Disaffected teenagers from across Manchester were given training in radio skills during Radio Regen’s three-year Remix The Streets project, funded by the government’s Neighbourhood Support Fund.
“We worked in every kind of hard to reach group in Manchester, recruiting young people through local youth workers,” says Tony Pace, Remix The Streets Project Manager and Manchester musician.
Thirteen to 19 year olds were actively sought out and guided in the production of a radio show on CD and material for broadcast on WFM, ALL FM and Radio Regen’s temporary stations in Salford and Moss Side & Hulme. Groups benefited from 30 hours of workshops over five to 15 weeks.
Instead of hanging around on street corners, the teenagers were encouraged to conduct interviews using mini-disc players, make jingles, plan running orders and produce features on subjects of their choice as well as spinning tunes and MCing.
Manchester DJ and club promoter Chris Jam, who also worked on Radio Regen’s Beatslam project, was a workshop facilitator and said the biggest barrier to overcome was the young people’s idea of radio as just MCs “waxing lyrically into the microphone non-stop”. “Once you get beyond their street credibility and cool, however, you get normal young people who all have got hobbies and issues they want to talk about,” he says.
One highlight was a six-week project at a local school out of which a surprising variety of youthful talent materialised. The children’s two-hour show featured a debate on Iraq, a package about flying lessons and recordings of a steel band, rock group and several posses of young girls showing off their vocal styles. “It was a first step for them,” says Chris. “Whether they follow that up or not, the bottom line is that they all really enjoyed the experience of being able to make music and express themselves.”
Other successes were a documentary discussing life in care and a training programme for the teenage residents of Wythenshawe’s Willow Park estate. Meanwhile, a group from Longsight’s M13 Project took part in music workshops and a radio show linked to a Courtney Pine concert at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. They were taught the basics of sound recording and got to work with international musicians.
Chris, says he found “giving something back” through Remix The Streets more rewarding than simply entertaining people. “Most of the young people we’ve worked with have been near exclusion. Just by being able to spend two hours a week with them over six or eight weeks and talk to them like human beings you’re doing something for them that’s of value.”
Over three years, Remix The Streets, which ended in late 2003, has given over 150 Manchester teenagers new skills, boosted their confidence and given them a voice in their communities. Whether or not it encourages them to go on to become journalists or sound engineers, Tony says it has opened their minds. “It showed them there’s more to life than the world live they in. When I was growing up in Salford, there wasn’t much outside my little world so to have had that insight then would have been great for me. I hope giving them such an experience can only benefit them.”