ON THE GROUND: Community Music East

Jennifer Sprinks

Scheme: Navigator, an activity project that combines music with multimedia for children in disadvantaged communities in Norwich

Funding: £40,000 from Arts Council East

Objectives: To encourage children's personal development and learning, and enhance their ability to interact socially

Navigator provides an opportunity for children from disadvantaged communities in Norwich to turn their hands to music making and multimedia activities.

The Norwich-based charity, established in 1985, promotes learning through making music for diverse user groups ranging from people with mental health problems to ex-offenders and the homeless.

Navigator began with a pilot test over the Christmas period last year.

It is now running regular activity groups for 12-15 people and funding from Arts Council East will keep it running until the end of March. The charity will then look at incorporating the activity into the rest of its programme.

Young people aged 10-18 can take part in music making, photography, filming, digital arts and animation. The project name sums up the nature of the activity - participants make their own path through the project, exploring its various elements of music, images and animation as they go.

"I really enjoyed getting to know more people and learning more stuff," said 13-year-old Ruth Roope. "It improved my communication and team-working skills and I have more confidence because we were constantly getting up and doing things. I am now interested in exploring animation further."

The main point of the project is to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds or those faced with the risk of exclusion from school, to engage on a different level with people and to think on their feet.

The scheme goes out to the schools in particularly disadvantaged communities at Heartsease, Earlham and Lakeham, and runs 'taster' workshops.

Children are then invited to the project centre for intensive training, before progressing to further activities and working with other children across the communities.

"I enjoy the challenge involved in using creative media alongside music," said Ian Brownlie, a tutor team leader on the Navigator project.

"Music is a tool for getting people together in a social context. It enables children to find ways of working together. They gain confidence in one area and then move on to try something else. The children often discover that it's different to what their original expectations were."

The charity has run 15 projects in the past three weeks and is holding full-day workshops during the half-term break.

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