Co-operative makes sweet music success in Denbighshire

A ground-breaking music co-operative set up in Denbighshire is continuing to go from strength to strength, doubling in size since its inception in 2015 and has also extended into a neighbouring county.

The Denbighshire Music Co-operative is a not for profit organisation that provides music tuition to schools across Denbighshire and, most recently, Wrexham. The Co-operative was set in response to cuts in Denbighshire County Council’s budget.   Tutors that were previously employed by the William Mathias Music Service worked with Denbighshire County Council to progress with the alternative co-operative model that would allow the music service to continue.

In the last three years, the co-operative has grown with over 4,000 youngsters accessing music lessons- double the number on the books at the start   and there are over 50 expert tutors now sharing their experience to benefit current generations of young musicians.

Heather Powell, Head of Service for the Denbighshire Music Co-operative, said: “After the budget cut was announced, the tutors got together and looked at the co-operative model for music services and thought it was a really good model.  It was then presented Denbighshire County Council who supported us with instruments and some finances to start the service and that’s where it all began.

“It’s been a challenge but over the three years we’ve grown, we’ve got more pupils accessing lessons, we’ve got a lot more tutors now and our pool of tutors in Denbighshire is now up to 50.  We’ve also been able to alter what we offer to schools, providing bilingual supply teachers with music specialisms, performing arts, we’ve got special education needs and more able and talented programmes on offer to schools.

“We’ve also won lots of awards. In the last 12 months we won the Daily Post Judges Choice Award, the Wales Co-operative One to Watch Award and more recently we won the Observer newspaper Top 50 Radical Businesses in the UK honour, so it’s a pretty exciting time for all of us.

“We cover every Denbighshire school with specialist vocal and instrumental tuition, so that ranges from your singing lessons to harp lessons. We also run theory and oral music lessons which is on offer to all of our pupils and we support lessons for GCSE and A Level music as well. We also run a range of after school ensembles- we’ve got choirs, brass bands, jazz band, guitar and percussion groups. At the moment we have 4,000 pupils a week accessing the service. This is double the size to when the service started.

“We’ve started running the service in Wrexham, supporting them and we know that a number of other local authorities are looking into the model – which is really exciting. We hope to keep expanding, keep improving what’s on offer to schools and keep engaging more pupils across Denbighshire.

Councillor Huw-Hilditch Roberts, Cabinet Lead Member for Children, Young People, Education and the Welsh Language,  said: “The budget pressures on the service provided an opportunity to find an alternative solution that would allow the music service to continue, but in a different way.

“We looked at the Co-operative idea with the tutors and thought that it was a practical and viable solution. With practical and financial support from the Council and a lot of commitment and enthusiasm from tutors, ably led Heather and the team, the Co-operative was born.

“It has gone from strength to strength and we are delighted that new generations of pupils are able to access music lessons and meeting a clear demand out there.

 

Posted on Thursday 8th November 2018