Mikel Medley Talks …  The Music Works

Mikel Medley is an award-winning dance vocalist and Music Works Youth Support Worker.

in February 2023, the renowned Knife Angel sculpture, made from 100,000 seized blades, visited Gloucester Cathedral. As part of the ‘Knife Angel’ programme, The Music Works collaborated with six young individuals whose lives have all been impacted by knife crime on a showcase at the cathedral. Since then the six young people have been working together and they have formed a collective called GCODA. With Mikel leading the way, the group have been working together over the past year to produce album ‘Light Out‘.

We spoke to Mikel about GCODA, why he chose The Music Works and its influence on young people …

Please introduce yourself …
Hi, I am Mikel the Youth Support Manager at The Music Works, my role is safeguarding and I work and lead on various youth projects for the Music Works, and co-ordinate the running of our state-of-the-art music bus around the county. I was the lead worker on the Knife Angel legacy which then created the group GCODA.

Why did you get involved with The Music Works project? How did you get involved?
I have known about The Music Works and the amazing work that has emerged from it for many years by the Artistic Director Malaki Patterson and the CEO Deborah Potts and had been involved in some of the freelance artist talks and music-making sessions. I have years of social work and youth work experience.
When The Music Works got the building they are located in currently I was told about the role and one of the key things was to help set the environment and culture for the charity to have an accessible welcoming space for people from challenging circumstances and for staff to be able to pick up on any safeguarding concerns.

You are a Music Works Youth Support Worker and guided the six young people who formed the collective called GCODA. Tell us about the young people and how you supported them in making their debut album ‘Lights Out’?
The young people on the project all come from challenging circumstances and what has been amazing is seeing them form positive and meaningful relationships, but also develop their musical talents. We have documented footage looking back at the young people starting out and to create such a powerful album is amazing.

Gloucester Cathedral’s ‘Lights Out’ youth collaborators alongside Mikel Medley

What does the ‘Lights Out‘ project mean to you personally?
Before the album and the project came together, I attended the Knife Angel planning meeting which was positively challenging. I asked what the Knife Angel’s legacy would be after it leaves, and what would be the outcome and hoped it would be something of longevity. At the time I was not expecting to have a full high-quality album made with music videos and performances a year later from the opportunity, and being a part of that genuinely fills me with joy.

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through it.
Having long-term engagement with young people who have chaotic lifestyles and arranging dates when everyone could be available was so difficult, managing schedules and times. One altercation occurred that could have gone badly but given the relationship between the staff and the young people, the situation was addressed well. The older young person said due to the respect of people involved in the project and the space they were in it was important to be amicable. The following weeks the dynamics and respect between the group flourished and by the time the performance night came, the young people were hugging and bonding closely with each other.

Music such as Drill and Hip-Hop have negative connotations attached to it when talking about youth violence and its influence. The Music Works turns that notion on its head and shows the positive aspects of what music can do when working with young people how do we further push this narrative?
We allow young people to express themselves and talk about subjects that are connected to them, we speak about the impact certain lyric content could have on them and the image they are portraying of themselves and the environment they are in. We positively challenge young people and allow them to self-reflect on lyric content.

Which song on the GCODA album best defines what you love about the project?
Story Time as it is has a clear message of the consequences and reflections on the impact of knife crime also when it was written the young people were captivated by Cubs the performer and the expression on the face of Cal who I believe was 17 at the time, it was huge. The other track I really adore is one called Energy which resonates with me on how the group has grown together.

The Music Works, has recently been named as a charity partner of Idris Elba’s ‘Don’t Stop Your Future’ campaign, how important are collaborations like this for the project?
It is so important and an honour to be recognised by such an amazing, influential person like Idris. It is also a powerful message to young people doing positive things. So much is focused on negative things young people do and not enough praise is given to the positive aspects of work.

GCODA ‘Lights Out’ album cover

What has it meant to you to be involved in a programme like ‘The Music Works’ and can you share with us how proud you are of GCODA? What would you say to them?
I can honestly say this has been one of my proudest moments seeing such an amazing opportunity for young people to thrive and have such a solid body of work. The opportunities and positive relationships that have grown from this are huge and comments from the young people like “I would be in a very dark place if I wasn’t involved with The Music Works” or “I never even thought I would think it was possible to pursue music in my life but now I’m applying for a music college course after school” has been so empowering to hear. For one of the young people not getting into any serious altercations or re-offending has been a great achievement.

Considering your career evolution, where does this project sit on your checklist?
The group have spoken to me about further plans. What they all have done is make positive steps in various directions and we are planning on still meeting up regularly to do some further work. I would like to be able to give future opportunities like this to other young people

What’s next?
Similar to what I mentioned above. I would like to see the album increase streams and I would really like to see more performances in place for the young people. The group are hoping to create a documentary or work on a remix album of the project.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?
Musicworksglos – Instagram
GCODAofficial – instagram

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