by Alena Yakushova

“Music is really powerful.”

Set on a mission to write a feature on ‘charity gigs’, I ended up speaking with some very inspirational people and finding out about some truly amazing projects. Not all of them could fit on a page in the magazine, so here is the extended version of my research, with more inspiration and kindness squeezed in.

First I spoke to Sophie Appleby, Communications Manager at Youth Music – a national charity that funds music making projects for children and young people in challenging circumstances.

“Any kind of issues that they might face, like mental health issues or homelessness or bullying or poverty – anything that affects young people. We work with these young people to help them in all areas of life, using music.”

You may ask, why is music the way to help?

“Music is really powerful, because it has personal and social benefits as well as musical. For example, it can build confidence or it can help people to relax. Things like lyric-writing can help people to talk about their emotions.”

Youth Music offers greater variety of genres than traditional school education, Sophie says, engaging wider variety of young people.

“There’s definitely an increase in the reporting of mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, and music is really good for helping with those issues.”

Youth Music responds to recent cuts to youth services – in particular youth clubs or support for children in care – by providing help in these areas.

Is music an effective way to fix society? Sophie believes “if somebody is into music, which so many young people are, it’s the best way really”.

“Compared to sport”, she says, “you get those effects of feeling like part of a team but then nobody loses, so everybody works together and collaborates”.

Doesn’t that all sound wonderful? Pumped up with appreciation for music and humanity, I set out to speak to someone who has done some good with a few strums on the guitar, i.e. played a fundraising gig.

Rae Lena has played in the past for foodbank fundraising and more recently for social outreach organisation Comas (who we also chat to later).

She says playing for events of this kind “empowers you, because it’s hard when you don’t earn very much money and you don’t maybe have the right tools, like you don’t have the right degree or training to help in another way, but this is actually something you are able to do.

(Rae Lena pictured left, playing for Comas, 2017)

“You can give your time to help generate money, to help generate an awareness of something that needs an awareness.”

“We see all the problems of the world every single morning when we open our laptops” according to Rae.

“You carry this sense of guilt in not being one of the people who is undergoing that level of stress. If you are able to go out and also do something nice that contributes to someone else’s well being – it’s a double positive.”

Ruth Campbell, who works for Comas, said that sometimes fundraising concerts might not be the most effective way to raise funds.

“Something might raise, let’s say, 500 pounds, but if a whole staff team had to spend a couple of weeks organising it, 500 pounds isn’t a very good return on their time”.

Being a very small organisation, Comas does not have a dedicated fundraising or events team, which means that the burden of organising something aimed to help them hurts their resources more than potential benefit of revenue.

What worked “really, really well”, says Ruth, is when someone approached them with an already organised gig, proceeds from which would go to the charity:

“They found a venue, they did everything. And we then turned up and said a few words about Comas and their gig, and they donated back around 500 pounds. And that was money that came into us that we had to do very little for, so that was absolutely fantastic”.

There’s no cut and dry solution to solving the world’s problems, but luckily there are many ways to help out.

Edinburgh happenings around the year that you can get involved in range from big things like Oxjam, Leith Late, Hidden Door, to smaller gigs organised by individual charities.

And hey, you can always organise your own event and donate all proceeds to the charity of choice.