Making it in the Music Industry: Norwich’s New Artists

A little over three months ago, I decided to undertake a music documentary for the final part of my Masters course. In an increasingly digital age, performing live shows and selling physical copies of albums and EPs has become harder than ever.

In 2014, Forbes published an article claiming the old business model of releasing music, getting radio play, selling copies and touring an album has become increasingly difficult. The internet has provided access to free music, downloads and streaming meaning bands have less power over the consumer than they used to – in 2015, Careers in Music published an article showing the record industry shrunk by 64% between 1999 and 2011. With the ability to upload music to platforms such as Soundcloud, YouTube and livestream shows on social media, artists can put music online without ever having performed a show – however, many artists still rely on gigs and tours to promote their music.

In August, German statistics website Statista produced a graph which shows since 2015, the amount of Spotify’s paid subscribers has risen from 18 million to 108 million. How does the price of streams compare to the price of a physical product, such as a CD? In a world where streaming is rising and physical album sales declining, can artists afford to make a living from Spotify streams alone?

That would be very difficult according to an infographic from Information is Beautiful – not including the royalties paid to songwriters,  an artist requires 4,053, 110 plays per month to earn minimum wage. Many of the artists I spoke to need to have at least one other job, if not two, to be able to afford to make music.

Myself and Ali McMordie from Stiff Little Fingers at The Waterfront. Photo: Oldrich Capek

What is it like to be a musician starting out in the music industry in 2019?

A city well-known for its Medieval history, quaint lanes and more recently its football club, I wanted to find out more about Norwich’s local music scene – which artists were trying to get their name out there, how they were doing it and what their biggest obstacle was. I also wanted to speak to musicians with a more established history, to learn how the industry has changed since they were starting out and what their biggest challenges were – and still are.

I wanted to know what the main challenges new musicians in the industry are struggling with, and what their biggest challenge is – whether it’s money, promotion, the logistics of live shows or something else – and how it might be different to the challenges faced by musicians who started out 20 or 30 years ago.

Speaking to emerging local artists Niamh and Bag Of Cans – as well as experienced musicians from art-rockers The Neutrinos and Irish punks Stiff Little Fingers – I headed to the streets of Norwich to find out.

More information on each of the musicians featured in the documentary can be found here:

Bag Of Cans: https://www.facebook.com/BagOfCansBand/

Niamh: https://www.facebook.com/soundofniamh/

Stiff Little Fingers: https://www.facebook.com/StiffLittleFingers/

The Neutrinos: https://www.facebook.com/TheNeutrinosCollective/

John O’Shea (The Moochers): https://www.facebook.com/themoochersuk/

The McCurdy Brothers: https://www.facebook.com/The-Mccurdy-Brothers-1381436918650461/

Normandie: https://www.facebook.com/normandieofficial/

Frances Butler

 

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UEA student looks to achieve dream career with all-terrain wheelchair

For UEA student Gemma Bailey-Smith, getting around in everyday life can be difficult – and living with a long-term medical condition means it could get harder.

Gemma was recently diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or EDS, of which there are three main types: Classical EDS, which can cause fragile skin prone to bruising and scarring; Vascular EDS, which can cause weakness in hollow organs such as bowels and the womb, and the type Gemma experiences – hypermobile EDS – where symptoms include faulty connective tissues and hypermobility of the joints.

You can find more information on the various types of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome here.

As an Enviromental Science student, she often takes part in field trips and is aiming for a career in environmental consultancy – and doesn’t want her condition to prevent her from achieving her goals.

In the last few months she’s started a Go Fund Me campaign for an all-terrain wheelchair; but just how much of a difference will it make to her life? I headed to the University of East Anglia to find out:

 

Update: I can now confirm that after filming, Gemma received enough donations to be put down a deposit for her new wheelchair – and has posted an update on her Go Fund Me page revealing she has since been able to take part in a field trip to Devon, saying:

“THANK YOU to everyone who donated towards my all terrain wheelchair! (…) I am so excited for my next adventures in my environmental career but for now I just want to get out and get my wheels muddy!”

Frances Butler

Here Be Dragons: Magic on Magdalen Street

 

Hidden away on Magdalen Street in Norwich, Here Be Dragons is a shop specialising in the unusual. From dragon statues to skull drink holders, taxidermy to a full-size suit of armour in the window, it caters to customers with an interest in the magical, the fantastical and the slightly bizarre. Myself and Alex Dalton ventured in to investigate…

In keeping with the quirky appearance of the shop, its origins were also somewhat unconventional. As manager Sonya explained to us, the original owner, her husband Tony, started out creating sculptures for the dinosaur park in Lenway, now called Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure.

After becoming ill from working “7 days a week, 365 days a year”, he decided to open the shop and explore the retail side of things. However, eventually people began coming to the shop to ask for sculptures, requiring him to return to his workshop at the dinosaur park – and as a result, his wife Sonya now runs the shop.

As for the mix of fantasy, natural history and wildlife products, Sonya says they try to offer a wide range of items that fit in with the various interests of the customers – “it can’t be just one thing.” 

Intrigued? To take a look inside the shop, watch the video here:

To find out more about Here Be Dragons, call 01603 618491 or visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/herebedragonsnorwich/.

Frances Butler

 

Should we be worried about children and young people’s mental health?

 

In January 2019, the father of teenager Molly Russell claimed distressing images found on social media sites including Instagram “helped kill my daughter”. His statement caused an increase in calls from concerned parents to youth mental health charities and an apology from Facebook, the owners of Instagram.

Young people’s suicide charity Papyrus told the BBC that within a week of Molly’s death being reported, they had around 30 calls from parents who believed social media played a part in their children’s suicides. It also resulted in a warning from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that if social media firms do not heed calls to remove harmful content, Parliament has the power to ban them. Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, he said if social media companies “need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and must legislate.” He stated that the government must act to ensure “this amazing technology is used for good, not leading to young girls taking their own lives.”

three people using smartphones
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

  More recently in 2017, the NHS undertook a survey on the mental health of 9,117 children and young people aged 2 to 19, between January and October 2017. It revealed that 1 out of 8 5-19 year olds had a mental disorder – emotional, behavioural, hyperactive or otherwise. Emotional disorders particularly increased when the children became teenagers and appeared to be more of an issue for girls than boys. Between the ages of 5-10 the two main emotional disorders, depression and anxiety, were higher for boys compared to girls. However, from the age of 11-19, there is a significant increase in the amount of girls with an anxiety disorder – roughly four times the number of girls at age 5-10.

Anxiety Disorders Graph

Graph: Frances Butler

  On the other hand, although less young people overall had depressive disorders, it affected both boys and girls. Whilst there were still a significantly higher number of girls than boys, the highest number for both was between the ages of 17-19.

Depressive Disorders Graph

Graph: Frances Butler

 

Whilst the number of children with emotional disorders is small when compared to the 9,117 children that took part – less than 7 girls with depressive disorders and just over 20 with anxiety disorders – the research shows that mental health is serious problem for some children, and becomes more frequent in their teenage years – so why isn’t it being picked up on? One possible reason is that mental health issues are more commonly associated with adults rather than children.

 A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry in February found that out of more than 2,000 18 year-olds, nearly a third had experienced childhood trauma; a quarter of which went on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), which can cause the person to feel isolated and experience flashbacks and disassociation. As told to the BBC, 20 year-old Flo Sharman had a breakdown when she was 8, linked to the trauma of an operation where she had to be resuscitated multiple times as a baby. Doctors believe her breakdown was caused by PTSD. She says her parents had no idea it could have been caused by the operation, and many people don’t associate PTSD with a young child – it’s more often linked to those in the armed forces.

Another potential reason is the circumstances the child is in, and what they may be experiencing. A study published by University College London in January revealed children who experience a family break-up as an older child or young teenager are more likely to develop emotional and behavioural problems than those living with both their parents. Co-author of the study Emla Fitzsimons said family splits in late childhood are “detrimental to adolescent mental health”, possibly because children are “more sensitive to relationship dynamics at this age”, and family break-ups may be more disruptive to the child’s education and peer relationships.

yellow plush toy
Photo: Pixabay on Pexels.com

  What is being done to tackle the issues many children and young people seem to be facing?

One example is Children’s Mental Health Week, which took place in February this year. Launched by Place2Be in 2015, it aims to highlight the importance of children and young people’s mental health through resources for schools, youth groups and parents and carers. A registered charity, it relies on donations and its supporters include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both founding members of the Heads Together campaign which aims to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.

Mental health charity Mind also addresses some of the issues children and young people face, offering a list of organisations that provide support for them – such as Young Minds and Childline – as well as a guide for parents who may be struggling with their own mental health.

You can find out more about the organisations mentioned in this article by following these links:

Papyrus: https://papyrus-uk.org/ or call 0800 068 4141

Children’s Mental Health Week: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/

Heads Together: https://www.headstogether.org.uk/

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/

Young Minds: https://youngminds.org.uk/

Childline: https://www.childline.org.uk/ or call 0800 1111

Frances Butler

Emma Smith: “It’s got to be meaningful and make a difference.”

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Emma at her home in Cambridgeshire.

Photo: Frances Butler

Emma Smith has recently become a qualified Ollie Coach, helping young children with issues such as bullying and family trauma.

I meet her at her home one cold Monday morning, where I am welcomed in with a smile and a cup of tea. We sit down at her dining table and she explains why, after 20 years in the teaching profession, she made the switch from teaching to coaching – and what it all means to her.

As a child, she insisted that when she grew up, she would be a teacher. Despite their disbelief due to her young age – “lots of people laughed about it because I was so little” – it never left her.

After obtaining a Linguistics degree from York University, she applied for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in primary school teaching at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the social and pastoral side of education. She had a “fantastic career” in her 20 years of teaching: both in England and overseas, as a team leader, Deputy Head and Head of School – but she was ready for something new, and kids’ mental health has always been her passion.

Emma’s words are often punctuated by laughs as a sign of her cheerful personality. However, she becomes serious when describing the moment when, as a teacher, she was first concerned about children’s mental health.

A young girl was self-harming at the age of 10 and was unable to access any immediate help, as she didn’t meet the thresholds. She remained on the waiting list for 6 months.

The referral guidelines for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) can be found here. In 2016, a Children’s Commissioner Lightning Review revealed that 79% of CAMHS providers imposed restrictions and thresholds on children and young people accessing their services – meaning that unless the case was sufficiently severe, they were unable to access their services.

Emma grew frustrated when she was told the girl would have to wait, as there weren’t enough people available.

“If you’re self-harming, a week is a lifetime. 6 months is not good enough.”

Last year, both the government and the Times Educational Supplement (TES) discussed the problems surrounding children and young people’s mental health. In July 2018 the government published their green paper, Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. It reported that “around 1 in 10 children had some form of mental health disorder.” The paper outlined plans including a mental health lead in every school and college by 2025, and reducing wait times to 4 weeks for those in need of urgent help. In their issue on the 30th of November, TES published an article beginning with a statistic from NHS Digital’s survey revealing that “on average, three pupils in a class of 24 will be struggling with poor mental health.”

Children’s mental health has never been more important, says Emma. They are our future adults who will be “running our jobs and running our country – so why aren’t we chucking more investment at them and helping them now?”

Following her initial concerns as a teacher, Emma knew she wanted to get involved with children’s mental health – but how? She didn’t want to return to university or have to retrain.

“I found out about Ollie and His Superpowers, which was a real turning point for me.”

Ollie Cover

Ollie and His Superpowers by Alison Knowles. 

Photo: Emma Smith

  Ollie and His Superpowers is a book by Alison Knowles, who developed the Ollie Coaching programme to help children and adults develop good mental health habits. Ollie has smaller versions of himself for each emotion – such as Happy, Sad, Scared or Excited. The main aim of the coaching programme is to reduce the number of young people getting to crisis point, through group and one-to-one sessions as well as school visits. Emma works with children between 4 and 11 and recognises the Ollie programme won’t solve everything, “but if we save one child from self-harming, to me that’s a win-win. Every one of those statistics is too high in my view.”

She says many parents struggle financially and logistically with accessing the mental health services available, and as an ex-Headteacher, her main difficulties were how high the thresholds were and finding the money to fund the services.  Along with two other Ollie coaches, she is currently designing “plans, assemblies, parent workshops we can roll out for our under 7 year olds, in the hope that we can get in before there’s a problem.” Getting mental health introduced into the curriculum from age 4 and up wouldn’t need much, she says – it would only “need a few key lessons fed into what you’ve already got.”

She has always used stories as a way to open up difficult subjects for children, as asking them directly can be too much. She says when reading a book, a child may start talking about the character in the story, but often they are talking about themselves – which works with the Ollie technique of disassociating a feeling or an event from a child. The concept of Ollie is about children “controlling their emotions and learning to self-regulate – and help them identify what a feeling is.”

Ollie Happy

Ollie and the “Happy” version of himself. 

Photo: Emma Smith

One book in particular – Granpa by John Burningham – helps to discuss bereavement. At the end of the book, Granpa’s chair is empty. Emma says this image is important because for “some little ones, it goes over their head – the kids who are ready, who clock it, say “he’s dead”. It’s opening up conversations about bereavement when they’re ready.”

To become an Ollie Coach, the training takes at least 6 months. One weekend a month in London for face-to-face training, as well as reading, essays, case studies and a practical assessment. Emma’s group of 15 were the first to take the Ollie course from scratch, as the training was previously used as an add-on for counsellors and therapists.

One of the main Ollie Coaching techniques is “anchoring” – finding memories of when the child felt happy or confident and drawing on those.

Emma tells me: “When you say to a young child, ‘where’s your heart, where’s your toe?’ they know all those things. When you ask them, ‘where’s happy?’ it’s a bit grey, it’s a bit muddled. Some children say happy is in their tummy, it’s a hot feeling, it’s the colour yellow. Once it’s tangible, you have more chance of working with them.”

One young boy was worried about playing football at lunchtime, so Emma helped him to find moments where he felt calm and confident and develop a method of tapping his pocket to anchor himself when playing.

As Ollie Coaches work closely with children and their mental health, Emma’s main responsibilities are child protection and safeguarding, which she takes very seriously. A child may say something during a session that Emma has a responsibility to pass on, “because I always say that in a community you need to be the ears and eyes if you see something that doesn’t look right.” An agreement with the parent is always set up, due to the child’s young age and because “you’re dabbling with someone’s wellbeing, and that’s quite a fragile part of themselves.” However, Ollie Coaching is not always appropriate for everyone. As part of the training process, Emma had to read potential emails from parents and assess which clients she would take on. For example, she would not do Ollie work with someone who was suicidal. For those higher need issues, Emma says, “they do need to go through the medical profession.”

The issues Emma deals with most are family bereavement and illness, bullying and anxiety. She was surprised at how much low-level anxiety she would unearth. She says for some children, “everything looks okay, they’ve got nice friendships, they’ve got hobbies –  but there are some things that really stop them in their tracks, getting a bit paralysed with fear.”

“Why is there more anxiety? I’d love to know the answer to that.”

I ask her what she thinks might be causing these issues. She says that for whatever reason, we’re seeing more cancers and medical conditions, a more pressured school system and parents are also finding life difficult: “I met more parents than ever as Head who were stressed, were depressed, suffering from anxiety themselves, and we know with children that they pick up on that, as much as parents don’t want them to.” Children are under more pressure to perform well at schools. One child in Reception showed her his work and was already thinking about he could improve it.

“At the age of 4, do we really need to be that hung up yet, on how to make it better next time?”

Emma often sees children becoming more aware of their feelings, recognising that all of them are needed and can be regulated. “Feelings aren’t scary anymore – we take these feelings out to talk to them, you see.”

Emma demonstrates.

“Do you mind if I just take out Worried?”

She stretches out her hand away from us, as if she’s holding a tiny person in it.

“Suddenly, Worried is over here and he’s only a little part of you, because you’re a whole big person.”

Ollie Excitement

Ollie and the “Excitement” version of himself. 

Photo: Emma Smith

Since becoming a coach, one girl has made the biggest impact on Emma. “I had the biggest change with her, it was amazing.” During her first session, she refused to sit at the table and kept asking when she was going home – but eventually, she learnt to regulate her fear enough to visit a family member who was going to pass away. After the sessions had finished, the girl’s mother rang to say she had been teaching her friend some of the techniques.

Helping children learn to manage their anger is another important part of Emma’s work. She doesn’t tell them anger is bad because “that’s not real life.” Instead, she works with them to take away any fear and figure out what they are feeling. When identifying anger, “you’re not saying being angry is wrong, what you’re saying is when Angry takes you over, and you hurt somebody, that’s the bit you get in trouble for.”

“We help them think of ways to shrink Angry, or let Angry out of their body in a way that doesn’t hurt somebody.”

Has becoming an Ollie Coach made Emma more aware of issues her own child might face?

Completely, she says. It’s already helped her be a better parent. “From having done the course, I can look at my son and almost predict some future hotspots, and I get a chance to get alongside him, maybe even before it becomes an issue for him – which is such a luxury.” For Emma, being a mum is a huge part of her life. Being an Ollie Coach allows her to make a real difference to other families, whilst also focusing on her own.

“Parenting is a rollercoaster and it’s wonderful. Being a mum is my greatest achievement.”

Her roles as a teacher, a mum and as an Ollie Coach are all extremely important to her. In today’s world, she says, “you see a lot of families are battling losing people to cancer, you hear of horrendous attacks, assaults, suicide. Life is turbulent for families, and that is going to knock on to our little people.” Working with the Ollie programme allows her to help children affected by those issues, and in turn, their families. “We can’t shield them from it, we can’t bubble wrap them – but we need to try and give them the tools to navigate it.”

To find out more about Ollie and His Superpowers and the Ollie Coaching programme, visit: https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/.

Frances Butler

The rise of eco-friendly, ethical clothing: The Cotton Story

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The front of The Cotton Story store on King’s Road, London. 

Photo: Fiona Webborn

With scientists’ warnings about catastrophic climate change, plastic pollution and the need to reduce our meat consumption, it seems the Earth is under ever-increasing pressure. By April this year more than 3.5 million British people were living a vegan lifestyle and it seems more people are making environmentally-friendly choices in their everyday life – including the clothes they wear.

Companies actively marketing ethical and eco-friendly clothes are gaining customers at a rapid rate: the value of ethical sales grew to £38 billion in 2015. However, clothes made from sustainable materials are often expensive: for example, one of Thought’s hemp dresses costs £69.90.

One company aiming to change this is The Cotton Story. Launched this year, they aim to provide “luxury everyday clothing at a fraction of the usual price”. I interviewed Brand Director Fiona Webborn, who joined founder Leo Mellis at the start of 2018 to develop the women’s clothing line and manage their social media. I found out what their “honest prices” mean, what Supima cotton – their main material – is, and what the reaction to their products has been like.

Why did you decide to start The Cotton Story?

  We couldn’t find designer quality basics that were sustainably and ethically made at affordable prices, so we decided to make our own.

When you mention “honest prices”, you offer a breakdown of material, labour and transport costs totalling £8.20 – but the products are sold at £18. Where does the additional £9.80 come from?

  We detail how much it costs to make each item so you know exactly what we paid to get that item to you. The additional costs added to our final price are there to pay for taxes, staff wages, product development, office space and other necessities to keep the business running.

How are your factories ethical?

  Both the cotton mill and the cut and sew factory are run by small local families in Portugal. By working so closely with them we know there is absolutely no slave or child labour in our production line. Every member of staff is paid fair wages and works in a clean, safe and comfortable environment. Our factories recycle all plastic, cardboard and metals once finished with, re-use the oils used in their machines and all our packaging is fully recyclable.

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Helena, a worker at one of The Cotton Story’s factories.

Photo: Fiona Webborn 

What is Supima cotton and how is it different from regular cotton?

  Supima and regular cotton are two different species of cotton. The most common type of cotton typically has a fiber length of about 1 inch, whereas Supima cotton’s fiber averages 1.5 inches. Shorter fibers produce yarns that are rougher and subject to breaking. Longer fibers contribute to the strength and softness of the clothes ensuring they are more comfortable, retain colour longer and keep their form for a longer-lasting product.

Why do you think ethical clothing is important?

  By supporting small factories who treat their staff like family, our customers can be sure they aren’t contributing to the problems of slave or child labour that are so prevalent in this industry. In our store we highlight the incredible workers by showing their pictures on our walls, encouraging our customers to consider the hard work they put in and to write a thank you note to the staff. By recognising a human is behind the clothing you wear, it raises your consciousness to care for your clothing and appreciate that garment in a new light.

How important is affordable eco-friendly and ethical clothing?

  It costs more to make each item of clothing because more care is taken in minimising the negative effect on the environment, and each person in the supply chain needs to be paid a fair wage. Understanding that a £30 jumper made from high quality materials will last a long time supports the workers who made it, is friendlier to the environment and the customer can see it as an investment.

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Inside The Cotton Story’s store on King’s Road, London. 

Photo: Fiona Webborn

Do you think more people are wanting to be eco-friendly and ethical in their daily lives (including the clothes they wear)?

  Absolutely. Whether it’s combating plastic pollution, finding alternatives to products containing palm oil or supporting workers’ rights, there’s small steps everyone can take in their day-to-day lives.

What has the reaction been like since you first launched the company?

  The reaction to The Cotton Story has been so incredible and it’s made us feel extremely proud to be creating something that really resonates with people. When they tell us they’d like a longer sleeve or a heavier weight cotton we’ll listen. The most common reaction we hear is ‘I’ve been looking for so long for a simple, good quality cotton t-shirt, and now I’ve finally found it’. We hope it makes our customers feel like what they say matters to us, because it does.

The Cotton Story’s products can be found at their store on 55 King’s Road in London, or at their website: https://thecottonstory.co.uk/.

Frances Butler

Norwich Market: Have Norwich City Council delivered on their promises?

 

 

For the last two years, Norwich City Council have been aiming to improve the local market by creating a cleaner environment, a greater variety of food stalls and encouraging new businesses. It’s part of a 10 year plan to create more job opportunities in the city, attract more visitors, and encourage understanding of different cultures within the community.

Currently, the market is bringing in an estimated £8 to £10 million pounds to the local economy. A customer survey carried out by the council highlighted the need to attract the younger generation to the market, increase promotion and have a wider variety of goods, including more craft stalls.

Have the council delivered on their promises?

I spoke to stall owners and shoppers to find out.

(The audio also includes clips from fellow UEA Journalism students Ben Hinton and Aaron McMillan).

Frances Butler