Nottingham’s Circle of Light project challenges young people to work with pros and record album in just three weeks

Nottingham’s pioneering music project Circle of Light is back and is again giving young people the chance to record an album with top music pros.
Circle of Light

Nottingham‘s pioneering music project Circle of Light is back and is again giving young people the chance to record an album with top music pros.

On board this year is double MOBO award-winning artist and Mercury prize winner Soweto Kinch

Kinch is one of the most exciting and versatile musicians in both the British jazz and hip hop scene and will be contributing to this year’s Circle of Light as well as long time supporter and renowned rapper Scorz-zay-zee.

The challenge is now underway for the selected group of young people to work with the pros and create an album in three weeks to be released on the eponymous label and performed by the collective on World Mental Health Day (October 10). 

With the outcomes for young people shown to be more severely impacted by the pandemic along with rising levels of anxiety and depression, this award-winning project that improves the wellbeing and opportunities for young people through music is more vital than ever. Following significant successes for those involved in previous years, the new grant from Youth Music using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, will see Circle of Light take another big step forward. 

Alongside music making, recording, production and performing, the young people have the opportunity to take a nationally recognised qualification. Led by renowned music producers and DJs, the qualification will be overseen by Education and Bass. The team is made up of experienced and qualified music teachers and music industry specialists who utilise a blended approach to support musicians and music producers of all ages to develop their creative practices. Education and Bass will lead on the RSL professional diploma in this partnership project and as part of their Arts Council funded project ‘Heritage Sounds’ will work with Soweto to mentor the young musicians and producers. 

Known for his work nurturing young talent as well as his skills as a hip hop MC and producer, award-winning saxophonist Soweto will be sharing the sonic and production techniques he has developed as part of the Heritage Sounds workshops exploring the origins, diversity and influence in music production techniques and Music of Black Origin.

Soweto said: “I’ve been fortunate as a touring, professional artist and festival curator to work with some of the most notable exponents of Black British culture. Moreover, growing up in Handsworth has given me a unique perspective on how these cultural forces meld to create something truly distinctive. Mentoring has always been key to my evolution as a performer and composer.

“I’m excited to be able to share some of my approaches, and to support new and emerging artists in the post lockdown environment.”

Links have also been forged with Leicester with HQ studios and with hip hop specialist Naji Richards getting involved who is a much loved and recognised community figure within the Leicester music scene, respected for inspiring young people to do great things and fulfil their potential.

Over the project, Naji will be delivering a series of Heritage Sounds workshops exploring the evolution of music production and working with young people to create new music employing the core production techniques of genres including Reggae/Dub, Sample Culture and Hip Hop. 

At the close of a busy first week, lead mentor Emily Makis, who is up for the Youth Music’s Young Producer award for her work on Circle of Light, said “This is a place where you can come and express yourself and build your confidence. Everyone was a little nervous at first with a lot of new faces but as soon as we started making music, people started to connect and flexing their creative muscles.”

DJ and producer Cam, 20, had travelled in from Belper in Derbyshire to take part. “It has been fantastic so far. I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people and being part of this project, it’s a wonderful opportunity.”

First time participant Mitchall, 23, joined the project to learn how to produce his own music. Having found lockdown an experience which increased his depression and social anxiety, Mitchall said: “I’m looking forward to getting my confidence and self-esteem built up and to making new friends as well. I feel like I can learn a lot from this project that will benefit me, gaining knowledge to help me in pursuing my dreams.”

Laura, 18, enjoyed the creative experience of working with people who have different ideas and takes on music after finding the experience of lockdown quite lonely. She said “ I’m looking forward to meeting people that make different kinds of music and also growing my confidence and performing.”

The opening day also featured a live performance from Mae Monypenny who won the Youth Music Live Performance Award in 2019. Many of the young people who have been involved with Circle of Light have remained part of the collective and are back to act as mentors this year.

To stay in touch, follow Circle of Light on social media and check out the website at 

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