It is not only in schools that the arts are being sidelined for young people. The Centre for Young Musicians (CYM), a Saturday music school in Lambeth, operates under the aegis of the Guildhall School and provides a rigorous, comprehensive and well-structured music education for children from across London and beyond, which starts with children as young as eight years old and continues until the end of secondary school. In cases where the fees have been unaffordable for these children’s families, many local inner London authorities have (until this term) provided full or partial financial support, and as of next spring Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Camden and Islington will be re-instating their support for children from those boroughs to attend the CYM. Unfortunately, as of this autumn term, Lambeth and Wandsworth Councils have cut all of their funding to the CYM.
In Lambeth, these funds would come from the council’s new status as a “music hub”, paid for by a substantial grant from the Arts Council – a grant that would be ring-fenced for music education, so there is no question of the money being needed for other council services. What’s more, the CYM featured prominently in Lambeth’s recent application to become a “music hub”, as the only avenue for talented young musicians who need to progress to a higher level than is elsewhere possible. They neglected to mention that this much-vaunted progress was to be made without any contribution from Lambeth at all, thereby explicitly denying it to gifted young musicians from low-income families in that borough – musicians who had until now been receiving this support and were expecting it to continue.
Lambeth Council waited until a few days before the start of the autumn term before informing the CYM that this funding had been cut (although the decision had apparently been taken several months previously), and did not tell the families concerned at all, leaving the CYM to do so after children had already begun the term. These talented young people and their families still don’t know today whether they will now be able to continue at the CYM, nor how much it will cost if they do, nor whether they will be able to continue attending the CYM beyond this term.
The CYM is by far the least expensive and most accessible of London’s Junior Music Schools, and as a result the most diverse. Every Saturday it’s alive with children of all ages, playing and singing together, and with dedicated teachers who are passing on the knowledge gained from their years of study and practice. Many children go on from the CYM to study music to the highest level. Lambeth’s and Wandsworth’s cuts would not only deny talented children from low-income families the chance to benefit from this, but contribute to the narrowing and impoverishment of our entire culture.
Caroline Kraabel (address supplied)
F. O’ Connor
Stephen Dagg (Head of CYM)
Rowland Sutherland (CYM alumnus)