From 2003-2004, Pulse was a social action research music programme that used music to engage vulnerable youths aged 14-18, and set out to offer music-making opportunities to divert them from risk-based behaviour. By identifying issues surrounding ownership of social zones within East Oxford, the project aimed to help break boundaries between groups through the act of coming together to collaborate under the name of music creation. It offered a professional music-making opportunity to young people who would have otherwise not have had access to engage in this sort of musical activity. It became a creative space for young people where they could explore new avenues both musically and socially, independent of other organisations or establishments with which they had relationships. In the participants’ evaluations, it was noted that ethnic and social sub-divisions fused over the course of the project - young people built their collective cultural identity through music whilst continuing to maintain strong individual identities.
Pulse joined with a number of partner organisations such as Asylum Welcome, The Mish, Windmill House, Union Street Community Centre and Social Services, who work day-to-day with young people who are considered ‘at risk’ or are excluded from school. The participants came from a variety of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some had been excluded from school or placed on youth-offending teams, while others came from refugee or asylum-seeking backgrounds, but overall Pulse aimed to creatively empower each one of its participants. It encouraged the development of new skills and the improvement of existing skills, contributing to greater creative confidence.
Pulse also led to later programmes, Roots Up! and then Word Up!
Pulse 1 presented a series of ongoing youth music programmes. Young people were encouraged to record, mix and then present sound-maps to their peers and community. Four groups of young people worked over a number of weeks to record or sample music and sounds from their environment, layering and mixing these sounds and adding beats to them to create tracks. This music, first and foremost, formed a map of their fears and frustrations, but then allowed the individuals to find positive ways of overcoming these fears to express their own ‘sense of place’. A CD of the sound-map tracks formed the centrepiece of a live event at the Zodiac in December 2002. Using club-style promotion designed by the participants, the final event at the Zodiac provided peer education to the audience as well as bringing positive messages to the wider community.
Working with 50 individuals over the year, Pulse 2 carried out 23 workshops that focused on DJing and MCing amongst other musical activities, all of which culminated in three live performances, a live DVD and the production of another studio-based CD.The live performances were a crucial activity in the project. They saw young people build self-esteem, participate in teamwork, develop professionalism and performance skills before an estimated audience of approximately 500 people.
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