COOL Music: a ‘bottom-up’ music intervention for hard-to-reach young people in Scotland

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COOL Music was a twelve-month collaborative project between researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University and practitioners at the Edinburgh-based social enterprise Heavy Sound. The project began in October 2017 and involved sixteen sessions of participatory music making with thirty-two ‘hard to reach’ young people (aged twelve to seventeen) aimed at increasing confidence and self-esteem and improving social skills. Using COOL Music as a case study, this article explores some of the challenges faced by community-based arts organisations tasked with delivering such interventions, contrasting COOL Music’s small-scale, targeted, community-based approach with prevailing top-down music interventions in Scotland. We argue that such programmes are particularly suitable in engaging those at the margins of society, reaching them on their own terms through music that resonates with their own lived experience. However, we acknowledge the short-term and transitory nature of such projects may prove problematic for some hard-to-reach groups who require more stability in their lives, and may also lead to staff fatigue and burn-out. We call for further research in these areas, and greater policy attention to be paid to the sustainability of such projects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Music Education
Early online date12 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019



  • community music
  • well-being
  • youth engagement
  • hard-to-reach
  • Scotland

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