When you set up Oh Yeah 10 years ago what were the motivating factors?
I was involved with several of the projects in Oh Yeah which were Volume Control and Scratch. These were incredibly powerful projects, the first was offering under 18’s the opportunity to promote and programme gigs for their peers. The second was a talent development programme to help musicians on their professional journeys, this would be for one year. There did not seem to be anything for older musicians. This along with my previous work in an NGO set me on the path to form a Collective. This would be run by older musicians for older musicians and people who just loved music. It was open to everyone. We wanted to provide a platform to allow older voices to be heard, to provide a place to play as well as collaborate. We wanted to offer a place to do this and Oh Yeah was the obvious choice.
How have things changed over that decade?
There is now a wider acceptance of older musicians and a more diverse music scene in general, which is great! The industry itself now recognises the challenges facing all musicians from funding to mental health issues and is slowly offering support to help these communities. COVID decimated much of our industry but through tenacity and community many were able to weather out this awful time. It has become easier for people to record and publish their own music, but sadly the flip side of this is that there are few returns for this work and a market heavily saturated with new artists. The industry still regards musicians as disposable.
Is there anything you might have done differently?
We were always constrained by working on a shoestring and on the goodwill of both our volunteers and participants. I would have loved to have had the facility to get our message out more widely. We did have support in the form of CAP, promotion and reviews of our albums and radio and press interviews but we bever reached the critical mass of say Mens Shed or University of the 3rd Age. Having said that, I stand by the quality of programmes and of music we created in that time and I applaud all who took and helped us in our 10 years including major funders such as Help Musicians NI, Begin Together Fund Bank of Ireland, Lidl Community fund and Arts Council NI. I thank Oh Yeah Music centre which has been and will continue to be our spiritual home. A huge thank you to Charlotte Dryden for believing in what we are trying to achieve.
Are you happy with the way the organisation has developed?
I think we have grown at a pace that was just right for us. In many ways we have been like a hop on hop off tour bus. Many have jumped on and got just what they needed at that time in their lives and others have stayed on the bus for not only the whole journey but for a few other tours! Each of our albums has pushed the envelope and in particular our last album Isobars was more diverse and inclusive than all others. We welcomed more women, a multicultural dimension and a wider scope of material – Chip Bailey did an amazing job of Producing the album, Phil d’Alton mixed it and Moosetronix mastered it. It was both a joy and a privilege to not only have a track on there but to help out in others songs as a musician.
Where to now?
I think as always, how do we improve in getting our message out there? We want to focus more on advocacy and be proactive in looking at and trying to solve the issues and challenges facing older musicians. Making, collaborating and community is still at the heart of all we do and I want that to continue. We’ll build on our partnerships and thank those who support us. We will seek out others locally and internationally working to similar agendas. A collective voice is always stronger than a single one. I feel that in many ways we are trying to be the change we want to see.
To find out more information about the OTH Music Collective see the following link – overthehillbelfast.com/