How Amy Winehouse Is Helping Tomorrow's Musicians

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 31 months ago
How Amy Winehouse Is Helping Tomorrow's Musicians
Brandon and Posy rehearse their duet.

We're in a rehearsal studio on a backstreet in King's Cross. Around 15 young people are pacing around, jumping when they're told to crouch, high-fiving when they're told to say hello, saying hello when they're told to high-five... it's confusing just to watch.

Bubbles of excited chatter rise up, but are quickly popped, replaced by looks of steely concentration as the warm-up exercises get more and more complicated. It's easy to forget these young people are battling significant personal problems — all these musicians are here because of the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

The Camden-based singer famously and publicly battled addiction problems, but the charity set up in her name by her family and friends following her death is helping turn around the lives of people with similar issues.

One of its core projects is Amy's Yard — a 14-week programme that supports talented young people to gain the confidence and necessary skills to enable them to become self-sustaining music artists, through workshops on the music industry, recording sessions, performance classes and more.

"We get referrals from organisations working with people at risk of homelessness, mental health organisations, asylum seekers and so on. A lot of these young people can't work or study, some have addiction issues, often there's a combination of problems these people are facing," explains charity and development co-ordinator Rowan.

My confidence was so low, I never thought I'd be singing again. But now I'm gaining the confidence to know I don't have to be someone else

The group is rehearsing for a big showcase event in front of senior music industry representatives, commercial supporters of the charity, friends and family members. As each member of the group gets up to perform their track, it's clear just how much talent is in this room. Lyrics are often very personal, and it's now that the battles each one has gone through become apparent.  

After her performance, Posy, 22, talks to Londonist. "I wanted to be an actor and went to drama school," she explains. "This whole music thing is new for me. I saw acting as a career because I'm happier being somebody else, but music is more about me and my life — and that's something I'm still coming to terms with. But Amy's Yard has given me so much support. There's been a lot of pain in my life and I'm only just coming to terms with a lot of it. Music can be like self therapy in a way but how comfortable you are in letting other people see you on the inside..."

Remarking on how well developed her sound is, she grins. "My confidence was so low, I never thought I'd be singing again. But now I'm gaining the confidence to know I don't have to be someone else."

Brandon, 21, has been making music since he was a young child — all he's ever wanted to do is be a musician. But after getting into a "bad place" after leaving music college, he was helped out by the Amy's Yard project. "It's helped me realise I can have inner strength in order to achieve my music career ambitions — rather than having to conform to a negative stereotype in order to be accepted," he says.

"As much as it's about music, we've really noticed how important confidence is," says Rowan. "Many of the people who come on the course have confidence problems, and we aim to give them transferable skills to help them develop, and to get a job — whether in music or not."

Last Updated 28 July 2015