the opportunity given to us by the Caux Foundation. It was a transforming experience for all of us in the group. To experience the calm and caring atmosphere at Caux was special.
'The young group of musicians came from many estates – all areas with identical cultures, identical gang problems – same fear, same violence, same aggression, same hopelessness, same despair.'
At Caux, young men and women from fiercely opposing areas came together and working as a team built a stage, rigged the lights, connected the sound board and worked as a team. In the space of three days, they began to build bridges, create lifelong friendships and relationships forged.
James and Sonny want to stay involved. All three attended Manchester College and they are now interested in the engineering side of the music industry. James is seeking to build and develop his own recording studio. Mac is currently helping to rig the sound and lights at a big Christian Festival in Cornwall.
Please get in touch with Music for Cities, if you:
- Have a venue to host a live musical event
- Have connections in the music industry
- Have business, music or event experience
- Would like to invest in our mission to raise aspirations of young people in our inner city areas and heal wounds
- Would like to learn more or just have a friendly chat