The Monthly talks to Charlotte Dryden and Caoimhe O’Connell from the Oh Yeah Centre about Volume Control – Part 1

How did Volume Control come about?

Oh Yeah had been running for about eighteen months, and we were still very open to ideas and proposals for new projects. One of the things we had thought about was all-ages gigs.

A young guy called Ryan McCann, he was 15 years old, came into our office, stood in front of Stuart Bailie, the then Chief Executive and myself with his IPhone and said, “could you listen to this band. I think they are great and I want to put them on somewhere but there are no places to do that for under 18s. Could I put them on here?” We agreed and we helped him put the gig on.

A short while later another group of teenagers came in, they called themselves Youngblood, and they wanted to put on gigs as well. They said that there weren’t any places they could go to as they were all under 18, and they couldn’t find anywhere to let them put on a gig.

That lead to us thinking we should organise a project which pulled all of that energy together.

It came from the grass roots?

Yes, but as we found out and as the young people found out, putting on an under-age gig isn’t as simple as it sounds.

There were issues obviously around licensing, there were issues of funding the gig, these types of gigs don’t make money, and there were questions around ensuring young people would be protected. You have to be very clear and organised to ensure it is a safe, accessible and alcohol free zone.

Health and safety matters, transport matters in terms of the time that the gigs can finish, to be mindful of when public transport ends, to make sure young people can get home safely”

All of this has to be put in place before you put the gig on.

Where did the name come from?

I think the first gig was promoted as a “Ryan McCann presents” gig. He later came up with the name Volume Control, and that has been the name of the project ever since. We are celebrating the 10th year of the project this year.

And how did the project take shape?

We applied for small pot of funding, I think the first supporter of Volume Control was Hope For Youth, then we brought in Sandra Gourley as the mentor of the project. She had been involved in the music industry, she had a good way about her with young people and so she provided the facilitation for the project.

As I have said, we had to put in a lot of work into putting on these types of gigs, informing the council, child protection, duty of care, the question of the safety of the children, transport.

Now we want the young people to have a great time, but, safety, protection, all of this matters. It is completely different to putting on a normal over 18’s gig.

Do you do lots of under 18 gigs?

We tend to only run our own via Volume Control as we are then completely across any requirements, or if an experienced promoter is involved we will work with them to put an event on”

With regards Volume Control, how do young people get involved?

The project is now an annual project where a group of young people, usually 12 young people, learn how to be part of the organisational side of the music industry.

People apply to the project. For a long time Oh Yeah put out a call on social media and people filled in a form. Oh Yeah then interviews them and once people have been selected, they come along to meetings and they are given a role.

You interview the young people?

Yes, in fact many of the young people say that when they come along to be interviewed that is their first interview. Some say just even doing the interview helps them prepare for job interviews later on.

We ask them a series of questions about what music they listen to, what their interests are, why they applied, and we work out who seems best placed to be part of the project.

What does the project entail?

For many years, the participants would attend a weekly meeting and then they would put on a gig. Now, thanks to Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and the funding we have received, we have expanded the project.

We now have Volume Control, and we have More Volume, a sister project that goes out and into the community. We have a Youth Engagement team led by Sian Mulholland and Caoimhe O Connoll, and the young people can now gain an OCN qualification as part of their involvement too.

That seems like a considerable increase in the size and scope of the project?

Yes, it isn’t just a youth project any longer. The young people who participate get a qualification, which shows how hard they worked during the project. It’s a more tangible result that they can take out into the world of work.

With More Volume, we run the project in the community working with local community groups; Shankill Alternatives, Eastside Arts, An Droichead, New Lodge Arts, we run events with those organisations as our partners.

Part two of this interview is here

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.