“Wanted – Artistic Director 4 days/week £17,500 pro rata
This position is subject to annual funding”
Nikki-Kate Heyes MBE, CEO of soundLINCS reflects on her 20 years at the helm of soundLINCS
It is 20 years ago to the day when I woke up, made a coffee and sat at my computer, in my rented old dairyman’s accommodation in Washingborough, Lincolnshire as the newly appointed part-time Artistic Director of ‘A Wider Air’. This was a three-year freelance contract funded by the then Eastern Arts Board (now Arts Council England) and Lincolnshire County Council. I was a freelance cellist, conductor, composer and community musician. I had worked as a peripatetic cello and bass teacher in the centre of Wakefield, and later as Music Development Officer for West Lindsey District Council at the Trinity Arts Centre before enjoying life as a freelancer. Now with a budget of £20K per year, an expectation to employ an administrator and to take the project ‘A Wider Air’ and make it into a not-for-profit company with a remit to ‘develop music in Lincolnshire’’ I needed another coffee!!!
Fast forward 20 years and the project that was A Wider Air has become the national award-winning charity soundLINCS. To date, we have worked with over ¾ million participants, delivered well in excess of 40,000 music sessions, created and recorded over 1,000 tracks and films, published eight resource kits, employed 235 members of staff and music facilitators and in the past five years reached over one million people through social media.
From localised Lincolnshire projects, soundLINCS has developed work throughout the East Midlands region. The Company has a strong national presence and over the past year, soundLINCS’ international presence has begun to flourish through work with the British Council, an association with International Society for Music Education (ISME), the creation and participation in the first TEDx event in Lincoln and our growing association with academic establishments. In order to do all this as a non-core funded organisation, we have fundraised £7,311,409.00 to date.
Where has all the time gone? What has been the best memory?
Just as there is a seemingly infinite way of organising and playing the 12 notes of the western music scale, so my memories and reflections tumble over themselves making it impossible to create a pecking order.
Is it being told the young participant who has spent the session creating some music, has never sat still for more than 30 seconds, let alone been so attentive? Is it watching a disparate youth group working together to create a performance? Is it a young parent having the confidence to sing to their baby? Or is it when the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral asks me to thank the ‘teachers’ for ‘keeping the children under control’ and knowing that the 200 young people – many who had not been in the Cathedral before – came because they wanted to and weren’t part of any formal groups… there were no teachers to thank… only the young people themselves and Classic Combo were amazing! Is it seeing the smiles and laughter of older participants returning to their instruments and playing together? Is it creating a performance in India with 320 young people instead of the expected 9!
Could it be the first soundLINCS music facilitator inductions or presenting the ‘State of the Nation’ section in the annual soundLINCS conferences? Or ensuring the continuation of the 30 years old community-based information service MUSIC:LINK? Is it realising you have been nominated by your peers for an award? Is it moving offices because the landlord is worried the floor might give way due to the growth of the organisation? Is it being part of roundtable discussions and being asked for your opinion? Is it being part of networks such as the Arts Council or Youth Music? Is it seeing the realisation in the eyes of the non-music partners of the importance music has with their clients which results in further funding and further work? Or being invited by your academic partners to present to the world audience? Is it creating the toolkit that enables better understanding so that more people can enable more people to share the impact and joy of sound?
Whichever the moment and there are certainly plenty of them, they have one thing in common. The ability to make the hairs on the back of my neck spring to life and remind me that ‘this why we do what we do.’
And the biggest shock I have had since 1st June 1998 is realising it is now 1st June 2018 – did I mention it was a 3-year contract! The work continues, soundLINCS continues. As we look ahead we are as excited as ever, still pushing boundaries, still challenging ideas, still learning, and hopefully still changing lives.
Share your memories #soundlincs20 ??